Updated: Sep 27, 2020
After Aug 22nd the world will have used more of the Earth’s natural resources than the Earth can generate in one year. Thus, Aug 22nd becomes this year’s Overshoot Day. There are few days more important to understand, and less known and talked about, than Overshoot Day. While there is debate about the complexities of biocapacity measurements, there is no doubt about the importance of the Overshoot concept for the world community. We must come to grips with our radical consumptive behavior. Overshoot Day is a good place to begin.
Overshoot day simply means that after this date nature can’t replace all that we use. So, nature’s reserves start depleting. “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.” Theoretically, if the pattern persists, we will simply run out of forests and fresh air and water, sustainable soil, etc.
The base formula for the computation is straightforward: (Earth’s biocapacity/Earth’s Ecological Footprint) X 365 = Overshoot Day. For those of you who want to dig into the facts and numbers underpinning the formula for Overshoot Day I am supplying links.
Ecological Footprint measures natural assets a country requires like plant-based food and fiber, fish and livestock, forests, and space for urban infrastructure, as well as the demand on nature to absorb waste and carbon emissions. That's the demand side.
Biocapacity, the supply side, represents ecological assets like crop and grazing land, forests, fishing grounds and etc. and the ability to absorb waste emissions.
In 1970 the earth's biocapacity and the ecological consumption of its inhabitants were practically in balance. Overshoot Day that year was in late December. In 2019, just 49 years later, the day was July 29th. In 2020 it actually has improved to August 22nd. The reason for an apparent improvement in our consumptive appetite was, of course, the impact of the coronavirus on the world’s economy. Regardless of the its impact we are still likely headed in the wrong direction. This is clearly a road to disaster.
There are few better places to harvest information and find action ideas to stem the tide of this existential threat than FootprintNetwork.org and EarthOvershootDay.org. These organizations are devoted to understanding the impact of our environmental behavior on the world’s biocapacity.