Yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day, or Ecological Debt Day. As of August 13, we have depleted all of the natural resources the Earth can provide for a year. Everything we use from today on is borrowed from the future, a sort of Earth credit, and we cannot live so frivolously for long.
Earth Overshoot Day was developed in 1987 by the New Economics Foundation and has been monitored ever since by the Global Footprint Network. The first Overshoot Day in 1987 fell on December 19, meaning Earth’s resources lasted almost a full calendar year. However, that date has moved earlier and earlier each year and the only way to slow it down and push it closer to the end of the year is to live more sustainably.
It now requires 1.6 Earths to support humanity for a single year, according to Global Footprint Network. And that number is trending up as Earth Overshoot Day continues to happen earlier and earlier. In just the 6 years from 2009 until this year, the date has moved from September 25 to August 13, except for a short recovery in 2011. Last year it fell on August 19. The US is especially guilty, running among the greatest ecological debts per capita on the planet for the last 50 years.
Furthermore, as OvershootDay.org points out, our calculations don’t even account for the demands made by other species on the planet. We alone are depleting the resources of the entire planet within only 8 months. When the rest of the world’s creatures are accounted for, that date would be even earlier.
So what are the key ways in which we can make a difference? A move towards more sustainable, renewable energy is one major one. By better utilizing solar, hydro, and wind power we will reduce our demands on the nonrenewable energy sources of the Earth. If we could move our dependency to a renewable energy source, we could eventually begin to run an Earth surplus, making up the debt we have racked up over the previous decades.
According to OvershootDay.org, updates to the ways in which our cities and communities are planned with efficiency in mind are also crucial. The traditional ways in which cities are developed was created long before we knew the effects we were having on the environment. Now that our knowledge has evolved, so too must our techniques.
This also includes living more responsibly every day: choosing organic foods and using natural materials and ingredients whenever possible, to reduce pollution and ensure that our demands on the planet are being carefully managed.
The planet is telling us that we are asking for too much. Climate change has played a big factor in the depletion of the Earth’s resources, and we have played a huge role in climate change. Our population is continuing to grow, people are living even longer, but our planet can’t go on at the rate we’ve been pushing it over the course of our recent history. We may need 1.6 Earths to support our demands, but unfortunately we have only 1.
To learn more about Earth Overshoot Day visit www.overshootday.org.