Definitions of ecological debt


The debt consolidation is a sum of money due to a creditor. In simple terms, the creditor is the one who lends the borrowed capital. For natural capital, the creditor is, therefore, the Earth, or the biosphere or nature, whatever the name. Hence an ecological debt of humans towards the Earth. The fact for example of fishing a species of fish more than what allows its renewal is a discovery vis-à-vis the wealth of the sea. This discovery, it is normally obliged to pay, for example by setting a moratorium on fishing, otherwise, our contemporaries and successors will be impoverished. It’s as if we had burned our house … more heritage possible!

One can always refuse to return the money to the financial oligarchy that lives “to the detriment of the people”. This is not the case with the ecological debt: the non-renewable resources lent by the biosphere have been definitively squandered by people living in the West. Indeed, humanity cannot make the barrels of oil, the tons of coal or the possibilities of natural recycling of CO 2 that allow the current standard of living of “honest people”. This is why the austerity cure that will go through the human species will be much more terrible than in a financial tsunami where we can refinance the economy by rotating the billboard (new credits).

Each year, the New Economics Foundation calculates the date at which humanity’s consumption of resources exceeds the planet’s capacity for renewal.

Beyond that date, we are in a state of exhaustion of reserves. This anniversary date has been dubbed ” Ecological Debt Day” or ” Overshoot Day “. In 1987, humanity was in the red on December 19th. In 1995, this date was November 21st. During the year 2008, humanity turned to the dark side on October 9, and September 27 in 2011. This date occurs each year earlier and earlier, which means that resources available for one year are consumed faster. We are living ecologically in the open now. By living beyond our means, we deprive millions of people around the world of the opportunity to sustainably meet their needs.

Historically, the concept of ecological debt was conceived in the 1980s as a counterpart to the financial debt of Latin American countries: we owe you dollars but you rich country, you owe us the hole in the ozone layer. More recently, it has been estimated that all greenhouse gas emissions already made by developed countries should be accounted for in international climate negotiations to restore more justice to future emissions. But at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio in 1992, the year 1990 was “zero year”: this meant that no rebuilding of the world’s fuel reserves would be done. fossils looted before. With a stroke of the pen, the ecological debt of rich countries was erased. In any case, it is impossible to repay this debt by allowing poor countries to emit much more CO 2 in the future. The underdeveloped countries cannot reproduce the same error as the West since there would be certainty of a climate runaway.


Ecological debt is not a piece of paper that could be repaid with other pieces of paper. The ecological debt is different from a financial debt, it is concrete, it is the weakening of our natural capital. This loss is irremediable when it comes to non-renewable resources such as oil, gas, or uranium. It will be very painful to repay when the climate system is out of order. There is nothing cheerful about it, but as long as the leaders make people believe that “tomorrow will be better”, with a little more economic growth, the situation will only get worse. If there is no desired and shared decline, there will be economic depression experienced by the excluded.

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