Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity's demand for ecological resources in a given year exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in that year.
As of May 15, not even halfway through the year, our country is in debt to the Planet's natural resources. Compared to last year, we have made up only two days. ONLY 2 DAYS. That is too little. We need to do more. We can do more.
Earth's ecological limits
While economies, populations and resource demands grow, the size of the Earth remains the same. Since the 1970s, when global ecological overshoot became a reality, we are using more renewable natural resources than our planet can regenerate. It is like taking capital from the biosphere instead of living off its annual interest. To support our demands on nature, we have liquidated resource stocks and allowed carbon dioxide to accumulate in the atmosphere.
Ecological overshoot is only possible for a limited time, before ecosystems begin to degrade and eventually collapse. The impacts of ecological overshoot are already evident in soil erosion, desertification, reduced productivity of cropland, overgrazing, deforestation, rapid extinction of species, collapse of fisheries, and increased carbon concentration in the atmosphere.
Natural capital constraints also pose a threat to economic performance and economic stability. And this from my point of view is one of the elements we most often forget.
Understanding the phenomenon
Ecological Footprint measures the amount of biologically productive land and sea needed to produce all the resources a population consumes and to absorb its waste. The Ecological Footprint takes into account technological advances each year.
Biocapacity is the biologically productive area that provides renewable biological capacity, which is the ability of an ecosystem to regenerate biological resources and absorb human-generated wastes.
Ecological overshoot occurs when human demand exceeds the regenerative capacity of a natural ecosystem. Global overshoot occurs when humanity requires more than the biosphere can renew. In other words, humanity's ecological footprint exceeds the regenerative capacity of the planet. The renewable capacity of the biosphere includes replenishing resources and absorbing waste, such as carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuels.
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity's demand for ecological resources (fish and forests, for example) and services in a given year exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating resource stocks and accumulating waste, especially carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Global hectares are hectares of biologically productive land and sea with a global average bioproductivity. Both biocapacity and Ecological Footprint are measured in global hectares. (One hectare contains 10,000 square meters and corresponds to about 2.47 acres).
How Earth Overshoot Day is calculated
Each year the Global Footprint Network calculates the number of days in that year that the Earth's biocapacity is able to provide sustenance for humanity. The rest of the year corresponds to the global overshoot. Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by dividing the planet's biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources the Earth is able to generate in that year) by humanity's Ecological Footprint (humanity's demand for that year). This ratio is multiplied by 365 to obtain the date when Earth Overshoot Day is reached:
(Biocapacity of the Planet/Humanity's Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day
The estimated level of ecosystem resources and services needed to sustain human activities today is 1.7 Earths. Since 1961, the first year in which consistent United Nations statistics became available, humanity's demand for resources has gone from being within the limits of what nature could support to significantly over budget. Our planet entered global overshoot in the early 1970s.
The current trend is not our destiny: #MoveTheDate
The past does not necessarily determine our future. It is our current choices that do. Through wise and forward-looking decisions, we can reverse the trend of natural resource consumption while improving the quality of life for all people.
Our planet is finite, but human possibilities are not. The transformation to a sustainable, zero-carbon world will succeed if we apply humanity's greatest strengths: foresight, innovation, and caring for each other. The good news is that this transformation is not only technologically possible, it is also economically beneficial and represents our best chance for a prosperous future.
We need to act on 5 key areas:
1. The planet: How we help nature thrive
2. Cities: How we design and manage cities
3.Energy: How we power ourselves
4. Food: How we feed ourselves
5. Population: How many of us there are
You can learn more about possible solutions at https://www.overshootday.org/solutions/. And let's remember that every action counts. Every single action helps us move this terrible date further and further ahead.