Years of living beyond our means and coercion from financial institutions have finally caught up with us on a global scale, marking the most tragic global financial crisis in history.
However, we are not just living beyond our means in financial terms but also in ecological ones. Ecological debt occurs when humanity uses up more of the earth's resources than its capacity to regenerate.
The New Economics Foundation devised an annual tracking system called Earth Overshoot Day. This system identifies and marks the actual day of the year when humanity uses up all the resources that the earth can regenerate in one year. For 2010, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 21st. So from August 21st to December 31st, we used up resources that should have been kept aside for the next year. It has been estimated that due to current mass consumption, we require 1.4 earth-like planets to support our current lifestyle.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated in 2001 that about 75 percent of our seas have been fished beyond their capacity to adequately regenerate. Currently, US agricultural practices are destroying soil at a rate 20 times faster than it can be replenished. What are the repercussions? The U.S. Department of Agriculture verified a huge drop in nutrient density within our common food supply in just the last 40 years.
Can the problem be solved if we cut back on over-consumption and allow time for the land to rest, and the earth's resources to regenerate? Probably not. Statistics point to exponential population growth as the largest cause for rise in mass consumption. According to estimates given by the United Nations, the world's population grew from 2.5 billion to over 6 billion in just 50 years from 1950 to 2000!