‘Earth Overshoot Date’ Continues To Move Up Year After Year

Only seven months into the year, August 1 has already marked ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ for the planet – the earliest date since 1969, when human consumption of the Earth’s natural resources first outstripped the planet’s ability to create those resources in a single year – drawing attention to how we are balancing resource consumption with a growing population.

The concept of ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ and the campaign to raise awareness about our consumption of the Earth’s resources, first began with U.K.-based think tank, New Economics Foundation and its partner organization Global Footprint Network. It is an illustrative date, that is determined by calculating the Earth’s biocapacity (amount of natural available resources), dividing that by our ecological footprint (our resource consumption), and multiplying this by 365 (days in a year). According to Global Footprint Network, every year, the overshoot date for each year reaching back to 1961 is recalculated to ensure accuracy and so that “each year’s metrics share a common data set and the exact same accounting method.”

Based on this year’s date, we are currently using the resources of 1.7 Earths in a single year – or, using the Earth’s resources at a rate 1.7 times faster than the Earth can produce its resources – and almost 60% of the Earth’s ecological footprint comes from an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Different countries will also have different individual ‘overshoot days’ dependent on the resources their country produces and their citizens spend. Consequently, many countries have ‘overshoot days’ prior to August 1.

Since late-December 1969, ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ has slowly moved further up the calendar, barring three consecutive years between 1980 and 1982 when the date was pushed back. Prior to 1997, ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ was always reached after October 1.

Global Footprint Network provides many solutions to reduce our ecological footprint, including: more efficient city planning and urban development, particularly in terms of energy consumption and public transportation; reducing our carbon footprint by increasing renewable energy use; reducing meat consumption and food waste; and controlling population growth and reproductive rates by empowering and educating women and girls, and increasing family planning resources.

While Global Footprint Network has received criticism in the past for the inaccuracy of data used to calculate ‘Earth Overshoot Day,’ their campaign to raise awareness about natural resource consumption and the solutions they provide to mitigate human impact on Earth, are extremely important in climate change discussions and movements for changing human behaviours and attitudes towards the Earth.

Ashika Manu