Earth Overshoot Day

Ananya Biswas

23rd March, 2021

Abstract 

The concept of Earth Overshoot Day was first thought of by Andrew Simms, a political economist, and environmentalist. He's the director of the US think tank- New Economics Foundation, which partnered with the worldwide Footprint Network in 2006 to launch the first global Earth Overshoot Campaign. WWF, the world’s largest conservation organization, has participated in the Overshoot Day, since, 2007.

Introduction

All animal and plant species populating the world exist in symbiosis with nature. They don’t take an excessive amount from it and damage it; otherwise, they could be the first to be affected. This is often true for all species. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity used more from nature than what Earth can regenerate within the entire year  (1). The date, which varies from year to year counting on how briskly such resources are exploited, is calculated by the Global Footprint Network (GFN), a world organization that assesses humanity’s ecological footprint (1).  

Method of Calculation

GFN provides the decision-makers with tools to assist the human economy to function within the ecological limits (2). Once a year this organization calculates the number of days of that year that Earth's bio-capacity (amount of ecological resources that Earth can produce for that year) can fulfill the wants of humanity's ecological footprint (humanity's demand for that year). The rest of the days of the year represent global overshoot.  

Note: A city, state, or nation’s bio-capacity refers to the total biologically productive land and sea area.

Ecological Footprint refers to the population’s demand for forest products, such as food, fiber, timber, and livestock and fish products, space for urban infrastructures to support the increasing demands of the population(2).

 

The Implication of this Day

With the drastic and rapid increase in population, not only has mankind’s needs increased, so has their greed for having more than what is needed (3). So, every year more is consumed than is replenished by the planet, since the 1970s. In 2015, on 13 August, we ended what nature had to provide to us and, thus, began to require precious resources from the next generations. In 2014 it landed on 19 August. In 2016 our debt to the planet started on 8 August. Because of the steady growth of the earth’s population, and our binge on resources, we are using natural resources quicker than in the past. 2nd August of the year 2017 and 1st August of 2018 marked the day. In 2019, it occurred on 29 July. This year, the Earth Overshoot Day 2020 was reached on August 22. This means that we have consumed Earth's resources for the year in 132 days. At this rate, it'd take 1.6 Earths to support humanity sustainably.

For the first time in years, the worldwide overshoot day has moved back. Sadly enough, this is mainly because of the novel Coronavirus pandemic and its after-effects, which led to the shutting down of industries for the foremost part. It led to a “9.3% reduction within the worldwide Ecological Footprint compared to the same period last year” according to the worldwide Footprint Network's latest reports and projections (4).

Conclusion

The only solution we have now is to use our resources sustainably. This means that we must utilize our ecological resources to satisfy the needs of today, without compromising the wants of tomorrow. The only way of doing this is to develop new technologies that use energy and resources sustainably so that they work at a rate that does not compromise the natural environment,  allows future generations to satisfy their needs, and allows the environment to recover itself and regenerate its resources. 

The good news is that it is possible with current technology and is financially advantageous as it provides benefits that exceed the costs. 

Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is essential to reduce our consumption of resources. Existing technologies can be used to increase the use of renewable energy.

By adopting a vegetarian diet and reducing global meat consumption we could influence the 26% of the global ecological footprint that is made up by food. Just China alone, eating 50% less meat, would move Global Overshoot Day back by 3 days.

The 'web of life' that makes up our ecosystem is vitally important to keep our planet liveable. Forests regulate the climate and absorb carbon emissions. Some companies, like Lush, are looking to create products that reinstate biodiversity through reforestation

 Empowering girls and women to think about birth control leads to smaller, healthier families. More is the number of people; less is the number of resources available for each person (5).


 

References

1. Open Data Platform [Internet]. [cited 2020 Nov 1]. Available from: http://data.footprintnetwork.org/#/

 

2. Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy | PNAS [Internet]. [cited 2020 Nov 1]. Available from: https://www.pnas.org/content/99/14/9266.short

 

3. Past Earth Overshoot Days [Internet]. Earth Overshoot Day. [cited 2020 Nov 1]. Available from: https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/past-earth-overshoot-days/

 

4. Coronavirus Pandemic Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks, But It’s Not Sustainable [Internet]. EcoWatch. 2020 [cited 2020 Nov 1]. Available from: https://www.ecowatch.com/earth-overshoot-day-2020-2647050359.html

 

5. Frost R. It’s already Earth Overshoot Day: the facts and the solutions [Internet]. living. 2019 [cited 2021 Feb 7]. Available from: https://www.euronews.com/living/2019/07/29/in-just-7-months-we-ve-used-our-natural-resources-for-the-whole-year

About the Author

IMG_20200706_171836_234 - Ananya Biswas.

A student of St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, in the department of Biotechnology. Interested in writing on intriguing topics in the field of biological sciences and technology.