It’s only August – and we’ve already used up all of this year’s natural resources

The sun is about to come up over the South Pacific Ocean in this colorful scene photographed by one of the Expedition 35 crew members aboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station between 4 and 5 a.m. local time on May 5, 2013 and released on May 9, 2013. The space station was at a point above Earth located at 27.4 degrees south latitude and 110.1 degrees west longitude, a few hundred miles east of Easter Island.  NASA/Handout via Reuters  (OUTER SPACE - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR  EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTXZGBL

Image: NASA/Handout via Reuters

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Just eight days into August and we’ve already used an entire year’s worth of resources – the amount that the Earth can replenish annually.

As this Huffington Post graphic shows, so-called ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ has been getting earlier and earlier every year, highlighting our rapidly increasing use of resources.

It’s fallen five days earlier this year than it did in 2015. In 1971, it fell on 24 December.

 Earth Overshoot Day
Image: The Huffington Post/Global Footprint Network

One Earth isn’t enough

Our increasing use of the world’s resources is putting life on Earth at risk.

A failure to live sustainably and within our means will not only have a negative impact today, but is likely to have consequences far into the future. As the World Wildlife Fund has highlighted, “for the remainder of 2016, we will be living on resources borrowed from future generations.”

In fact, to sustain our current levels of consumption, this year we would have needed the equivalent of 1.6 Earths. But, some countries are worse than others, as this graphic from the Global Footprint Network (the think-tank behind Earth Overshoot Day) shows.

 How many Earths do we need if the world's population live like...
Image: Global Footprint Network

The list is dominated by developed nations, with Australia topping the list. If we all lived like Australians, we’d need the equivalent 5.4 Earths every year.

“We’re depleted what our planet does for us, so year after year, there is less for us to use,” explained Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, to National Geographic. “Less forest, fewer fish in the ocean, less productive land – burdens that fall disproportionately on the world’s poor.”

In ecological debt

A similar picture emerges when you look at the situation on a country-by-country basis.

 How many countries are needed to meet the demands of its citizens
Image: Global Footprint Network

South Korea has the biggest ecological debt of all countries on the list. It needs the equivalent of over eight of itself to meet the demands of its citizens.

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