Author: Ania Filipowicz
This year’s Earth Overshoot Day falls on the 29th of July, which means this year we need 1.75 Earths to support humanity’s demand on our planet’s ecosystems. On the 29th of July, we’ve used up all the resources we had to live sustainably. In other words, our Ecological Footprint is way higher than our planet’s biocapacity. We’ve been living on Earth’s credit for years. Every year we’ve become more accurate in our measurement of the Earth’s biocapacity and humanity’s Ecological Footprint. As the new detailed calculations are made each year, the Earth’s Overshoot Days from past years are being recalculated so we can compare them between each other and to past trends.
Planet’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day
Since 1970, the Earth Overshoot Day has been moving earlier and earlier in the year. This calculation on its own does not give us enough information if we would like to take action and get to know where to channel our efforts. However, we use calculations of countries’ Overshoot Days, which tell us in more detail how the world’s consumption is structured.
Let’s take Denmark for example, its Overshoot Day is on March 29, 4 months earlier than the Earth’s Overshoot Day. This means that if everyone on Earth consumed as we do in Denmark (a country deemed very sustainable) we would need 4,15 Earths to meet the demand on Earth’s ecosystems.
It’s worth mentioning Greta Thunberg’s speech at the 2019 Klimamarch in Copenhagen. She talked about climate justice and how those who suffer the most are those who contribute the least to the climate crisis. With 60% of humanity’s Ecological Footprint being from carbon dioxide emissions, we can see that it’s high consumption which contributes most to the climate crisis and with it come ecosystem changes that we simply can’t afford.
The climate crisis is worsening and with it so are the possibilities for health care improvements around the world. Extreme weather phenomena occur more often and floods like those after Cyclone Idai in Mozambique become more frequent, shifting resources and efforts towards humanitarian aid rather than the long term health care development.
This is just one example of the complex changes as a result of the climate crisis. We are still learning about nature and its coping mechanisms, however, we can see the unfavourable trends like growing air pollution, heat waves, clean water shortages and increase in extreme weather phenomena.
With these negative trends, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by ecoanxiety. Fortunately, there are things we can do as individuals to decrease our Ecological Footprint. You might think “What can I do about this? Which actions have the biggest impact?” Calculations of what is contributing the most to our Ecological Footprint show us the effect of e.g. meat consumption or food waste.
If the global meat consumption dropped by 50% we would move the Earth’s Overshoot Day by 15 days. Additionally, food waste, which is ⅓ of all food production for human consumption, constitutes 9% of humanity’s Ecological Footprint. So, if we lower food waste by 50% we would gain 10 days. However what makes a substantial difference is cutting down carbon component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint from e.g. fossil fuels and other carbon emitting sources, which would move the Earth Overshoot Day by 93 days.
It’s important to remember that while government policies and corporate responsibility are crucial, individual actions matter. So, we encourage you to reflect on the consumption of goods in your community and household. Advocate for our planet; take part in your local climate justice movements and show our leaders their citizens care and that they need to take action.
Sometimes it is hard to guess what our own impact on Earth is, so here we present a tool, to let you see how many Earth’s we would need if everyone lived the way you do. Have a look and let us know about your thoughts!
Data from https://www.overshootday.org/ and their subpages.