by Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor
Earth Overshoot Day is an initiative of Global Footprint Network, a non-profit international research organization dedicated to the development and promotion of tools to promote sustainable development. The date of Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by comparing two metrics: the Global Ecological Footprint, humanity’s total yearly consumption, with biocapacity, Earth’s capacity to regenerate renewable natural resources in that year. Both metrics are calculated each year with National Footprint Accounts and using UN statistics and data from additional sources.
As explained in the website, Earth Overshoot Date marks the date when all of humanity have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. According to the information disclosed last June, humanity will have exhausted on August 1, that is, in just over seven months, its entire nature’s resource budget of 2018. As from that date, the world will live on credit in 2018 – an environmental credit that, according to the data disclosed, is contracted earlier and earlier. Exceeding in 1961, planet Earth registered the first deficit in its environmental budget in the 1970s. Since then, the growing ecological footprint that accompanies the demographic and economic growth of the planet explains that Earth Overshoot Day occurs ever earlier – until the earliest date calculated of August 1 in 2018.
According to Global Footprint Network’s calculations, humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds in 70% the Earth’s ecosystems capacity to regenerate. Currently, humanity is using nature 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate – in other words, an average of 1.7 Earths is needed for the satisfaction of our current needs and, at this rate, two planets Earth would be needed by 2030. As Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and co-founder of Global Footprint Network, stated, “Our current economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet.”
Only moving back Earth Overshoot Day by 5 days every year would allow to return to using the resources of less than one planet by 2050. The Global Footprint Network highlights opportunities for action in order to #MoveTheDate, such as smart city planning, decarbonizing the economy (emphasising the goals set in the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate), resource efficiency in food production and reducing food waste and addressing population size – all in conjunction with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that integrate UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
These goals paving the way to sustainability as the paradigm of global living in the 21st century are only attainable with the involvement of the multiple members of society, starting with citizens, particularly as consumers. Along with the Earth Overshoot Day, the Global Footprint Network also invites members of the public to calculate their personal Earth Overshoot Day through the Ecological Footprint Calculator and to explore Steps to #MoveTheDate that support the global movement to get humanity out of ecological overshoot.
One last point. In order to maintain consistency with the latest reported data and science, the Ecological Footprint metrics are recalculated every year. Therefore, the annual dates of Earth Overshoot Day are recalculated accordingly. For that reason, the Global Footprint Network explains, the precise Earth Overshoot Day date for each year is less significant than the sheer magnitude of the ecological overshoot. Thus, the crucial point is not the Earth Overshoot Day in itself but lies in its underlying value of raising public awareness: by the end of 2018, our needs will be met by over exploring our planet’s natural resources and thereby compromising its regeneration capacities. The merit is therefore to raise public awareness to the environmental debt contracted and accumulated over the years and the inherent responsibility that each of us has towards the planet and towards all. The (challenging) task ahead is to take such responsibility seriously and turn around natural resource consumption trends while improving the quality of life for all people.