Ecological debt refers to the accumulated debt of wealthier countries (from a defined date in the past until present) for having plundered poorer countries by the exploitation of their resources, the degradation of their natural habitat, the beggaring of local people and/or the free occupation of environmental space for waste discharge. The definition in itself has varied over the years and several scholars have attempted a greater specification of the concept.
Within the ecological debt definition, two types of aspects are understood: the ecological damage caused over time by a country in one or other countries or to ecosystems beyond national jurisdiction through its production and consumption patterns; and the exploitation or use of ecosystems over time by a country at the expense of the equitable rights to these ecosystems by other countries.
The term 'ecological debt' first appeared on paper in 1985, in a yellow booklet with the title “Women in movement" made by the German ecofeminist Eva Quistorp and edited by the Green Party in Germany in 1985. The work was intended to be used for a workshop she gave on 'women, peace and ecology' in Nairobi during the United Nation Women’s Conference (the first workshop of this kind).
In 1992, the term appeared again in two reports published in different places around the world: “Deuda ecológica” by Robleto and Marcelo in Chile and “Miljöskulden” by Jernelöv in Sweden. Robleto and Marcelo's report, published by the critical NGO Instituto de Ecologia Politica (IEP), was a political and activist response to the global environmental negotiations happening during the Rio Summit. It shed light on the debate occurring in Latin America since the 1980s about the crucial nature's heritage that had been consumed and not returned (i.e. ecological debt). On the other hand, Jernelöv's report goal was to calculate the Swedish debt for future generation and was intended to serve nationally for the Swedish Environmental Advisory. Although the last one had less world-wide influence in the concept's debate, it is important to note that both reports have opposite approach in considering the ecological debt: Robleto and Marcelo's report expresses it in symbolic terms, focusing on the moral and political aspects, whereas Jernelöv's report tries to quantify and monetize it in economic terms.
In 1994, the Colombian lawyer Borrero, wrote a book on ecological debt. It referred to the environmental liabilities of Northern countries for the excessive per capita production of greenhouse gases, historically and at present. The concept has then been reused by some environmental organizations from the Global South. Campaigns on the ecological debt were launched since 1997 by Accion Ecologica of Ecuador and Friends of the Earth.
Overall, the ecological debt 'movement' was born of the convergence of three main factors during the 80s-90s: 1) the consequences of the debt crisis in the 70s due to the Volcker shocks or the drastic increase of interest rates (followed by structural adjustments made by the US to solve the stagflation in 1981, and thus putting heavily indebted third world countries in an impossible situation in regards to debt repayment); 2) the rising of environmental awareness as seen previously (activists and NGOs attending the Rio Summit in 1992); 3) an increase in recognition of the violence caused by colonialism over the years  (the demand of recognition is over 500 years, since Columbus arrived in North America).
In 2009, ecofeminist scholar Ariel Salleh explained how the capitalist processes at work in the global North exploit nature and people simultaneously, ultimately sustaining a large ecological debt in her article, "Ecological Debt: Embodied Debt". At the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, politicians and corporate leaders from the global North introduced the supposed solution for the foreign debt crisis in the global South. They proposed 'debt for nature swaps', which essentially means that those countries that possess abundant biodiversity and environmental resources would give them up to the global North in return for the World Bank reducing their debt.
Feminist environmentalists, Indigenous activists, and peasants from the Global South, exposed how the Global North is much more indebted to the Global South. Salleh justified this by explaining how the 500-year-long colonialisation process involving the extraction of resources has caused immense damage and destruction to the ecosystem of the Global South. In fact, scientists at the US National Academy for Sciences state that in the time period of 1961–2000, by analyzing the cost of greenhouse gas emissions created by the rich (the Global North) alone, it has become apparent that the rich have imposed climate changes on the poor that greatly outweigh the poor's foreign debt. All of this environmental degradation amounts to ecological debt, seizing the people's livelihood resources in the Global South.
In 2009 as well, Andrew Simms used the ecological debt in a more bio-physical way and defined it as the consumption of resources from within an ecosystem that exceeds the system's regenerative capacity. This is seen in particular in non-renewable resources wherein consumption outstrips production. In a general sense in his work, it refers to the depletion of global resources beyond the Earth's ability to regenerate them. The concept in this sense is based on the bio-physical carrying capacity of an ecosystem; through measuring ecological footprints human society can determine the rate at which it is depleting natural resources. Ultimately, the imperative of sustainability requires human society to live within the means of the ecological system to support life over the long term. Ecological debt is a feature of unsustainable economic systems.
