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Earth Overshoot Day

17 August 2016

Earth overshoot day

Following an alarming trend of getting earlier and earlier, Earth Overshoot Day fell on the 8th August this year.  This weeks blog is going to take a look at what Earth Overshoot Day and what it means.

What is Earth Overshoot Day?

Sometimes called Ecological Debt Day, Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year when human consumption of ecological resources exceeds what the planet can replenish annually.  Every year, we consume the Earth’s resources earlier.  Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was the 13th August and in 1987, when the calculation was first carried out, it was the 19th December.  The earlier in the year the date, the more rapidly we’ve been using the planet’s natural resources and are working at an ecological deficit.

The day is calculated by the Global Footprint Network, a non-profit resource group that focuses on sustainability.  They take the planet’s biocapacity, the total amount of natural resources available and divides it by our ecological footprint, the resources that we use.  This number multiplied by the number of days in a year equals Earth Overshoot Day.

Why does it keep getting earlier?

One of the main causes of Earth Overshoot Day is population growth.  With a current global population of 7.4 billion and an increase of 250,000 people per day (National Geographic, 2016), more resources are needed to sustain more people.  The way that we live also affects on our ecological footprint.  Increasing carbon emissions, generation of waste and destruction of natural resources all have a significant impact.

Why is this a problem?

The rate at which we consume resources is putting pressure on the planet and potentially putting life at risk, having an impact today and for future generations.  To sustain current levels of consumption, we would need the equivalent of 1.6 Earth’s.  After Earth Overshoot Day, we maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

What can we do?

One glimmer of hope is that, while Earth Overshoot Day arrives earlier every year, the rate of increase has slowed down a little.  It will take a long time to stop the days progress and work to reverse the trend.  There are many things that can be done and it all revolves around a stable population, social justice and equitability globally.  Improvements in technology could help a lot with this.

Personally, looking at where you consume resources and looking to conserve them will help.  This could be things like addressing food waste (you can read our blog on food waste here), looking at energy efficiency, buying more efficient equipment and vehicles, switching things off when you’re not using them and recycling your waste.  Can you think of any other ways that you can conserve resources?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below.  For more information on Earth Overshoot Day, you can visit their website here.

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