Humanity is responsible for using 1.7 Earths annually. In 2018, Earth Overshoot Day takes place earlier than expected
We will run out of all natural renewable resources by this Wednesday, August 01st. This means that human consumption has reached its peak and we have used more from nature than our planet can renew for the entire year. In other words, we are five months away from the end of 2018 and humanity has already used nature’s “resource budget.”
The calculation is made every year by the Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that has pioneered the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric – an index that measures toxins released into the environment. The organization calls it the Earth Overshoot Day and says that “humanity uses the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste.”
The countries that most impact the planet by number of inhabitants are Australia (5.2 Earths per year), the USA (5 Earths per year), and South Korea and Russia (3.4 Earths per year each). Brazil consumes 1.8 Earths per year and, among the world’s largest economies, India consumes 0.6 Earth per year, being the most sustainable nation.
The Global Footprint Network affirms that carbon emissions represent the largest costs by human activities: 60% of humanity’s Ecological Footprint is carbon – and this percentage is increasing.
Earth Overshoot Day arrived earlier in 2018 – in the year before, the event occurred on August 2. The first time that human impact burst the planet’s annual capacity was in 1970, and since then, it continues to grow apace. In the last 20 years, the date advanced from the last day in September, in 1997, to the beginning of August, in 2018.
“Our current economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet,” says Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and co-founder of Global Footprint Network. “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.”
According to the organization, the costs of this global ecological overspending are becoming increasingly evident around the world, in the form of deforestation; droughts; fresh-water scarcity; soil erosion; biodiversity loss; and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Controlling environmental impacts
Although we are demanding more and more of the planet, there is good news: in the last seven years the index has remained stable, and the curve indicating environmental destruction is less pronounced.
According to data from the Global Footprint Network, cutting food waste by 50% worldwide could delay the date by 11 days; reducing the carbon component of the global Ecological Footprint by 50% would move the date by 89 days.
In the US, per capita Ecological Footprint fell nearly 20% from its peak in 2005 to 2013 (the latest year data is available). US per capita GDP grew about 20% over the same period. The Global Footprint Network says that this is a convincing case that sustainable development is possible.
“Our planet is finite, but human possibilities are not. Living within the means of one planet is technologically possible, financially beneficial, and our only chance for a prosperous future,” said Mathis Wackernagel.
The organization also states that if we moved Earth Overshoot Day back 4.5 days every year within the Earth’s resource budget, we would return to using the resources of one planet by 2050.
Calculate your ecological footprint to better understand your personal impact. The Global Footprint Network provides a free online tool. Please visit: https://www.footprintcalculator.org/
Have you ever thought what you can do to reduce your environmental footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future?