Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when the human demand for the planet’s resources exceeds what earth can actually renew in the year. The research organisation behind this concept, Global Footprint Network, helps countries manage natural resources and respond to climate change.
Last year Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 2. This year it falls today, August 1 – the earliest it’s ever been since record-keeping began some 50 or so years ago. If we treat the concept as if it were a bank account, today would be the day we spent our resource budget and ran out of money in our ‘ecological’ savings account. From here on in, we start racking up ‘ecological’ debt.
“Our current economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet,” said Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and co-founder of Global Footprint Network. “We are borrowing the Earth’s future resources to operate our economies in the present. Like any Ponzi scheme, this works for some time. But as nations, companies, or households dig themselves deeper and deeper into debt, they eventually fall apart.”
According to the organisation’s calculations, 1.7 Earths would be needed to support humanity’s demands on the planet. Now in a perfect system where humans lived within their ecological ‘means’, Earth Overshoot Day would fall on December 31. But we’re nowhere near that date because we’re consuming our annual allocation of the earth’s resources much too quickly – in just seven months!
Global Footprint Network also calculates a country’s ecological overshoot date; the date the entire annual resource budget is spent if the world’s population consumed resources like the people living in that particular country.
The graphic below provides a clearer picture of how countries are performing around the world. For example, if every human on the planet lived like those in the United Arab Emirates, United States, Canada and Australia, we’d spend our entire resource budget in just three months!
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Countries in the developing world – Vietnam, Jamaica, Cuba and Colombia – are closer to living within their ecological means than those in the developed world. This is not news. It’s a known fact that the rich industrialised nations are responsible for emitting more carbon emissions per capita than those in the poorer nations.
So how can we move the date back?
Here are 11 ways to help #MoveTheDate:
- If you’re an omnivore/flexitarian, choose to eat more plant-based meals and reduce intake of meat and dairy
- Consume less, embrace the minimalist lifestyle and buy only what you really need (or don’t buy anything new at all!)
- Embrace slow living, question your idea of success and simplify your life
- Choose eco-friendlier modes of transport such as public transport, walking, cycling over driving your vehicle
- If you really need to drive a vehicle, make sure to choose green cars such as hybrids or electric vehicles and carpool
- Go zero waste by saying no to single-use disposables and switching to reusable alternatives
- Travel eco-consciously (these eco travel tips will help)
- Install solar panels on your roof, choose a supplier of renewable energy or live entirely off-grid if you can afford it
- Write to fashion brands, your fave businesses, local councillor or government representative to get them to commit to ethical and sustainability practices
- Share what you learn with others so that they may begin to reduce their environmental impact too
- Offset your household’s annual carbon emissions and all plane travel
“At Global Footprint Network, we believe that overusing Earth’s ecosystems is one of the largest challenges facing humanity today, with climate change being a big portion of that challenge,” shares Wackernagel. “Transforming our economies to address this challenge is no easy task. But just as humanity has tapped creativity and ingenuity in the past, we can do so again to create a prosperous future free of fossil fuels and planetary destruction.”
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To calculate your own Overshoot Day and Ecological Footprint, visit www.footprintcalculator.org
For more information, visit www.overshootday.org
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