Earliest ever Earth Overshoot Day arrives

Humanity’s patterns of production and consumption have left an indelible mark on our planet, outstripping that which it can provide sustainably in a year. The Global Footprint Network marks this point with Earth Overshoot Day and encourages everyone to take steps to #MoveTheDate, easing the pressure on the world’s natural resources.

Rob Cole
Wed 1 Aug 2018

Earth Overshoot Day has arrived one day earlier than last year, marking the point in the year where the total resources used by human activity exceeds that which the planet can replenish in a year.

The Global Footprint Network, the research organisation that calculates the Earth’s ecological carrying capacity and humanity’s consumption of resources, has declared today (1 August) Earth Overshoot Day, a day earlier than last year (2 August) and seven days earlier than 2016 (8 August). This year is the earliest Earth Overshoot Day recorded, with the day falling on 2 August four times now since 2011.

According to the the Global Footprint Network, to support human activity, 1.7 Earths’ worth of natural resources are needed annually. The worst offending countries for resource consumption are the USA (with the planet needing 5.0 Earths if all countries lived this way), Australia (4.1 Earths) and South Korea (3.5 Earths). To illustrate this a little closer to home, we would need 2.9 Earths to sustain human activity if the whole world replicated the same consumption patterns as the UK.How many Earths do we need

The costs of this ecological overspending include deforestation, collapsing fisheries, fresh water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These damaging environmental outcomes contribute to climate change and more severe droughts, wildfires and hurricanes, and can force many people to migrate to cities or other countries.

In a bid to reduce humanity’s impact on the planet, the Global Footprint Network is encouraging people to take steps to #MoveTheDate. Several activities will be taking place across the world, including a short video featured in Times Square in New York by cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg. The Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) in Brazil will show a special screening of ‘Under the Ox Paw’, a documentary film about the cattle invasion in the Amazon, and in the 10 US cities with the largest carbon footprints, more than 10,000 free ‘endangered species condoms’ will be given away by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Earth Overshoot Day website also features the Personal Ecological Footprint Calculator, launched in 2017, which allows you to calculate your own ecological footprint and provides advice on how you can take steps to reduce it.

Global Footprint Network has identified four solution areas with the most potential to address ecological overshoot:

  • Cities: If we reduce driving by 50 per cent around the world and replace one third of car miles with public transportation and the rest by walking and biking, we can #MoveTheDate of Overshoot Day back 12 days;
  • Energy: Reducing the carbon component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint by 50 per cent would #MoveTheDate 93 days;
  • Food: If everyone in the world cut food waste in half, reduced the Footprint intensity of their diets, and consumed world-average calories, we would #MoveTheDate 38 days; and
  • Population: If every other family in the world had one less child, we would move Overshoot Day back 30 days by 2050.

Commenting on Overshoot Day, Global Footprint Network CEO Mathis Wackernagel said: “As we mark Earth Overshoot Day, today may seem no different from yesterday – you still have the same food in your refrigerator. But fires are raging in the Western United States. On the other side of the world, residents in Cape Town have had to slash water consumption in half since 2015. These are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet.

How many Earths do we need

“Our economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet. We are using the Earth’s future resources to operate in the present and digging ourselves deeper into ecological debt. It’s time to end this ecological Ponzi scheme and leverage our creativity and ingenuity to create a prosperous future free of fossil fuels and planetary destruction.”

You can find out more about Earth Overshoot Day on the dedicated website run by the Global Footprint Network.