Today, August 8th, is Earth Overshoot Day (EOD) for 2016, the day when humanity supposedly has consumed the natural resources available from the planet for the year 2016; we're now running a deficit, somehow. At least if your believe the calculations of the Global Footprint Network (GFN), the think tank behind this concept. EOD is well reported by media every year, and perhaps it does some good as an ecology awareness thing. But is the idea scientifically sound?
EOD is based on the ecological footprint concept. The ecological footprint of a person (measured in hectares) is the area of the earth required to extract the natural resources needed to sustain that person: to grow crops, keep farm animals, obtain natural resources for consumables, etc. It's a very complex thing to calculate, and of course people argue about what the correct formula should be. One article by Willis Eschenbach (2010) goes into some depth and argues that the formula used by GFN vastly overestimates the footprint. I don't know who is right, but it does seem like the footprint is very difficult to estimate, so we should probably be careful with drawing strong conclusions.
But I have a more fundamental problem with EOD. Regardless of how it's calculated, the claim that we have today "overshot" our yearly earth-budget, at 8 months out of 12, means that we are consuming about 1.5 of the available food and natural resources available; or that the footprint of humanity is 1.5 Earths. This is not some kind of parable: GFN really claims that we have exhausted our natural resources, by a wide margin, and that this has been going on since the 1970's.
My question is, what are we all living on then?
As of today there should be no more food around, or any other natural-derived product for that matter. If GFNs estimate is correct, shouldn't humanity be long dead? Shouldn't we expect 1/3 of the earth's "surplus" population to die off pretty quickly? Doesn't the fact that we're not dead prove that EOD is wrong? Isn't it physically impossible for our total footprint to exceed 1 Earth?
EDIT: Nice to see that this question stirred a lot of debate! :) I think several answers bring up one key point that resolves the problem: GFN defines the footprint not as the actual area required for production at present (which must be < 1 Earth), but the area required for sustainable production (which is larger). Exactly how the sustainable area is defined is still mysterious to me, but I guess it is at least theoretically possible.