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Page added on May 27, 2015

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New Overshoot Index

The Overshoot Index assesses the extent to which a country can support itself from its own renewable resources, by measuring current per
capita consumption against per capita biocapacity. The ecological footprint measures the area of biologically productive land and water
required to produce the renewable resources/ecological services for, and absorb the waste of, a given population at a given average level
of resource consumption. Biocapacity is the biologically productive capacity of an area – cropland, grazing land, forest, fresh water etc. It
does not include non-renewable resources like fossil fuels and other minerals. The true balance between consumption and demand for
resources will appear even more unfavourable when the progressive reduction towards zero use of non-renewables is factored into the
numbers. A satisfactory way to do this has yet to be devised. It also assumes that 100% of biocapacity is allocated to humans, since there
is no agreed figure for the necessary share needed to conserve biodiversity. Ecological footprint and biocapacity are measured in global
hectares (hectares with world average biological productivity) per person. Increased productivity would reduce dependency; while
increased population or consumption per head would increase it.
The percentage of an area’s footprint supported from its renewable resources is its self-sufficient percentage; the remaining percentage is
its dependent percentage. Similarly, the percentage of an area’s population supported from its renewable
resources is its sustainable population at current consumption levels with current technology; the remaining percentage is its
overshoot population. A dependency of greater than zero means that a country, region or the world is relying on other countries
or non-renewable, unsustainable resources for its current consumption. Countries in overshoot increase their dependency, and
the others approach overshoot, as either their population or their per capita consumption grows; and faster if both grow.
All source data is from the 2012 Data Tables, based on 2009 figures, produced by the Global Footprint Network
(GFN). Countries with populations of under one million have been omitted. GFN’s data are largely from UN sources; their
methodology is still admittedly imprecise, but is subject to continuous refinement. Apparent discrepencies in the calculations are due to
Population Matters [PDF]

10 Comments on "New Overshoot Index"

  1. Davy on Wed, 27th May 2015 9:29 am 

    What a great report. The one problem I have with it is the BAUtopian assumptions. We really must go beyond these assumptions to understand a true overshoot index. Population densities in mega urban areas must be considered. Regional sustainability without fossil fuels for water, food, and shelter (heat) is another consideration. The amount of reliance on fossil fuel agriculture is another significant issues. This reliance includes those countries relying on imported food and those countries producing food. We should include ones risk of being in a NUK war and the risk of poisonous industrial failures. Another consideration is ones likely exposure to climate change climate destabilizations. Finally we should include geopolitical, ethnic, and religious instabilities.

    It is no wonder Asia and in particular China is at the top of this list. It is also no wonder that the US is near the top. Chindia and the US are at the top of the nexus of overpopulation and overconsumption. The rest of the world is pretty much not much better when one considers systematic dangers of the collapse of BAU.

    To be fair we should not be looking at this from a national or regional standpoint. This should be as local as possible. How can you compare apples to apples with very large countries and small countries? There are so many viable locals in the world even in countries in severe national overshoot. China is in a terrible position but it is such a large country that there are many locals that have viabilities. I would point to anywhere in the southern hemisphere as better than the northern hemisphere. Any country with religious instability is in a poor position most notably the Middle East.

    We really must say that BAU is in overshoot. All national entities being dependent on the global are in overshoot to a globalized failure. It is the many locals that have viability if the winds of change favor them. We just don’t know how this storm will break out and how long it will last but it will not be pretty anywhere. You should be using your common sense to know if you are in a poor location. This really is all about location.

  2. Lawfish1964 on Wed, 27th May 2015 10:24 am 

    Current overshoot worldwide: 5,454,000 people. Whoops! I guess they can do like Kevin Bacon in Apollo 13 and just not breathe or eat.

    This bottleneck will be very interesting.

  3. Davy on Wed, 27th May 2015 10:43 am 

    Law, add 3 zeros to that figure.

  4. Anonymous on Wed, 27th May 2015 11:40 am 

    That is too few hectares not too many people (‘only’ 2 billion too many people at the moment).

  5. Apneaman on Wed, 27th May 2015 11:49 am 

    Texas Was In a Horrible Drought Last Year. Now It’s Flooded. What Gives?

    “And it’s not just Houston. At one point on Saturday, an astonishing 95 percent of Texas was under a flash flood watch as a huge swath of heavy rain slowly advanced eastward.”

    “A steadily escalating whipsaw between drought and flood is one of the most confident predictions of an atmosphere with enhanced evaporation rates—meaning, global warming. Since 1958, there’s been a 16 percent increase in the amount of rain falling in the heaviest rainstorms on the Plains, even as long-term projections point toward an increased risk of megadrought. Both of these can happen at the same time.”

  6. Makati1 on Wed, 27th May 2015 7:48 pm 

    Sufficiency based on “current consumption levels” is reflected in these stats. I would think that sufficiency should be based on the real consumption levels that will evolve when the SHTF. It will drop precipitously to a level of sustainability typical of maybe 2,000 years ago. Obesity will be a forgotten word as no one will be obese or even over-weight. Ditto for all other unnecessary consumption of resources.

    And, what is meant by “world average biological productivity”? Does that mean that a country in the north with a short growing season is counted the same as a country near the equator with a year-round growing season? For instance, I can grow ~3 crops per year here in the Ps, whereas, in the north east US, one crop is possible. Yet they are equaled out.

    Nice chart, but …

  7. Apneaman on Thu, 28th May 2015 4:36 pm 

    Across U.S., Heaviest Downpours On The Rise

    “Record-breaking rain across Texas and Oklahoma this week caused widespread flooding, the likes of which the region has rarely, if ever, seen. For seven locations there, May 2015 has seen the most rain of any month ever recorded, with five days to go and the rain still coming.”

  8. bicycledave on Thu, 28th May 2015 9:58 pm 

    Davy, Good comment. I’m always interested in these kinds of predictions. In this case, 4.7B seems high compared to other such analysis I’ve seen – but most lack real scientific rigor. What would be your guess if we assume some level of stability a couple hundred years or so from now. And assuming the planet is not fried, a radioactive waste dump, or biologically unfit for humans due to some wonderful technology we unleash? Also, assuming some improvement of forests, fisheries, etc. In other words, a reasonably best case scenario after a lot of ugly stuff is in the rear view mirror.

  9. JuanP on Fri, 29th May 2015 11:03 am 

    According to this index Uruguay, in the position 126/145, is not overpopulated with its current population of 3.4 million and we could still add 5.5 million more people and be sustainable.

    I profoundly disagree. Uruguay is brutally overpopulated today as it is and the idea of almost tripling its population and living sustainably is ridiculous.

    While I do understand the idea that in Uruguay we export more of our food production than we consume domestically and we have lots of rain and lots of water in the ground, and underground in aquifers, this doesn’t mean we could triple the population sustainably. I believe we could actually produce even more food in an organic, sustainable way using ideas like Permaculture and properly managed domesticated animals to build the soil and retain water and soil using swales, berms, ponds, and.keylining without the use of fossil fuels or modern technologies. That would be possible in a perfect world in which humans being were not what we are.

    So this index is completely unrealistic because it ignores human nature, Uruguay, and the world are overpopulated enough today.

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