There have been several debates around the notion of ecological debt, and this is mostly because the concept arises from various social movements in response to distributional injustice of climate change's consequences on the environment and people's livelihood.
Salleh in particular showed how the ecological debt manifested in the destruction of the environment and associated climate change the North has created is made possible through the process of modernization and capitalism. The rise of the nature-culture divide that emerged due to rapid industrialisation is a perfect illustration of a human-nature dualism in which human being has the central role above everything else. The notion of humans being embedded in the ecosystem that they live in is crucial to the discipline of political ecology.
In political ecology, which reconnects nature and the economy, ecological debt is crucial because it recognizes that colonization has not only resulted in a loss of culture, way of life, and language for Indigenous peoples, but it has shaped the world economy into one that monetizes and commodifies the environment. For example, when the colonization of South America occurred over 500 years ago, European settlers brought with them their Eurocentric values, seeing themselves as better than and therefore entitled to the Indigenous people's knowledge and the land they lived on. In a perceived post colonial world, large corporations and Western governments tend to present solutions to global warming by commodifying nature and hoping to make a profit out of it. This better-than-thou attitude has created the conditions for global warming to occur, making the North’s ecological footprint soar, while also constructing an ecological debt so large as to completely rid the entire Global South of their financial debt.
During the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, attending NGOs created the Debt Treaty, a document gathering all information to better define the ecological debt concept. They demanded compensation for damages over 500 years (1992 is exactly 500 years after the arrival of Columbus in North America). It was a first push back, reversing the stream, but it stayed as a draft paper not recognized by international institutions or lead countries at that time.
In the 2000s, two networks were created and still exist today: the Southern Peoples Ecological Debt Creditors Alliance (SPEDCA) which is a network of creditors that launched a campaign for the recognition of ecological debt, and the European Network for the Recognition of Ecological Debt (ENRED) which is a network of debtors.
During the COP in Copenhagen in December 2009, some governments from developing countries or countries most vulnerable to climate change consequences (such as Bolivia, Mauritania, Chad, or island countries as Maldives or Haiti) have argued that the principle of shared responsibility demands that rich nations or developed economies (such as the United States, some European countries, China) go beyond donations or adaptation credits and make reparations that recognize an ecological debt for excessive emissions over several decades. The top United States ambassador, Todd Stern, flatly rejected arguments by diplomats from these countries that the United States owed such a debt.
The COP 21 in Paris brought minor progress with an increase in financial aid for developing countries. Although the goal was to prepare future action to be undertaken for adapting to climate change and consider loss and damages (especially displaced people) of some countries, no real action was adopted. There were no recognition of responsibilities but recommendations only.
When discussing ecological debt, climate debt appears to be the only example of a scientific attempt to quantify the debt. It incorporates two different elements: the adaptation debt which is the cost to communities of adapting to climate damages they are not responsible for, and the consumption debt or emission's debt which is compensation due for emitting carbon in the present time.
Academic work on calculations of the ecological debt came later. An article published in 2008 looked at the distribution of ecological impacts for various human activities. Studies were also produced at regional level within countries, for instance for Orissa in India.
As seen previously, calculation of the ecological debt implies various aspects related to political ecology. While calculation the amount of emissions, some scholars have disregard inequalities of emissions from the past whereas others have considered historical accountability.
In 2000, Neumayer calculated what he named the 'historical emissions debt', consisting on the difference in emissions of actual historical emissions (from a specific date in the past) and equal per-capita emissions (current emissions).
Theoretically, it may be possible to put a money value on ecological debt by calculating the value of the environmental and social externalities associated with historic resource extraction and adding an estimated value for the share of global pollution problems borne by poor countries as the result of higher consumption levels in rich ones. This includes efforts to value the external costs associated with climate change.
In 2015, Matthews proposed a method to calculate the ecological debt, by looking at the accumulated `carbon debts' for each country. The model uses historical estimates of national fossil fuel CO2 emissions and population and this since 1960. Furthermore, it runs a comparison between temperature changes each year by each country's emissions compared to a proportional temperature change of each country's share of the world population (this same year). This gives the accumulated credits and debts related to a larger range of emissions and the 'climate debts' obtained would be the difference between the actual temperature change (caused by each country) and their per-capita share of global temperature change.
Other scholars have proposed a different approach, a `modified equal shares' approach, that would consider each country's basic needs and would weight each ones' share of emissions. However, this approach brings potential ethical and political difficulties to quantitatively defining what would thus be the equal shares.
Although some recent emerging countries have participated in the increase of carbon emissions, the situation tend to stay uneven in-between developing and developed countries regarding who is affected the most versus who pollutes the most.
