Categories
Ecology

How much we overload our earth

Published in Grail World 64/2011

In the Grail World we have already reported several times about approaches to the calculation of the carrying capacity of the earth ("How much humanity can the Earth take?"; "Why we are stumbling into the population trap".; "A devastating footprint" (here all under "Ecology"). Regardless of which of the not uncontroversial calculation methods is used as a basis, the results tend to be similar without exception: a drastic overload of the ecological capacity of our planet.

One of these methods of estimating the carrying capacity of the earth is the "ecological footprint," which indicates the areas needed to satisfy our demands. Such measurement data are essential for managing our natural capital, which we must not destroy through overexploitation.
For some time now, the British "New Economics Foundation" has been offering a vivid illustration of the overloading of nature with the calculation of the "Earth Overshoot Day".
Overshoot Day 
To determine this “surplus day” or “overload day”, nature's capacity is calculated. This is the amount of resources the planet produces in a year, as well as the residues it regenerates; from the carbon dioxide uptake of plants to the production of food or renewable raw materials. Then the amount of all renewable resources and nature's capacity to regenerate waste is compared with the actual consumption of humanity. The calculations show that humanity is currently consuming significantly more than nature can provide.
In order to clarify this, a date is determined in each case, up to which everything is used up, which nature is able to supply in the respective year. From this day on, mankind is in "overshoot" (or "eco-deficit") and lives on the substance! So we take by far too many "ecoservices" from nature and finance the economic growth since decades with debts to nature, or - more correctly - with the destruction of nature.
Overshoot Day was:
1987: on 19 December
1995: on November 21
2006: on 09 October
2010: on August 21
2017: August 1st
2021: on July 29th
If, according to this approach, the earth could just about regenerate itself in 1987, we would now need almost 1.5 earths to satisfy our demands without overtaxing nature.
If we wanted to make all people happy with the prosperity of the USA, 5 earths would be required in purely mathematical terms.

Only apocalyptics can imagine where this will lead, given the continued growth of the population and the economic growth that all politicians regard as indispensable.

Literature:
www.footprintnetwork.org

Appendix 2020:
Some data on congestion of the earth
Newly one speaks of the "Anthropocene", the age in which humans have become one of the most important factors influencing biological, geological, and atmospheric processes on Earth.
Man leaves traces (e.g. radioactivity) that will still be detectable in hundreds of thousands of years.
Some important environmental pressures brought about by the Anthropocene are listed below:

Farmland:
There are 1.4 billion hectares (1 hectare = 10,000 m²) of arable land on earth.
With 8 billion people = 1750 m² per person.
It will hardly be possible to increase the arable land worldwide, there is even a risk that it will be reduced by soil sealing (construction of roads, buildings, factories, etc.), climate change, overexploitation.
            World population: arable land per capita:
1950: 2.5 billion 0.59 hectares
1960:       3                           0,50
1974:       4                           0,35
1994:       5,6                        0,27
2000:       6,3                        0,23
2021:        8                          0,175
2050: 10.3 0.15? (Forecast)
(deutschlandfunkkultur.de/weltacker-experiment-wie-viel-anbauflaeche-braucht-ein.976.de.html?dram:article_id=333459#:~:text=TeiltmandieAckerflächeder,1).
Modern agriculture and other environmental damage threaten soil destruction: chemicals, erosion, artificial fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals, dust storms, salinization, etc. (www.ökosystem-erde.de)

Species extinction:
According to the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), 150 species disappear every day worldwide.
(https://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/tiere/150-arten-sterben-pro-tag-aus-groesstes-artensterben-seit-ende-der-dinosaurier-zeit-droht-16660249.html)-

The Biomass of terrestrial mammals consists of 66 % of livestock and 30 % of humans. Other non-mammalian livestock, such as ducks, geese, chickens, etc., not included.
If humanity continues to grow, how long can there still be space for wild animals?
(wiki, "mass of land-living mammals")

