We have a planet. With its forests, fields and rivers… but only one. The problem is that we are abusing it as if there are two, three or five Earths instead of just one. That is what Earth Overshoot Day tries to highlight. The not-for-profit organisation Global Footprint Network uses a date to warn the world that the current rate of consumption is unsustainable.
What will I find in this article?
- What is Earth Overshoot Day?
- Earth Overshoot Day 2021
- Earth Overshoot Day is different for each country
What is Earth Overshoot Day?
Earth Overshoot Day is the date that marks that we have consumed all the resources that our planet is capable of generating in one year. Each year it is calculated by dividing the planet's biocapacity by humanity's ecological footprint and multiplying by 365, for the number of days in a year.
When is it considered overshot? When more is consumed than there are resources available. In other words, from that day onwards, we are experiencing an environmental deficit. Not only are we consuming our annual natural capital too soon but we are also taking resources from the future to cover the present.
The bigger the deficit, the further Earth Overshoot Day will be from 31 December because we are exhausting all of the available resources by that date instead of the end of the year.
The main cause is the pressure that humanity puts on Earth. Deforestation, overfishing and overharvesting are behind this abuse of resources, as well as many other human activities. So it's down to us whether the overshoot day is pushed back or brought forwards in the year.
Earth Overshoot Day 2021
Today, 29 July 2021, is Earth Overshoot Day. This means that we have already exhausted the resources that the planet is capable of generating in a year.
It was first recorded in 1970 and the overshoot day was 29 December. Five decades later, and with almost six months to go until the end of the year, we have already exhausted our share of Earth's biological resources for 2021.
This year's date is similar to that of 2019, having been temporarily pushed back in 2020 as a result of the restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic. The main reasons are the 6.6 % increase in the carbon footprint compared to last year, as well as the 0.5 % decrease in global forest biocapacity, mainly due to the increase in deforestation in the Amazon. In Brazil alone, 1.1 million hectares were lost in 2020 and estimates for 2021 indicate that deforestation could increase by up to 43 % year on year.
Earth Overshoot Day is different for each country
Not all countries use the same resources or consume the same amount. That is why each country has a different overshoot day because not all countries have the same biocapacity or carbon footprint.
According to Global Footprint data, Qatar is the country that reached its overshoot day the earliest (9 February 2021). By contrast, Sao Tome and Principe have the latest overshoot day (27 December 2021). In Spain, for example, the overshoot day is 25 May 2021. If all of humanity were to adopt a similar lifestyle to that of the average Spaniard, it would need 2.5 planets to maintain itself.
There is not only inequality in the resources consumed but also in the effects of climate change. Ironically, countries that consume less resources are also the most vulnerable to the impact of extreme climate events, such as hurricanes, floods and fires — the most visible effects of global warming.
According to the organisation Germanwatch, which analyses and presents the direct human and economic costs of extreme events across 180 countries in the world, Myanmar is one of the three countries most affected by extreme climate events. However, it will not be until 8 December 2021 that it reaches its own Earth overshoot day.
We must find a way to meet our current needs without compromising future generations' resources. Sustainable development is the way forwards to protect Earth, the only home we have.