Recent studies on ecological debt focus more on sub-topics as the notion of historical responsibility (whether or not a country is considered ethically responsible or accountable for carbon emissions prior 1990, i.e. when global warming was universally recognized), the components of climate debt (see above sections), the difficulties in deciding when to start counting past emissions and if this debate is slowing the implementation of programs or the legal and political consecration of the debt through treaties.
Present key debates focus on how is the debt going to be paid back. First, some academia have pushed for financial debt cancellation rather than being paid for ecological damages and then paying back the country's national financial debt. However, financial debts were not even agree by people (in developing countries especially) in the first place, calling it the unfair "Volcker debt". Accepting this option could hold the risk of giving legitimize credits to these financial debts. A second solution proposed is the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) or the universal basic income. It consists on regular cash payments to everyone in a community (or country) and has proven a certain efficacy in some places around the world (like Namibia).
Another debate addresses the fact that the ecological debt risks “commodifying nature”, exhausting ecosystem services. Researchers have tackled this risk by showing how it will expand the inclination of objectifying, monetizing and ultimately commodifying nature. Moreover, the language of debt, repayments, credits and so forth is understood in Northern countries mostly, and is mostly focused on recognition of wrongdoing but not payment for loss of services for instance.
In biology and ecology, abiotic components or abiotic factors are non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms and the functioning of ecosystems. Abiotic factors and the phenomena associated with them underpin all biology.
Abiotic components include physical conditions and non-living resources that affect living organisms in terms of growth, maintenance, and reproduction. Resources are distinguished as substances or objects in the environment required by one organism and consumed or otherwise made unavailable for use by other organisms.
Component degradation of a substance occurs by chemical or physical processes, e.g. hydrolysis. All non-living components of an ecosystem, such as atmospheric conditions and water resources, are called abiotic components.Andrew Simms
Andrew Simms is an author, analyst and co-director of the New Weather Institute. He is a research associate with the Centre for Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex and Fellow at the New Economics Foundation.Andrew Simms advocates the notion of ecological debt as an illustration of the degree to which economies operate beyond environmental thresholds, and initiated the annual marking of the day when the world is estimated to enter 'overshoot'.Bacterivore
Bacterivores are free-living, generally heterotrophic organisms, exclusively microscopic, which obtain energy and nutrients primarily or entirely from the consumption of bacteria. Many species of amoeba are bacterivores, as well as other types of protozoans. Commonly, all species of bacteria will be prey, but spores of some species, such as Clostridium perfringens, will never be prey, because of their cellular attributes.Copiotroph
A copiotroph is an organism found in environments rich in nutrients, particularly carbon. They are the opposite to oligotrophs, which survive in much lower carbon concentrations.
Copiotrophic organisms tend to grow in high organic substrate conditions. For example, copiotrophic organisms grow in Sewage lagoons. They grow in organic substrate conditions up to 100x higher than oligotrophs.Decomposer
Decomposers are organisms that break down dead or decaying organisms, and in doing so, they carry out the natural process of decomposition. Like herbivores and predators, decomposers are heterotrophic, meaning that they use organic substrates to get their energy, carbon and nutrients for growth and development. While the terms decomposer and detritivore are often interchangeably used, detritivores must ingest and digest dead matter via internal processes while decomposers can directly absorb nutrients through chemical and biological processes hence breaking down matter without ingesting it. Thus, invertebrates such as earthworms, woodlice, and sea cucumbers are technically detritivores, not decomposers, since they must ingest nutrients and are unable to absorb them externally.Dominance (ecology)
Ecological dominance is the degree to which a taxon is more numerous than its competitors in an ecological community, or makes up more of the biomass.
Most ecological communities are defined by their dominant species.
In many examples of wet woodland in western Europe, the dominant tree is alder (Alnus glutinosa).
In temperate bogs, the dominant vegetation is usually species of Sphagnum moss.
Tidal swamps in the tropics are usually dominated by species of mangrove (Rhizophoraceae)
Some sea floor communities are dominated by brittle stars.
Exposed rocky shorelines are dominated by sessile organisms such as barnacles and limpets.Earth Overshoot Day
Earth Overshoot Day (EOD), previously known as Ecological Debt Day (EDD), is the calculated illustrative calendar date on which humanity's resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year. Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by dividing the world biocapacity (the amount of natural resources generated by Earth that year), by the world ecological footprint (humanity's consumption of Earth's natural resources for that year), and multiplying by 365, the number of days in one Gregorian common calendar year:
When viewed through an economic perspective, EOD represents the day in which humanity enters an ecological deficit spending. In ecology the term Earth Overshoot Day illustrates the level by which human population overshoots its environment. In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day is on July 29.
Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by Global Footprint Network and is a campaign supported by dozens of other nonprofit organizations. Information about Global Footprint Network's calculations and national Ecological Footprints are available online.Ecological farming
Ecological farming is recognised as the high-end objective among the proponents of sustainable agriculture. Ecological farming is not the same as organic farming, however there are many similarities and they are not necessarily incompatible. Ecological farming includes all methods, including organic, which regenerate ecosystem services like: prevention of soil erosion, water infiltration and retention, carbon sequestration in the form of humus, and increased biodiversity. Many techniques are used including no till, multispecies cover crops, strip cropping, terrace cultivation, shelter belts, pasture cropping etc.Feeding frenzy
In ecology, a feeding frenzy occurs when predators are overwhelmed by the amount of prey available. For example, a large school of fish can cause nearby sharks, such as the lemon shark, to enter into a feeding frenzy. This can cause the sharks to go wild, biting anything that moves, including each other or anything else within biting range. Another functional explanation for feeding frenzy is competition amongst predators. This term is most often used when referring to sharks or piranhas. It has also been used as a term within journalism.Global Marshall Plan
The Global Marshall Plan is a plan first devised by former American Vice-President Al Gore in his bestselling book Earth in the Balance, which gives specific ideas on how to save the global environment.
Gore states: "The model of the Marshall Plan can be of great help. For example, a Global Marshall Plan must focus on strategic goals and emphasize actions and programs that are likely to remove the bottlenecks presently inhibiting the healthy functioning of the global economy. The new global economy must be an inclusive system that does not leave entire regions behind. The new plan will require the wealthy nations to allocate money for transferring environmentally helpful technologies to the Third World and to help impoverished nations achieve a stable population and a new pattern of sustainable economic progress. To work, however, any such effort will also require wealthy nations to make a transition themselves that will be in some ways more wrenching than that of the Third World."
Source: Earth in the Balance, page 297-301
Global Marshall Plan: Five strategic goals
"In my view, five strategic goals must direct and inform our efforts to save the global environment":
stabilizing of world population
the rapid development of environmentally appropriate technologies
a comprehensive change in the economic "rules of the road" by which we measure the impact of our decisions on the environment
negotiation & approval of a new generation of international agreements
a cooperative plan for educating the world's citizens about our global environment.The idea is based on the post-WWII Marshall Plan that saw the United States send billions of dollars to European nations to rebuild their war shattered economies.
In order to further the idea of a GMP and to coordinate the various initiatives, NGOs, scientists, activists and groups in the field of development cooperation and global social justice the Global Marshall Plan Initiative was founded by members of the Club of Rome, the Club of Budapest, the Eco-Social Forum Europe, ATTAC and other organisations in Frankfurt, Germany in 2003. The two main objectives are to find new ways and sources of financing in development cooperation, predominantly pursuing the Millennium Development Goals of the UN and the worldwide propagation of the eco-social market economy, which is considered to be one of today's key strategies of initiative. The *Green Marshall Plan* is a policy initiative developed by Canadian greens Constantine Kritsonis and Craig Hubley. It offers a basis for global central banks to *bail out the planet* by creating new money to pay for green infrastructure. Here below it is presented as a policy proposal for the Green Party of Canada.
A) The right to create money belongs to the citizens, but has been "contracted out" to irresponsible entities that have participated in creating a vast ecological debt.
B) Money creation that helped caused the ecological debt must be used to help repay that debt. If the money creation rights are more flexible and can be exploited to reverse ecological damage and restrict expansion of emissions, then we have a moral duty to use them for that immediately because we are at the tipping point of a runaway greenhouse effect.
C) With green infrastructure projects come new jobs, a larger tax base and savings from efficiency that will expand the economy. Green infrastructure paid by new money prevents resistance from those otherwise forced to pay for it.
D) The "risk-reward ratio" of reducing carbon vs inflation risk is in favour of reducing carbon. No claim that green money creation in and of itself guarantees inflation is credible. Countries engaged in large scale quantitative easing (QE) have not experienced problem inflation. Nor have countries like South Korea that focused its 2008-9 stimulus on energy efficiency measures.
Better energy efficiency, reduced fuel use and reduced pollution abatement must reduce long term costs. That "reduces" inflation, as inflation is measured against a basket of actually used goods. If we require less fuel, and get more for less, then actual value received for money is increased.
Created money creating genuine progress across whole societies reduces expenditures otherwise required for the same amount of genuine progress.
