By Michael J. Coren
The Earth is finite. Civilization’s appetite, it seems, is infinite. The Global Footprint Network (GFN) has been assessing just how much of the Earth’s resources we use, from water to clean air, and the day each year when our species overshoots the planet’s ability to annually regenerate itself.
Humans have overshot nature’s annual budget starting in the early 1970s, and every year, the overshoot date keeps creeping up. In 2018, its August 1.
Every minute past overshoot day is the equivalent of drawing down capital rather than living off interest. “One year is no longer enough to regenerate humanity’s annual demand on the planet, even using conservative data sets,” states GFN.
To calculate the date, GFN divides the planet’s biocapacity (ecological resources generated each year) by the totality of humanity’s demand on those resources. It uses 15,000 data points collected by the United Nations for each country going back to 1961, which can be categorized into four main factors, says the GFN: how much we consume, how efficiently we make stuff, our population, and nature’s productivity. You can explore the full dataset here.
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