Starting today, humanity will consume more resources through the end of 2019 than the planet can sustainably regenerate for the year. This year is the earliest we’ve ever spent these resources, according to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), which has been calculating Earth Overshoot Day since 1986.
“The day falling on July 29 means that humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.75 Earths,” the environmental group said in a statement.
Annual ecological deficits began in the 1970s, according to the GFN, compromising the planet’s future regenerative capacity.
In 1993, Earth Overshoot fell on October 21. In 2003 it happened on September 22, and in 2017 it fell on August 2.
The Earth is so large and its resources are so plentiful that it almost seems infinite — but it’s not. Our planet has a finite regeneration capacity, and we’ve heavily overtaxing it.
The GFN totals usage of food, timber, fibers, carbon sequestration and more. Currently, carbon emissions from fossil fuel constitute 60% of humanity’s ecological footprint, according to the environmental group.
“We have only got one Earth this is the ultimately defining context for human existence. We can’t use 1.75 (earths) without destructive consequences,” said Mathis Wackernagel, founder of GFN.
Some countries reach their own overshoot days much more quickly than others, the report said. Qatar and Luxembourg overshoot the mark less than 50 days into the year, while the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, the US, Canada, Denmark, and Australia burned through their allotted resources before the end of March.
Overshoot Day is a good way to see how sustainably we are faring. If it were moved back five days annually, we could life sustainably (that is, use the resources available to a single planet) 2050. But things are moving backward instead of forward, and any improvement will require massive changes. For instance, replacing 50% of meat consumption with vegetarian food would move the date of Overshoot Day 15 days
The organization has identified several areas in which we can reduce consumption — and it’s an all too familiar picture. We need:
a shift away from fossil fuels, which make up the biggest share of our overall footprint;
more efficient and low-carbon city design;
a fix of our the food system;
protecting nature through regenerative agriculture and large-scale conservation.
Overpopulation is also a key point, Wackernagel said; one of the best solutions is to provide women and girls with the same educational and economic opportunities offered to men.
“The costs of this global ecological overspending are becoming increasingly evident in the form of deforestation, soil erosion, biodiversity loss or the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” according to the GFN. “The latter leads to climate change and more frequent extreme weather events.”
To help mankind decrease consumption to sustainable levels, GFN offers its ecological footprint calculator in Hindi, English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.