City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

October 6th Is Ecological Debt Day

By edg - Posted on 04 October 2007

This Saturday is Ecological Debt Day, the point at which humanity has consumed all the resources the planet can produce in a year, according to the Global Footprint Network. For the remainder of the year, we are borrowing from the future.

“Humanity is living off its ecological credit card,” said Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director of Global Footprint Network, and co-author of the seminal Our Ecological Footprint.

“Just as spending more money than you have in the bank leads to financial debt, ecological overshoot, or using more resources than the planet can renew in a year, accumulates an ecological debt. This can go on for a short time, but ultimately it leads to a build up of waste and the depletion of the very resources on which the human economy depends.”

While climate change continues to make daily headlines and exercise government policy, ecological footprint analysis suggests that collapsing fisheries, deforestation, and topsoil loss around the world are creating a mountain of ecological debt.

Living In Overshoot

The Global Footprint Network calculates that humanity’s Ecological Footprint (the global demand on cropland, pasture, forests and fisheries) is too big for the planet. Globally, we consume as if we had 1.3 planets to support us. In Scotland, we consume as if we had 3 planets, according to a report earlier this year from the Stockholm Environment Institute, but our consumption is balanced out by the low consumption patterns of developing countries.

The pressure humanity as a whole is putting on the world's ecosystems for our resources and to absorb our wastes may eventually lead to systemic ecological collapse.


The planetary accountants go on to suggest that to balance our ecological budget we must strengthen nature’s resource supply with sound management of the world’s ecosystems, and address the three factors that determine humanity’s demand on nature—per capita consumption, efficiency of production, and the size of the population.

At an individual level they suggest that eating less meat, driving and flying less, and using less energy in the home are the most effective ways to reduce your personal Footprint.

Individuals can also contribute by helping to restore and protect
ecosystems, and supporting organizations that help curb population
growth through family planning.

City planning can also help end overshoot with smarter infrastructure and best-practice green technology.