On 1 August, humanity will have used nature’s resource budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organisation. This date is called Earth Overshoot Day – the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in that year.
In other words, humanity is currently using nature 1.7 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.7 Earths.
Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day every year using Ecological Footprint accounting, which adds up all of people’s competing demands on nature, including demand for food, timber, and fibres (cotton); absorption of carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels; and buildings, roads and other infrastructure. 1 August is the earliest Earth Overshoot Day since the world went into ecological overshoot in the 1970s.
The costs of this ecological overspending include deforestation; collapsing fisheries; fresh-water scarcity; soil erosion; biodiversity loss; and the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to climate change and more severe droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes. These threats can produce desperation and force many people to migrate to cities or other countries.
Global Footprint Network and its partners will mark Earth Overshoot Day 2018 with several activities around the world, including:
- In New York, a short video in Times Square from 20 July to 3 August features stunning footage by award-winning cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg.
- In Berlin, Germanwatch and Inkota and other partners will hold an Overshoot Day press conference at 9 a.m. CET 1 August.
- In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) will show a special screening of “Under the Ox Paw,” a documentary film about the cattle invasion in the Amazon, on 1 August.
- In the 10 U.S. cities with the largest carbon footprints, more than 10,000 free Endangered Species Condoms will be given away by the Center for Biological Diversity.
#MoveTheDate Live Stream
Global Footprint Network will feature these events and more with interviews from around the world through a live broadcast on Facebook and YouTube at 6 a.m. 1 August UTC and 9 a.m. 1 August PDT /4 p.m. UTC. To watch, visit www.facebook.com/GlobalFootprintNetwork; Global Footprint Network YouTube livestream.
The show will include interviews with Christiana Figueres, the former climate chief of the UN; Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN Environment Programme; Nicolas Hulot, the French minister of ecological transition; Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency; David Levine, CEO, American Sustainable Business Council; Carter Roberts, CEO, World Wildlife Fund US; Kathleen Rogers, President, Earth Day Network; Esther Finidori, Manager of Environmental Performance and CO2 Strategy, Schneider Electric; and cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg. The show also will feature partners from WWF China, France, Japan, and Russia; ZERO, an environmental partner in Portugal; and from the U.S., Center for Biological Diversity, Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, Powerhouse, and Turning Green.
“As we mark Earth Overshoot Day, today may seem no different from yesterday – you still have the same food in your refrigerator,” said Global Footprint Network CEO Mathis Wackernagel. “But fires are raging in the Western United States. On the other side of the world, residents in Cape Town have had to slash water consumption in half since 2015. These are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet.”
Mathis Wackernagel, CEO Global Footprint Network.
“It’s time to end this ecological and leverage our creativity and ingenuity to create a prosperous future free of fossil fuels and planetary destruction,” Wackernagel continued.
Global Footprint Network has identified four solution areas with the most potential to address ecological overshoot:
Cities: If we reduce driving by 50% around the world and replace one-third of car miles with public transportation and the rest by walking and biking, we can #MoveTheDate of Overshoot Day back 12 days.
Energy: Reducing the carbon component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint by 50% would #MoveTheDate 93 days.
Food: If everyone in the world cut food waste in half, reduced the Footprint intensity of their diets by for instance eating less meat, and consumed world-average calories, we would #MoveTheDate 38 days.
Population: If every other family in the world had one less child, we would move Overshoot Day 30 days by 2050.
Global Footprint Network is inviting individuals to participate in Earth Overshoot Day by determining their own Personal Overshoot Day and Ecological Footprint at www.footprintcalculator.org and taking a “Step to #MoveTheDate” at www.overshootday.org/steps-to-movethedate.
Although 86 percent of the world’s population lives in a country with an ecological deficit, the latest national Ecological Footprint data reveals some encouraging signs for moving back Earth Overshoot Day:
- The Ecological Footprint of China, the country with the largest total Ecological Footprint, decreased 0.3 percent from 2013 to 2014 after a steady climb since 2000, when it was half as large as it is today. China’s Ecological Footprint per person also decreased by 0.8 percent from 2013 to 2014. The decline stems in part from a decrease in China’s total carbon Footprint by 0.7 percent and its per-person carbon Footprint by 1.2% from 2013 to 2014.
- The Ecological Footprint per person for high-income countries has declined 12.9 percent since 2000. Some of the countries with the largest declines since 2000 include Singapore (-32.1 percent), the Bahamas (-26.2 percent), Denmark (-19.0 percent); United States (-18.4 percent), United Kingdom (-16.6 percent), and France (-15.5 percent).
- Germany experienced an 8 percent decline in its Ecological Footprint per person since 2000 and a 2.5 percent decline in its Ecological Footprint per person from 2013 to 2014. The carbon component of Germany’s Ecological Footprint declined 6.2 percent from 2013 to 2014.
(Source: Earth Overshoot Day press release, 23.07.2018)