Earth Overshoot Day!

Posted by Bruce Rinker on Tuesday, August 20 2013


Bruce Rinker

Hello all:

I just received an important notice from the Global Footprint Network (based in Geneva). Today, 20 August 2013, is “Earth Overshoot Day.” It’s the approximate date that humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can renew in a year. 

In just 7 months and 20 days, humankind has demanded a level of ecological resources and services – from food and raw materials to sequestering carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions – equivalent to what Earth can regenerate for all of 2013. We have exhausted nature’s budget for the year.

For the rest of the year, we will operate in overshoot.

As our levels of consumption increase, the interest we pay on this mounting ecological debt – shrinking forests, biodiversity loss, fisheries collapse, food shortages, degraded land productivity, loss of potable water – burdens the environment and undermines economies around the world. Human-accelerated climate change is the most widespread impact of ecological overshooting.

In the early 1960s, humanity used only about 2/3 of Earth’s available natural resources. In the 1970s, we went into ecological overshoot. Now we’re using ecological resources and services at a rate it would take just over 1.5 Earths to renew. Before mid-century, that consumption will require 2 Earths!

Today more than 80% of the world’s human population lives in countries that use more than the ecosystems within their own borders can renew. These “ecological debtor” countries either deplete their own resources or get them from elsewhere. Japan’s residents consume the ecological resources of 7.1 Japans. It takes 4 Italys to support Italy. Egypt uses the ecological resources of 2.4 Egypts.

It’s possible to turn the tide. It will take individual and collective resolve to reduce unnecessary consumption. It will take a robust investment in science and education. It will take leadership to align governments, financial institutions, and even religious organizations with ecological reality. It will take direct action by voters to work with their Congressional representatives on important issues such as human-accelerated climate change, evolution, conservation, and science in general.

See Global Footprint Network's Earth Overshoot Day page for more information. The Network site also offers a footprint calculator so you can determine your own impact on Earth’s limited resources. Try it! I did … If everyone lived like I do, then we’d require 4.7 Earths. Oh gosh, was that humbling!

Warm regards for a Warming Planet …
H. Bruce Rinker, Ph.D.

Add comment

Log in to post comments

A vibrant community of environmental leaders