E) Ratified Green Party of Canada policy exists that Greens advocate the Bank of Canada return to a prominent role in creating money. (policy code G10-P24) That means, among other measures, creating *additional* money.
F) The ecological or natural capital of the biosphere, or indeed any ecosystem within it, is the root of all wealth.
G) Green MPs in England have asked the Bank of England to consider green QE. Mark Carney, the Bank's governor has stated a scenario where that may happen. Greens in at least Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, France, Germany, Italy, other EU nations are urging similar measures. G7 and G20 and BRICS countries are also updating their policies to respond to V-20 and COP21 concerns. Canadian Greens should be among this chorus.
Be It Resolved: Green MPs and the GPC will advocate for Bank Of Canada money creation to offer interest free (or sovereign interest level) loans and grants for green infrastructure and efficiency projects. Such projects may include the creation of for profit crown corporations that build own and operate infrastructure and efficiency projects. Green MP's and the GPC will advocate The Bank of International Settlements support all central banks under its structure engage in sovereign coordinated Green Marshall Plans.
Be It Further Resolved, A royal commission will be established to determine the feasibility of creating such crown corporations in given fields of expertise and offer a plan for a virtually carbon free Canada. The royal commission would create specific objectives and operating procedures for the green crown corporations. Grants to crown corporations will take preference over any grants to private interests. One example of a green project, which could be owned by a crown corporation: fast electric vehicle charging stations for EVs.Lithoautotroph
A lithoautotroph or chemolithoautotroph is a microbe which derives energy from reduced compounds of mineral origin. Lithoautotrophs are a type of lithotrophs with autotrophic metabolic pathways. Lithoautotrophs are exclusively microbes; macrofauna do not possess the capability to use mineral sources of energy. Most lithoautotrophs belong to the domain Bacteria, while some belong to the domain Archaea. For lithoautotrophic bacteria, only inorganic molecules can be used as energy sources. The term "Lithotroph" is from Greek lithos (λίθος) meaning "rock" and trōphos (τροφοσ) meaning "consumer"; literally, it may be read "eaters of rock". Many lithoautotrophs are extremophiles, but this is not universally so.
Lithoautotrophs are extremely specific in using their energy source. Thus, despite the diversity in using inorganic molecules in order to obtain energy that lithoautotrophs exhibit as a group, one particular lithoautotroph would use only one type of inorganic molecule to get its energy.Mesotrophic soil
Mesotrophic soils are soils with a moderate inherent fertility. An indicator of soil fertility is its base status, which is expressed as a ratio relating the major nutrient cations (calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium) found there to the soil's clay percentage. This is commonly expressed in hundredths of a mole of cations per kilogram of clay, i.e. cmol (+) kg−1 clay.Mycotroph
A mycotroph is a plant that gets all or part of its carbon, water, or nutrient supply through symbiotic association with fungi. The term can refer to plants that engage in either of two distinct symbioses with fungi:
Many mycotrophs have a mutualistic association with fungi in any of several forms of mycorrhiza. The majority of plant species are mycotrophic in this sense. Examples include Burmanniaceae.
Some mycotrophs are parasitic upon fungi in an association known as myco-heterotrophy.Organotroph
An organotroph is an organism that obtains hydrogen or electrons from organic substrates. This term is used in microbiology to classify and describe organisms based on how they obtain electrons for their respiration processes. Some organotrophs such as animals and many bacteria, are also heterotrophs. Organotrophs can be either anaerobic or aerobic.
Antonym: Lithotroph, Adjective: Organotrophic.Overpopulation
Overpopulation occurs when a species' population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological niche. It can result from an increase in births (fertility rate), a decline in the mortality rate, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. When overpopulation occurs, individuals limit available resources to survive.
The change in number of individuals per unit area in a given locality is an important variable that has a significant impact on the entire ecosystem.Planktivore
A planktivore is an aquatic organism that feeds on planktonic food, including zooplankton and phytoplankton.Recruitment (biology)
In biology, especially marine biology, recruitment occurs when a juvenile organism joins a population, whether by birth or immigration, usually at a stage whereby the organisms are settled and able to be detected by an observer.There are two types of recruitment: closed and open.In the study of fisheries, recruitment is "the number of fish surviving to enter the fishery or to some life history stage such as settlement or maturity".Relative abundance distribution
In the field of ecology, the relative abundance distribution (RAD) or species abundance distribution describes the relationship between the number of species observed in a field study as a function of their observed abundance. The graphs obtained in this manner are typically fitted to a Zipf–Mandelbrot law, the exponent of which serves as an index of biodiversity in the ecosystem under study.