Template:Multiple issues Ecological debt is the term used to describe the consumption of resources from within an ecosystem that exceeds the system's regenerative capacity. This is seen in particular in non-renewable resources wherein consumption outstrips production. In a general sense, it can be used refer to the overall depletion of global resources beyond the Earth's ability to regenerate them. The concept is based on the bio-physical carrying capacity of an ecosystem; through measuring ecological footprints human society can determine the rate at which it is depleting natural resources. Ultimately, the imperative of sustainability requires human society to live within the means of the ecological system to support life over the long term. Ecological debt is a feature of unsustainable economic systems.
The concept of ecological debt is the basis for Ecological Debt Day (Earth Overshoot Day), the date upon which the sum of global annually renewable resources has been consumed for the year. This is calculated using the global ecological footprint (the total area required to sustainably feed consumption), divided the global bio-capacity (the amount of area available to feed that consumption), multiplied by 365 (the number of days in a year). The first Ecological Debt Day occurred in 1987, and has steadily been moving earlier into the year, being October 9 in 2006, and September 23 in 2008.
A more specific concept developed in the context of global warming is greenhouse debt.
Ecological Debt has also been applied to highlight the disparity between industrialized nations, which consume a greater share of the global resource pool, and developing nations, who despite their greater share of the global population, consume less.
Ecological debt: the health of the planet and the wealth of nations, Andrew Simms, Pluto books, 2005
Towards a Level Playing Field, Repaying Ecological Debt, or Making Environmental Space: Three Stories about International Environmental Cooperation, Osgoode Hall Law Journal,2005, VOL 43; NUMB 1/2, pages 137-170
Elaboration of the concept of ecological debt, Centre for Sustainable Development, Ghent University, 2004
Credit Where it's Due: The Ecological Debt Education Project, Friends of the Earth Scotland, 2003
Who owes who?: Climate change, debt, equity and survival, Christian Aid, 1999
- Global Footprint Network - Ecological Debt Day
- New Economics Foundation - Ecological Debt Day
- European Network for the recognition of the Ecological Debt
- World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002 - Ecological Debt
- Who owes who?, a movie