Written by Brandon Pytel / Earth Day Network
It’s official. We’ve exhausted Earth’s natural resources for the year… and it’s only July.
According to the Global Footprint Network, July 29 is Earth Overshoot Day this year, the date that human demand for ecological resources and services has surpassed what the Earth can regenerate in a year.
July 29 is the earliest Earth Overshoot Day since ecological overshoot started in the early 1970s. This follows a 30-year trend that has steadily pushed overshoot days earlier. This year we didn’t even make it out of July, meaning we’re using nature’s resources 1.75 times faster than the Earth can regenerate.
“We have only got one Earth – this is the ultimately defining context for human existence. We can’t use 1.75 without destructive consequences,” Mathis Wackernagel, co-inventor of Ecological Footprint accounting and founder of Global Footprint Network, in a press release.
Some of these destructive consequences include deforestation, soil erosion, species loss and water depletion, as well as increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, triggering the cascading effects of climate change.
“Our current economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet,” said Wackernagel in a press release last year. “We are borrowing the Earth’s future resources to operate our economies in the present. Like any Ponzi scheme, this works for some time. But as nations, companies, or households dig themselves deeper and deeper into debt, they eventually fall apart.”
The issue is not only environmental but also political and ethical. When it comes to global resources, not everyone is treated equally. One the biggest challenges of climate change is the disparity or resource consumption between classes, countries and regions.
If the whole world consumed resources like industrial nations, our overshoot day would be much worse. According to the organization’s country overshoot data, Qatar is the worst offender, with a country overshoot day of February 11, followed by Luxembourg (February 16), United Arab Emirates (March 8), Kuwait (March 11) and the United States (March 15).
You can also calculate your own overshoot day at the ecological footprint calculator. A warning: The results might be a bit upsetting. My own overshoot day is April 9; my boss’s is March 15. We both work for an environmental nonprofit in Washington, D.C., a city many consider ecofriendly, yet we still had overshoot days not even a quarter into the year.
Fortunately, the Global Footprint Network has a #MoveTheDate Movement to chip away at our own footprint both collectively and individually. If we move the date back just five days each year, humanity would reach sustainability by 2050, with global populations consuming only as many resources in a year as the Earth can regenerate.
Solutions focus on five areas to improve sustainability: cities, energy, food, planet and population. Tangible solutions include investing in renewable energy, building smart infrastructure, buying locally and conserving habitats and wildlife.
April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Now is the time to mobilize: Sign up for updates or get involved in one of our global campaigns. Together, we can act on climate change and support a sustainable Earth year-round.