Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The idea of ecological debt refers to how human societies have come to live, so to speak, beyond their ecological means. Ecological debt accrues whenever resources are removed from their natural state faster than they can naturally be renewed, or when pollutants are emitted faster than they can naturally be assimilated. The magnitude of the problem is indicated by estimates that sustaining the world's population at the current consumption levels of the affluent would require the resources of three additional planet Earths. Even current global consumption, with at least one billion people existing in absolute poverty, is not sustainable. In these circumstances, it can be argued, the affluent are ecological debtors ...