Saturday marked an unheralded and unpleasant milestone: We've used all the natural resources naturally available, and will begin running up an "ecological debt" from future generations for the remaining months' consumption.
That's according to the calculations of the New Economics Foundation, a 21-year-old think tank that focuses on injecting the value of natural resources into economic calculations, among other things. Each year it marks "Ecological Debt Day" as the date "when, in effect, humanity uses-up the resources the earth has available for the year, and begins eating into its stock of natural resources."
According to the foundation, humanity lived within the world's means until the 1980s. Today, the debt has a lot to do with overconsumption in rich countries like the U.K. and the U.S., according to the foundation, and on rich countries' reliance on cheap manufactured goods in China, which are often made using extensive natural resources and without modern pollution controls. Together with Open University, the foundation calls this "Chinadependence."
The foundation highlighted trade practices that are wasteful from an environmental perspective -- two nations pumping spring water and shipping it to each other, for instance.
China has become the "environmental laundry" for the Western world, the foundation said: While its pollution is blamed for worldwide ills like global warming, smog and acid rain, it is demand from rich countries that drives the cycle.
The foundation, which is focused on policies in the U.K., recommends that nations analyze their "ecological footprints" -- that is, the amount of land and resources it takes to sustain their lifestyles -- and draft strategies for living within sustainable levels. It advocates for national food self-sufficiency, a steep reduction in greenhouse gas pollution and energy efficiency.
To read more about the foundation and "Ecological Debt Day," click here.
You can estimate your personal ecological footprint, and learn steps to take to live a more sustainable lifestyle, by clicking here. You can also get daily tips for living a greener lifestyle here at The Daily Green. See One Easy Thing.
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