Carbon dioxide emissions in gigatons per year 2019:
(1) Natural: 750 (excluding volcanoes, whose contribution is estimated at only 1 %, still almost ten times that of Germany).
(2) From humans: 33 corresponds to 4.4 % of (1)
(3) Germany: 0.805 corresponds to 2.4 % of (2) or 0.107 % of (1) (www.Klimafakten.de)

Mass of man-made structures:
Approximately 30 trillion tons is said to be the weight of our technosphere. This is 100,000 times the biomass of all the people on Earth and is equivalent to almost 60 kilograms per square meter over the entire surface of the Earth, or a uniform covering of the entire surface of the Earth with 24 mm (about 1 inch) of concrete (spec. weight 2.5).
The researchers call these results "very preliminary," but believe the magnitude is realistic.
(https://www.welt.de/kmpkt/article160159442/So-viel-wiegt-alles-das-wir-Menschen-je-gebaut-haben.html).
Total earth surface: 510 million km2, of which land 149 million km2.
Calculation: 30*1015 kg/ 510*1012 m2  = 58 kg/m2
Postscript: Between 2011 and 2013, China alone consumed more concrete than the U.S. did in the entire 20th century. Concrete production contributes 7 % to global greenhouse gases. ("Stern" No. 19, dated 5.5. 2022).

Ecological carrying capacity of the earth:
The first commandment of the Georgia Guidestones (1980) reads:
"Keep the human race under 500 million in constant equilibrium with nature."
Gorbachev, founder of the International Green Cross, explains the ecological crisis than a population crisis and calls for a 90 percent reduction in the world's population.
The National Strategy for a Sustainable America (The "President's Council on Sustainable Development"), a body of experts that the US President Bill Clinton deliberated between 1993 and 1999, concluded in 1996 in response to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992) that the world population should not exceed 500 million people.
(https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragf%C3%A4higkeit_(%C3%96kologie)

Ecological carrying capacity of different countries according to OPT:
The following figures of the OPT are richly generous! The "medium prosperity" assumed here probably corresponds more to the condition in Bangladesh than to that in Romania, one of the poorest countries of the EU.
Country: Inhabitants: At current At medium
                                                Prosperity Prosperity:
Germany: 82 million 24 million 40 million
Austria 8 4 7
Switzerland 7 3 4
China 1,272 490 327
India 993 768 253
USA 280 91 241
World 5,962 643 3,055
(http://www.optimumpopulation.org/opt.af.lpr02.tab2e.xls.)-

Overshoot Day" or "World Overshoot Day."
See above.

Cattle as climate influencers:
There are about 1.5 billion cattle worldwide. These produce approx. 50 liters (= approx. 33g) of methane per day, which has approx. 25 times the climate impact of CO2.
"What a cow produces annually in methane has the same effect as CO2 emissions of a mid-size car with 18,000 km annual mileage."
So the 1.5 billion cattle are about as damaging to the climate as 1.5 billion passenger cars with an annual mileage of 18,000 km.
In 2015, there were about 1.3 billion motor vehicles, which are therefore not much more harmful to the climate than cattle. Other domestic animals (horses, sheep, goats) not included.
The 1.5 billion cattle produce 18*109 kg/a or 0.018 gigatons/year of methane. Taking into account the factor 25 for CH4 this corresponds to 0.45 gigatons of C02/a.
The industrialized country Germany currently produces about 0.805 gigatons/a.
(Codecheck-info/news/how-many-greenhouse-gases-come-from-cows?)

The world population continues to grow:
1927: 2 billion
1960: (after 33 years) 3 billion
1974: (after 14 years) 4 billion
1987: (after 13 years) 5 billion
1999: (after 12 years) 6 billion (growth flattens out
2011: (after 12 years) 7 billion (due to decrease in
2020: (after 9 years) 7.75 billion (India and China

In 2050, 10 billion are expected, including 2.5 billion in Africa alone (1.3 billion in 2020).
Currently, the world population is still growing by about 80 million per year.
In Africa alone, with 1.3 billion people, the population is growing by about 32 million per year.
(wikipedia "world population")