7 billion people. 1 Earth. But with our current lifestyles, is 1 Earth really enough?
The resources on our planet are finite, but the lifestyles many of us lead often do not reflect the limits of our resource-constrained world. Our collective ecological footprint—the productive area required to support us—overshoots a sustainable size. Humans’ annual consumption of resources is more than what our planet can regenerate every year. In fact, this has been the case since the 1970s. Today, it takes 1.5 years for Earth to regenerate the resources we consume in a single year.
Today, we require the equivalent of 1.6 planets to support our lifestyles. With our current consumption patterns, by the 2030s, this number will increase to the equivalent of 2 planets—one entire planet more than the number we currently have.
But just how detrimental are our habits of consumption?
All life on Earth depends on the planet’s renewable resources. The overshoot of our ecological footprint and our rapid, unsustainable consumption of resources has resulted in collapsing fisheries, diminished forests, depleted freshwater systems, and a buildup of carbon dioxide emissions, leading to crises such as climate change. This overshoot, however, is not only an environmental problem—it is a human problem as well. We fight wars over limited resources. Mass migrations and tragedies such as famine and disease are also inherently tied to the Earth’s resources. Furthermore, like climate change and other environmental issues, a lack of resources has a disproportionate effect on the poor, who cannot afford increasing prices for basic necessities.
The overshoot of our collective ecological footprint must be curbed and ultimately put to an end if we want to live sustainably on a healthy planet. We must recognize the Earth’s limits; this requires, to an extent, finding new ways to live, from changes at the individual level to subsidies and investments in new technology and infrastructure.
To check the ecological footprints of various countries around the world, you can explore this page.
To calculate your own personal ecological footprint (how many Earths it takes to support your lifestyle), complete the personal footprint calculator here. The calculator will help you explore what contributes to your ecological footprint and how to reduce your consumption.