Living ‘in the red’

Posted on August, 07 2016

Eight months into 2016, humans have already spent Earth’s ecological budget for the year.
Eight months into 2016, humans have already spent Earth’s ecological budget for the year.
Earth Overshoot Day – the approximate date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year – is on Monday, 8 August this year, according to the Global Footprint Network.
As global consumption rises, we are emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than our oceans and forests can absorb, and we are depleting fisheries and harvesting forests more quickly than they can reproduce and regrow. Put simply, at its current rate, the estimated level of resources and ecosystem services we require to support human activities exceeds what the Earth can provide – to continue living like this, we would require over 1.6 planets.
“Nature's services are crucial to our well-being, prosperity and happiness, and to our very survival. So we must shift from being irresponsible exploiters to careful stewards and good managers of the planet’s essential, finite resources,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International in a statement published on
WWF’s “One Planet Perspective” aims to outline better choices for managing, using and sharing natural resources within the planet’s limits – to ensure food, water and energy security for all.
In southern Chile for example, WWF works with local communities, organizations and authorities on a joint conservation strategy for the marine ecoregion. Together, they have helped protect more than 120,000 hectares of marina area, supporting efforts to protect whales and dolphins, allowing fish stocks to recover and building the ecosystem’s resilience to climate change.
In Indonesia, WWF works with communities to harvest ‘liquid gold’ honey in a bid to protect peat swamp forest and habitat for critically endangered orangutans while creating sustainable livelihoods. “Collecting honey is part of our cultural heritage. It’s a tradition,” says Ronnie Mulyadi, a 31-year-old father of two and member of the Buku Tamu honey producers’ association.
Since the community got involved in honey production, the forest is better protected helping create a positive knock-on effect for all biodiversity in the area, including the orangutans. “We want orangutans in the forest because they disperse the seeds for fruit trees. If they are there, we know the forest is in good condition, and bees need a forest in good condition,” adds Mulyadi.
An ecological overshoot is possible only for a limited time before ecosystems begin to degrade and possibly collapse. Sixteen years ago, in 2000, Earth Overshoot Day fell in late September. While the global trends leave us in no doubt about the scale of the challenges that we face, solutions such as the ‘One Planet Perspective’ give us room for hope. Earth Overshoot Day must serve as a stark reminder of the actions we need to urgently take on an individual, country and global level to respect planetary boundaries and achieve sustainability and resilience for all.
Infographic depicting how many Earths we would need if the world's population lived like the countries indicated.
© Global Footprint Network National Footprint Accounts 2016

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