August 23, 2012

If Everyone Consumed as Much as the Average American We’d Need Four Earths. ~ Rhett Butler

After years of emulating the good ol’ all-American tradition of natural resource hog-ism, human society is now officially over-budget.

As of August 22nd, 2012, humanity has overshot the world’s annual ecological budget, according to the Global Footprint Network, which tracks global consumption related to resource availability and sustainability. The organization looks at a variety of data including the world’s fisheries, forests, agriculture, mining and greenhouse gas emissions, but not fresh water.

Deforestation for oil palm plantations in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo.
Photo: Rhett A. Butler.

Since the 1970s, global society has been consuming resources at a faster rate than Earth’s ecosystems can replenish them, leading to an ecological debt that increases annually.

From soaring fossil fuel prices to crippling national debts partly due to rising natural resource prices, our economies are now confronting the reality of years of spending beyond our means.

If we are to maintain stable societies and productive lives, we can no longer sustain a widening budget gap between what nature is able to provide and how much our infrastructure, economies and lifestyles require.

~ Mathis Wackernagel, President of Global Footprint Network

Currently we’re consuming the equivalent of 150 percent of Earth’s ecological production every year.

Some nations, of course, consume more than others (i.e., if everyone consumed like the average American we would need four Earths to be sustainable).

Wackernagel also said:

Now is the time to come up with ways of running our economies that will continue to work into the future. Long-term recovery will only succeed if it occurs along with systematic reductions to our demand on resources and ecosystem services.

Watch this quick video for more about the ecological overshoot.

Adapted from Human society surpasses “nature’s budget” by Rhett Butler, mongabay.com.

Mongabay.com provides news, information, and analysis on environmental issues, with a special focus on tropical rainforests. The web site features more than 70,000 photos and has a section about forests for children available in nearly 40 languages.




Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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