Do you know what today is? Of course you do. The 9th October is Canadian Thanksgiving and Columbus Day in the US. But it is also the day of the year that humanity begins to rake up an ecological overdraft driven by unsustainable exploitation of the world’s resources, according to a report by Global Footprint Network.

According to the GFN, in little more than nine months, humans have used up all that nature can replenish in one year, and for the rest of 2006 are destined to eat into the planet’s ecological capital.

The biggest problem relating to the over-consumption of resources is of course climate change, but its other effects include deforestation, falling agricultural yields and overfishing. We also know that oil reserves are fast running out: “peak oil” – the point from which oil reserves start to decline – is imminent, with world consumption of oil at 84 million barrels a day. In turn, the burning of fossil fuels is the largest source of emissions of CO2.

We first went into global ecological debt in 1987, when the year’s resources were spent by December 19. Since then, the date has leapt forward year by year to November 21 by 1995 and October 11 last year. The trend reveals the alarming effect of unsustainable lifestyles which are increasingly using up world reserves. “Humanity is living off its ecological credit card”, said Mathis Wackernagel at GFN.

And you know who the worst offenders are: North Americans. If the world adopted a US lifestyle, four extra planets would be needed.

Happy holidays, everyone.