Environmental organisations are marking today, 23rd September, as "Earth Overshoot Day". Overshoot is the point at which humanity has used up all the planet's resources in a sustainable way and starts consuming the natural capital of the planet, weakening its capacity to replenish itself.
In an announcement today, the Global Ecological Footprint Group says: "For the rest of 2008, we will be in the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, drawing down our resource stocks - in essence, borrowing from the future."
It adds: "The recent bank failures in the United States have shown what happens when debt and spending get out of control. We are seeing signs of similarly disastrous consequences from our ecological overspending. Climate change, shrinking forests, declining biodiversity and current world food shortages are all results of the fact that we are demanding more from nature than it can supply."
According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund (Ecological footprint of British city residents, WWF, Sept. 2007), Edinburgh has the 10th largest ecological footprint of Britain's cities and the largest eco-footprint in Scotland.
According to the report, the average Edinburgher's lifestyle requires 5.76 hectares to support it sustainably. Unfortunately, if the world's populations maintained our levels of consumption we would need 3.2 planets.
The total footprint for all Edinburgh residents was estimated to be some 100 times the land area of the city.
Ecological footprint analysis shows a direct correlation between affluence and size of eco-footprints. Poor nations such as Somalia and Mozambique are living well within their ecological budget while wealthy nations such as the USA and Saudi Arabia are the furthest into a state of overshoot.
Average Ecological Footprints
Humanity is living sustainably if it were using 1.8 hectares per person. However, our current lifestyles require a lot more natural resources than that, which is why we are seeing events such as collapsing fish stocks and accelerating species extinctions:
- Global average: 2.2 hectares
- Scotland: 5.21 hectares
- Edinburgh: 5.76 hectares
- UK: 5.6 hectares
- Sweden: 6.1 hectares
- China: 1.6 hectares
- Ethiopia: 0.8 hectares
- United States: 9.6 hectares