Global resources for 2016 used up; world now living on eco credit

The global population has already used up all the Earth’s resources that could be naturally replenished within a year, an ecology think tank has said. 

As of 8 August 2016, the world will be living on environmental credit for the rest of the year. This is five days earlier than last year and more than four months earlier than in 1987 when the Global Footprint Network started calculating what has become known as the Earth’s Overshoot Day.

The calculation includes all types of natural resources and inputs the Earth’s ecosystem's time required to deal with such issues as the fish in the ocean, soil regeneration, greenhouse gas emissions and wood logging.

Global Footprint Network, based in the USA, Belgium and Switzerland, said the level of consumption of the current population would require 1.6 Earths to be sustainable.

However, there are massive differences between countries. Developing countries in Africa or large states with vast areas covered with forests, such as Brazil or Canada, use less resources than the land within their territories can support. These nations then become biocapacity creditors.

For example, the ecological footprint of Guyana is 2,100 per cent smaller than its biocapacity. Canada’s biocapacity exceeds its ecological footprint by 96 per cent, despite the fact that Canada as a nation has the fourth highest ecological footprint per person after only Luxembourg, Australia and the USA.

"Canada is fortunate to still have an abundance of renewable natural riches, when much of the world no longer does,” said David Miller, president and CEO of WWF Canada, which collaborates with the Global Footprint Network.

“Despite the near collapse of the Newfoundland cod stocks by 1992 and the currently struggling populations of smaller fish as highlighted this week, Canada's oceans remain among the most abundant in the world."

The citizens of other countries such as Singapore, Israel, Lebanon, Luxembourg or Japan consume as much resources as the Canadians, but their territories don’t possess the capability to make up for the consumption.

Singapore’s ecological footprint, which is calculated in hectares, is 16,000 per cent higher than the city state’s biocapacity. The UK’s ecological footprint exceeds its biocapacity by 280 per cent. The UK ecological footprint per capita is 4.9 gha while its biocapacity per capita is only 1.9 gha, which makes a biocapcity deficit of 3.6 gha per capita.

For comparison, the ecological footprint per capita of the Democratic Republic of Congo is only 0.8 gha, while its biocapacity is 3.1 gha.

The problem is that with the global population growing and with developing countries seeking to enhance their standards of living to the levels experienced by people in the western world, the problem is likely to get worse.

In future, the world will likely see more countries becoming biocapacity debtors, which will put more pressure on the Earth’s ecosystem to cope with the demands.

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