On Monday, August 8, Earth officially reached its annual “Overshoot Day,” marking the moment when humanity used up every renewable natural resource necessary to live sustainably for one year.
Global Footprint Network, an international research institute, arrives at this date each year by calculating “the number of days of that year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s ecological footprint.” It’s computed by dividing the planet’s biocapacity by humanity’s ecological footprint, and multiplying by 365. The remainder of the year becomes the Earth’s “overshoot.”
The first Overshoot Day came in 2006. Back then, things weren’t so bad, with Overshoot Day falling in October. Last year, Overshoot Day was August 13.
Balakrishna Pisupati, of UNEP Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, and Mathis Wackernagel, of Global Footprint Network, explained in a statement that the data collected shows that humans demand 64 percent more from our planet than it can possibly renew. Pisupati and Wackernagel added:
The disastrous consequences include climate change, topsoil erosion, and biodiversity loss. The longer we continue viewing natural resources as unlimited, the faster we are jeopardizing the very capacity of our planet to provide us with the renewable resources that we need to feed, clothe and shelter ourselves.
In essence, we would need 1.6 Earths to live sustainably at our current rate. (If everyone lived like Americans, we’d need 4.8 Earths.) But it’s not too late to turn the planet around. As Quartz notes, because carbon emissions are a huge factor in a country’s ecological footprint, governments can offset much of the damage by investing in solar and wind power.
“The only resource we still need more of is political will,” Pisupati and Wackernagel wrote adding, “Currently, for instance, only 19 countries (mostly islands and low-lying countries) have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, accounting for 0.18 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.”
The team also points to Costa Rica, one of the world’s leading countries in renewable resources, as a beacon of hope. In 2015, the small Central American country managed to power its grid on 100 percent renewable sources for 285 days.