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Ecological debt is a term used since 1992 by some environmental organizations from the Global south. The first one to use this term was the Instituto de Ecologia Politica from Chile (M.L.Robleto and W. Marcelo, Deuda Ecologica, IEP, Santiago de Chile, 1992). J.M. Borrero, from Colombia, a lawyer, wrote a book on the ecological debt in 1994 (J.M.Borrero, La Deuda Ecologica, FIPMA, Cali 1994). This referred to the environmental liabilities of Northern countries for the excessive per capita production of greenhouse gases, historically and at present. Campaigns on the Ecological Debt were launched since 1997 by Accion Ecologica of Ecuador and Friends of the Earth as documented in www.deudaecologica.org
Academic work on calculations of the Ecological Debt came later. A remarkable article with the title "The debt of nations and the distribution of ecological impacts from human activities" was published by U. Thara Srinivasan et al. (from Berkeley) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2008, 105(5):1768-1773.
Studies were produced at regional level also. For instance, S. Khatua and W. Stanley, "Ecological Debt: a case study from Orissa, India" (2006) http://www.deudaecologica.org/publicaciones/Chapter5(125-168).pdf
Some government officials from developing countries have argued - at meetings on Climate Change - that the principle of shared responsibility demands that rich nations go beyond donations or adaptation credits and make reparations that recognize an ecological debt for excessive emissions over several decades. The top US ambassador to the COP in Copenhagen in December 2009, Todd Stern, flatly rejected arguments by diplomats from poor lands that the United States owed such a debt. (A.C.Reukin & T. Zeller, New York Times, 9 Dec. 2009).
Ecological Debt has been used to describe 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, it can be used refer to the overall 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.
Ecological debt: the health of the planet and the wealth of nations, Andrew Simms, Pluto books, 2005
J. Timmons Roberts and Bradley C. Parks, 2009, “Ecologically Unequal Exchange, Ecological Debt, and Climate Justice: The History and Implications of Three Related Ideas for a New Social Movement.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology Vol 50(3–4): 381–408.
Towards a Level Playing Field, Repaying Ecological Debt, or Making Environmental Space: Three Stories about International Environmental Cooperation, Osgoode Hall Law Journal,2005, VOL 43; NUMB 1/2, pages 137-170
Elaboration of the concept of ecological debt, Centre for Sustainable Development, Ghent University, 2004
Credit Where it's Due: The Ecological Debt Education Project, Friends of the Earth Scotland, 2003
Who owes who?: Climate change, debt, equity and survival, Christian Aid, 1999
North-South Relations and the Ecological Debt: Asserting a Counter-Hegemonic Discourse, Critical Sociology, 2009, VOL 35(2); pages 225-252
- Global Footprint Network - Ecological Debt Day
- New Economics Foundation - Ecological Debt Day
- European Network for the recognition of the Ecological Debt
- World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002 - Ecological Debt
See also 
- Andrew Simms. Ecological Debt. (London: Pluto Press, 2009) p.200.