Earth Overshoot Day was on July 29 this year. So, what does this even mean? This means that on July 29, 2019 humanity’s consumption of resources for the year exceeded Earth’s capacity to regenerate those same resources within this given year. It is typically calculated by dividing the amount of natural resources generated on the planet (biocapacity) by the ecological footprint and multiplying that by 365.
[World Biocapacity/World Ecological Footprint] *365 = Earth Overshoot Day.
What is interesting as well is that this day has been occurring earlier in the year consistently over the last two decades. The first Earth Overshoot Day was on December 19, 1987, two decades later it was on August 2 — almost four and half months months ahead. In other words, we are consuming our annual stock of resources faster by 37.5% from two decades ago and creating an ecological deficit with our own planet much sooner in the year, running on borrowed reserves from the future for the remaining part of the year.
The whole concept of Earth Overshoot day was launched as an annual campaign by the Global Footprint Network, a global independent think tank. The idea was to raise awareness of the earth’s limited resources and bring down our dependency on the energy resources as well as the amount of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere.
Throughout most of history, humanity has used nature’s resources to build cities and infrastructure, to provide food and sustain life. In this process we release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.
So, on one hand we are using earth’s resources and on the other we are emitting a harmful gas back into the air. For a very long time, that was sustainable, meaning the rate at which this cycle was happening was well within the earth’s budget-the planet could support this.
But, by the early 1970s, that critical threshold had been crossed: human consumption began outstripping what the planet could reproduce in time. According to Global Footprint Network’s calculations, our demand for renewable ecological resources and the services they provide is now equivalent to that of more than 1.5 Earths. The data shows us on track to require the resources of two planets well before mid-21st century if we continue along as per the current trends and projections. There needs to be a paradigm shift in order to reverse these numbers.
Advocates for Earth Overshoot Day note that the costs of ecological overspending are becoming more evident over time. Climate change — a result of greenhouse gases being emitted faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans — is the most obvious result with far-reaching effects. Other effects include shrinking forests, species loss, collapse of the food chain, higher commodity prices and possible civil unrest.
While the notion of Earth Overshoot Day itself, is highly criticised by some — the idea that we are consuming more resources than the earth is capable of producing per annum does not come as surprising in general — we are consuming faster than we are able to replace. We are requiring more and more energy than our previous generations did. Always watch your eco-footprint — reduce consumption and don’t overshoot, every little step counts.