The ecological debt accumulates when the overexploitation of the planet exceeds its capacity to regenerate. The debt begins each year on the day all available resources for that year have been used. That day is often called “ecological deficit day” or “overshoot day.”

It is estimated that 1.75 planet Earths would be needed to meet current consumption levels. At a global level, 30 years ago the annual ecological debt began on October 15, but since 2019 the overshoot day arrives already in July.

But the ecological debt is not produced by the entire population. There are still people who can’t fully satisfy their basic needs, but there are others who consume much more than they need, with a large ecological footprint.

Each country’s overshoot day falls on the date that the global ecological debt would begin if all of humanity consumed at the same level as the average for that country. In general, developed countries have a much larger ecological footprint than the rest of the world, so they reach their overshoot day much earlier.

Some countries don’t even have an overshoot day and there are countries like Indonesia, Ecuador and Jamaica that have it in December. However, the United States and Australia reach their overshoot day in March. Coincidentally, both countries have the highest per capita consumption of meat worldwide.

Industry, transport and the energy sector are highly polluting activities, but so is the current food system. At least 25% of annual greenhouse gas emissions come from the food sector. And of that quarter, 58% corresponds to products of animal origin.

According to a study from the University of Oxford, a person can cut their carbon footprint in half just by choosing a vegan diet. Stopping consuming products of animal origin helps reduce ecological debt and gives the planet a great break. 
Calculate your ecological footprint and your overshoot at the following link: https://www.footprintcalculator.org/

Matilde Nuñez del Prado Alanes is from La Paz, Bolivia. She made her thesis in Sociology on cockfighting, as a result of an undercover investigation in the field for 4 years, and she is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Critical Theory. Her topics of interest are the relationships between humans and other sentient animals from the perspective of Critical Animal Studies, the socio-ecological issues, and the intersectionality between different forms of oppression, domination and exploitation.