Earth overshoots available resources for the year

According to how much resources the Global Footprint Network calculates are available for us to use on Earth each year to ensure sustainablility we are in the red already, and eveything used now makes it hardert for us to continue to survive.

Christian Science Monitor reports in Resource overdraft: Planet Earth crosses into ecological red:

Thursday marked Earth Overshoot Day – the day when the world’s population officially exhausts all the natural resources the Earth can generate in a single year, as defined by the sustainability think tank, Global Footprint Network.

Overshoot depletes the Earth of its natural capital and catalyzes a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, environmentalists say.

That buildup drastically harms the environment through deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss, according to GFN.

All of these degenerative conditions lead to excessive ecological spending, and Overshoot Day serves as a reminder that the global population needs to implement greener solutions before natural resources drop to dangerous levels.

The UN provided the first reliable statistics on the matter in 1961. Since then, humanity’s demand for resources has quickly exceeded the amount nature could provide, with the planet reaching global overshoot in the early 1970s.

In 2000, Earth Overshoot Day landed in October. It’s occurrence in August this year reflects the rapidly expanding demands placed on the planet’s natural resources.

Of course you can argue about the calculations. But it’s harder to argue about the likelihood that humans use more resources than we generate or that Earth can replace naturally.

We continue to consume more per capita and that looks like getting worse as third world countries improve standfards of living. This cetiry there have been and will continue to be big changes in consumptiom i heavily populated countries like China and India.

And the world population continues to grow. Currently a world population calculator is at 7,360,175,026.

Population milestones:

  • 1 billion: 1804
  • 2 billion: 1927
  • 3 billion: 1960
  • 4 billion: 1974
  • 5 billion: 1987
  • 6 billion: 1999
  • 7 billion: 2012
  • 8 billion: 2024 (predicted)

So the population has more than doubled in my lifetime. While the rate of growth is predicted to slow down it is still increasing substantially. More graphically:


Source: Worldometers

So it is quite feasible that we are using more than we or Earth can produce, and we are polluting more than we can clean up.

And the overshooting ill effects are accumulative.

According to people like the Greens as a world we are already stuffed unless we take drastic action immediately.

That may or may or may not be a reaslitc assessment.

But there should be no doubt that humankind faces huge challenges, now and in the future. It may not get too bad in the rest of my lifetime, or for a few generations.

But at some stage it’s certain that Earth and it’s human population will suffer badly.

It might be a gradual deterioration.

Or it could be a sudden impact. An asteroid collision is claimed to have ended the age of dinosaurs, so something similar for humans can’t be ruled out.

More likely is a major volcanic eruption – a sudden reduction in sunlight and food production for a year or two could easily precipitate drastic widespread hardship.

The risks per lifetime probably aren’t high. But the risks are significantly invcreased of we are already accumulatively overshooting Earth’s resources.

What are we going to do about it? Most people will probably ignore it and hope that it won’t happen or will go away or that someone will invent something that will fix everything.

But what if someone invents something that doubles human lifespans?

Leave a comment


  1. I’m not even going to bother looking into their calculations Pete. Simply since Malthus this doomsday population problem has been postulated. It always ignores the impact of ingenuity and technological advance.

    The key reason we should be advancing things like space travel, hydroponics etc etc is to allow us to shift population growth off planet as a fallback strategy.

    And more importantly the simple solution here is to develop the nations of Africa and Asia where the population bloom is mostly concentrated – lift the economic standards and living standards and the population growth will slacken. Richer people have longer lives, children survive childhood more often and people start to concentrate on their quality of life which has been shown to lead to declines in birthrates….[See Western Europe, Japan, US]

    • This Malthusian crap takes no account of technological advances and increases in productivity.
      A good example – a hundred years ago the grain yield ratio was about 1:4 – these days it is about 1:50 – the same limited resource (land) is now producing almost 20 times as much food. Another example – in NZ since the 80s the number of sheep has halved, but the meat output is higher because of productivity gains. Another example – the peak oil fools.

      But the best rebuttal to this garbage, Pete, is to look at global commodity prices. If resources were becoming scarce and we were in “resource overdraft”, then basic resources would have an astronomical price. Yet global commodity prices are very low, and far from there being scarcity there are commodity gluts.

