This year's 'Earth Overshoot Day' the earliest on record

29th July 2019

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  • Food and drink ,
  • Fossil fuels ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Biodiversity


Rachel Bendell

Humanity has consumed more food, timber and other natural resources over the first 209 days of this year than the earth can naturally regenerate over 365 days.

That is according to research from the think tank Global Footprint Network, which said that this year's 'Earth Overshoot Day' on 29 July is the earliest ever recorded.

The date has moved back three months over the last 20 years, with humans now depleting nature's resources 1.75 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate them.

And this is compromising the planet's future regenerative capacity, according to the researchers, with “ecological overspending“ increasingly evident through deforestation and biodiversity loss.

However, they estimate that moving the date of Earth Overshoot Day forward five days every year would mean that humanity reaches sustainable consumption levels by 2050.

“Ultimately, human activity will be brought in balance with Earth's ecological resources,“ Global Footprint Network founder, Mathis Wackernagel, said.

“The question is whether we choose to get there by disaster or by design – one-planet misery or one-planet prosperity.“

How the date of Earth Overshoot Day has changed since overconsumption began in the early 1970s is shown below:

The researchers analysed food, timber, fibres, carbon sequestration and accommodation of infrastructure to calculate humanity's 'ecological footprint', finding that burning fossil fuels comprises 60%.

They also found that Japan would need to expand by 7.7 times to meet the demand of its citizens, with Italy needing to increase 4.7 times, Switzerland 4.6 and the UK 4.0.

The Global Footprint Network highlighted steps that humans can take to push Earth Overshoot Day forward. For example, replacing 50% of meat consumption with vegetarian food would move the date forward 15 days.

More steps to #MoveTheDate can be found here, and include workplace programs like food waste reduction and petitioning governments to manage natural resources responsibly.

“Just as humanity has tapped creativity and ingenuity in the past, we can do so again to create a prosperous future free of fossil fuels and planetary destruction,“ Wackernagel added.

Image credit: iStock


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