Earth Overshoot Day passes
The 19th of August marked Earth Overshoot Day; don’t worry, I didn’t know what it was either. Also known as Ecological Debt Day, it is the point in the year when our demand for ecological resources and services exceeds what the Earth can produce in 12 months. The concept was originally created by Andrew Simms who is part of the New Economics Foundation, and is an approximate date worked out by dividing the amount of natural resources for that year by humanity’s consumption of earth’s natural resources for that year and then multiplying that by 365.
Overshoot is driven by four key factors:
1. How much we consume
2. How efficiently products are made
3. How many of us there are
4. How much Nature is able to produce
While biological productivity has been expanded over the years with help from technology and more extensive inputs, this expansion has not even come close to keeping pace with the rate at which population and resource demand have grown. After Earth Overshoot Day, we are living in an ecological debt for the rest of the year which means we are constantly using up too many resources and if this trend continues, we will eventually use up all of the Earth’s natural resources.
It was in the mid-1970s that human consumption began to exceed what the planet could produce, and at our current rate we would need 1.5 Earths to meet our demand. Worryingly, Earth overshoot day has been getting earlier each year. Going back to 1987 it was December 19th, and in the past ten years it has crept forward two months from October 20th in 2005 to mid-August this year, despite Global Footprint Network’s annual campaign to raise awareness of the issue. This interactive map will help you get an idea of how things have changed over the years, and you can compare the ecological footprint per capita of each country. The Network hopes to accelerate the use of the Ecological Footprint to measure the amount of resources we have and how much we use in order to better manage our demand on the Earth’s ecosystems and cut down carbon emissions.
The question is what can you do to help? It may seem like such a daunting task to an individual, but if enough of us really try hard to live more eco-friendly lives then we can make a difference. It’s likely that you have already reduced your personal carbon footprint by turning off lights when you leave a room, washing clothes on a cold wash, recycling everything from plastic bottles to electronics and batteries and using renewable energy were possible. It will also really help if you reduce food waste, try not to throw anything out that is just by its sell by date, vegetables can go into sauces or stock, and freeze what you know you won’t use immediately – make sure you don’t go shopping on an empty stomach or you’ll buy everything in sight! You can also fill your home with products that are eco-friendly, recycled, FSC Certified, energy efficient and organic that are designed to protect our planet rather than use up its resources.
So what will you do in the next year to push back Earth Overshoot Day?