  2. kittycatkin

     /  16th August 2015

    I have no wish to live on another planet, even if one is handy that is inhabitable.It isn’t likely that that is the real reason for the billions being spent on space exploration, and sending people to another planet would be incredibly difficult. Not to mention the cost of setting up a replica Earth-houses, factories, roads, hospitals, power, phones….it coudn’t be done. Where would the materials come from ? Imagine sending road machinery through space.

    I would rather that the money went to solving the problems of our own planet.

    The people in third world countries whose standard of living is improving can’t be expected to stop this happening. Yes, the extra cars and such things increase pollution, but it’s incredibly hypocritical of reporters to report this and hold their hands up in holy horror when they have come there by plane and use cars themselves.

    • Kitty – where would the resources come from? Its called the asteroid belt. Go google Space Mining. Some serious wealthy people are already forming enterprises to mining resources in available territories inside our current solar system. Its coming.

      The long held sci-fi approaches to road machines on a new planet is always – take basic tool sets and utilise robots to mine resources on site and then fabricate from their.Sci-fi ha! I hear you say. But Arthur C Clarke wrote about world wide communication via geo-stationary satellites way before they became reality

      As an answer to overcrowding off planet, probably, isn’t the direct solution but technological advances plus population stability via mechanism I described above will solve this “problem”.

      This “problem” smells like another the world is ending we need Western societies to give up their wealth to solve it scams, i.e. its another socialist wet dream…..

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  16th August 2015

    Goldie and Dave are right. The article and claimed calculations are crap for multiple reasons including the blindingly obvious one that the more developed and wealthy the country, the better it looks after the environment.

    • jamie

       /  16th August 2015

      It is certainly true that the more developed countries look after their own environments better, but that is not really relevant in a global economy where we essentially outsource environmental destruction to the less developed countries where our consumer goods are produced. Drawing imaginary lines on a map does nothing to address the problem.

      • The less developed countries producing consumer goods are developing fast and their environmental standards will inevitably follow. There is no problem.

        • jamie

           /  16th August 2015

          But then those countries will no longer be producing those goods, instead they will be consuming them and other, less developed countries will take on the role of production. You have only moved the problem again.

          You might argue that those countries too will inevitable raise themselves out of poverty and become consumers, but then you have proposed a world in which ever more consumer goods are required and no-one is able/allowed to produce them.

          We have access to our incredible standard of living because the people making it possible are paid incredibly poorly to ruin the environment they live in. By definition, a developed country no longer tolerates such conditions for itself. But our way of life depends on it happening somewhere.

          • Producing consumer goods does not have to ruin any environment. Extracting raw materials is far more problematic than manufacturing from them.

            • jamie

               /  16th August 2015

              Both are problematic if you intend for large numbers of people to be able to afford to buy these goods, and there’s the rub. This is the “way of life / standard of living” problem I referred to.

              In short, I don’t think you are factoring the costs of development into the price of the goods. Which currently, we don’t have to. That’s why we can afford them.

            • The route out of poverty is via education, good government and good organisation leading to the production of valued goods and services. None of that need require environmental degradation and will almost certainly produce the reverse – enhanced environmental quality. It is true that in order to accelerate development environmental quality is often sacrificed, but that is a temporary state rather than permanent and will reverse as development is achieved. Yes, as one country develops another undeveloped country will become incentivised to follow it but your argument that our standard of living depends on environmental degradation is exactly false. It is the speed of that development that is causing it, not the maintenance of it.

            • jamie

               /  17th August 2015

              You have still not attempted to address the central issue, one I have pointed out several times.

              If these goods were to be produced in developed countries, i.e. countries with workplace protections and labour laws, first-world environmental and living standards, and the wage levels required to live in such a society, then the cost of production would put the price of the goods out of the reach of almost everybody, which is a market impossibility.

              This is why we don’t make smartphones in Levin.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  17th August 2015

              I haven’t addressed it because it is simply untrue. The cost of labour is an ever reducing factor in the cost of production. As we have seen in agriculture so it is in manufacturing. Robotics will make it more so. Manufacturing is returning to the US on the back of cheap energy from fracking.

            • jamie

               /  17th August 2015

              Ah I see, your argument is so powerful it’s not necessary to talk about it. I suppose that’s the end of the conversation then.

            • Simply the facts, Jamie. NZ manufacturing is doing pretty well too. It’s problems are lack of scale and distance to markets and sources rather than labour costs.

  4. Mike C

     /  17th August 2015

    Alexander Fleming and Marie Curie have a lot to answer for 🙂


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