By Joern Fischer
For some time now, Mathis Wackernagel and others have worked on the concept of the ‘ecological footprint’. The basic notion is simple: given a specific lifestyle, is our Earth giving us enough ‘natural capital’ to live off? Or are we mining our natural capital and living beyond what Earth provides on an ongoing basis?
Part of what the ecological footprint network does is calculate an Earth Overshoot Day every year. This year, Earth Overshoot Day is the 27th of September. This means, in simple terms, that since January we have used as many resources as Earth provides in a full year — even though the year is not over yet. From now on, metaphorically speaking, we’re in ‘overshoot’.
Incidentally, the footprint metric suggests that an average American lifestyle would require 5 planets Earth; the average European lifestyle would require 3 planets Earth. Here’s a short video explaining the notion of overshoot in a bit more detail.
Initiatives such as the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere are attempting to find ways to change human behaviour, so that once again, we live within the biophysical limits of our planet.