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We're in the Red
Attention, Earthlings: You just went over budget.

Happy Earth Overshoot Day! Um, what? According to the Global Footprint Network, it’s the day of the year that humanity’s use of the earth's natural resources exceeds our planet’s ability to replenish those assets (a.k.a., forests, clean water, fertile soil, carbon absorption, etc.).

Every year, the international think tank takes datasets from the United Nations to calculate the day that humanity’s ledger goes into the red. The equation goes something like this: divide the amount of resources the earth can generate annually by the amount of resources humans consume, and then multiply the quotient by 365.

(World Biocapacity ÷ World Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Today!

Earth Overshoot Day is obviously an estimate, but it’s meant to draw attention to the fact that the 7.2 billion people on Earth are collectively demanding more than the planet can supply. After first going over-budget in the 1970s, our annual ecological debt has increased ever since. In the 1990s, Overshoot Day came in October. By the aughts, it had crept into September—and now August, five months shy of solvency. From now until January, we’re borrowing from the future at steep interest rates that include health problems, hunger, pollution, extinction, and a warming world.

We should really work on paying that down.

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Melissa Mahony is's senior editor. She previously worked at Wildlife Conservation magazine, blogged about energy for SmartPlanet, and has written for many publications about science and the environment. MORE STORIES ➔