Earth Overshoot Day | 5 Ways To #MoveTheDate

Today is Earth Overshoot Day
Image Credit: Earth Overshoot Day

7 minutes

What Is Earth Overshoot Day?

There Is No Planet B. Right? We only have one home, one Earth, and we must take care of it — because we don’t have a second Earth to relocate to.

We hear this phrase all the time, but the reality is that we’re actually treating Earth as if we have a Planet B, and the clever folks at Global Footprint Network have done the calculations to prove it! 

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth regenerates during the entire year. It’s all about measuring ecological supply and human demand, and the current imbalance between the two.

The Global Footprint Network measures the Earth’s ecological wealth, or the natural resources that we use to survive and thrive. These include biologically productive land and sea areas, including forest lands, grazing lands, cropland, fishing grounds, and built-up land. 

These natural assets are measured against human demand, which measures a population’s demand for plant-based food and fibre products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure, and forest to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.

Each city, state or nation has an ecological footprint. If a population’s demand for natural resources exceeds the existing supply, then that population runs an ecological deficit, or ‘overshoot’. We already know what this idea looks like in reality.

A region in an ecological deficit is unable to keep up with human demand, and this is why we see unsustainable deforestation, overfishing, and excess pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. 

Basically, Earth’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day. 

Right now, humans consume ecological resources as if we have 1.75 Earths. 

Earth Overshoot Day

This year, Earth Overshoot Day lands on July 28.

This means that on July 28, humanity has theoretically consumed all biological resources that the Earth can possibly regenerate in 2022.

Sadly – every year, we meet Earth Overshoot Day a little bit earlier in the year.

The first Earth Overshoot Day was recorded in 1971, with December 25 marking the date that the demand for natural resources outstripped supply. 

The beginning of the new decade (1980) saw the date creep up to November 8. By 1990, Earth Overshoot Day reached October 14. The start of the new millennium saw Earth Overshoot Day fall on September 25. By 2010, Earth Overshoot Day was close to the beginning of August (the 8th). 

Last, year Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 30. Although the pace of ecological overshoot is slowing, we still need to reverse the trend and #MoveTheDate further into the year!

Australia’s Overshoot Day lands on March 23.

Did you know that each country has its own Overshoot Day?

A country’s overshoot day is the date on which Earth Overshoot Day would fall if all of humanity consumed like the people in this country.

To calculate this, the Global Footprint Network measures the ecological footprint of, say, the average Australian, and measures it against the global biocapacity of a single human, which is 1.6 gha. A ‘global hectare’, or gha, is the measurement unit for the ecological footprint of people.

So, if everybody on Earth consumed the same amount of natural resources as the average Australian, Earth Overshoot Day would fall on March 23.

It’s crazy, right?

Plus, if everybody on Earth lived like the average Australian, we would need 4.5 Earths to provide the amount of resources to meet demand. 

Sadly, Australia isn’t the only country that lives well beyond its means!

In 2022, Qatar is the worst offender, with its Overshoot Day falling on February 10. The United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada all have the same Overshoot Day — March 13. Belgium, Finland and Denmark’s Overshoot Day’s fall in March, too. 

5 Ways To #MoveTheDate!

It’s time to #MoveTheDate. But, how do we do this?

There isn’t a silver bullet or magic solution to climate change, environmental degradation, or biodiversity loss. These may seem like insurmountable problems, but there are five existing solutions that can be deployed to #MoveTheDate.

These solutions address how we power ourselves (energy), how we design and manage cities (cities), how we feed ourselves (food), how we help nature thrive (planet), and how many of us there are (population).

ENERGY

Reducing the carbon component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint by 50% would move #EarthOvershootDay by 93 days, or more than three months. 

Decarbonising our economies and phasing out fossil fuels is essential to limiting global temperature increase to below 2°C.

Switching to renewable energy sources is economically viable and necessary for energy independence!

CITIES

If we reduce our Footprint from driving by 50% around the world and assume one-third of car miles are replaced by public transportation and the rest by biking and walking, #EarthOvershootDay would move back 13 days.

It’s expected that between 70% and 80% of all people are expected to live in urban areas by 2050. So, we need smarter cities!

Our urban spaces need energy-efficient buildings, integrated zoning, compact communities, and effective options for people-powered and public transportation.  

FOOD

If we reduced global meat consumption by 50% and replaced these calories through a vegetarian diet, we would move #EarthOvershootDay 17 days (including 10 days from reduction of methane emissions).

Producing meat is much more resource-intensive than producing plant-based foods. Prioritising plant-based calories and regenerative farming practices will address food sufficiency, malnutrition, and hunger.

Plus, cutting food waste in half globally would move #EarthOvershootDay by 13 days!

PLANET

Reforesting 350 million hectares of forest would move the date of #EarthOvershootDay by 8 days.

Forests, farms, parks, wetlands, lakes, and oceans support life and provide us with fertile soil, clean water, and clean air!

We must protect wild spaces (especially biodiversity hotspots) and restore degraded ecosystems. Regenerative agriculture and sustainable fishing are necessary to maintain life on land, and life below water.

POPULATION

If every other family had one less child and parenthood was postponed by two years, by 2050 we would move #EarthOvershootDay 49 days.

There could be 15.6 billion people living on Earth by 2100! Unsustainable population growth, especially in low-income rural communities, increases competition for limited resources.

As our global population increases, so does pressure on the planet. Prioritising women’s rights, healthcare and education is essential for gender equality and sustainable population growth.