Ian Sample

London: Humanity slides into the red on Monday and begins racking up an ecological overdraft driven by unsustainable exploitation of the world's resources, according to a report by the sustainable development organisation Global Footprint Network.

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 study claims. The network calculated the day the global economy started to operate with an ecological deficit by comparing world demand for resources with the rate at which ecosystems can replenish them.

U.N. surveys

The study draws on surveys from bodies such as the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation.

According to the GFN, humanity 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. ``Humanity is living off its ecological credit card,'' said Mathis Wackernagel at GFN. If every country lived frugally, only half the planet's resources would be needed to meet demand. But if the world adopted a U.S. lifestyle, four extra planets would be needed.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006