Humanity needs 1.6 Earths to live sustainably.
By the end of August 8, humans had used up all of the natural resources allotted in Earth’s “annual budget” in order to live sustainably. This day is called “Overshoot Day,” and it marks the day when humanity begins to use more than Earth is reliably producing.
The Global Footprint Network, an international research institute, partnered with New Economics Foundation to calculate the overshoot day starting in 2007.
They explain that they calculate the date by determining “the number of days of that year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s ecological footprint.”
The planet’s biocapacity is divided by humanity’s ecological footprint, then multiplied by 365. The rest of the year becomes “overshoot.”
Since its inception, the Overshoot Day has quickly come earlier and earlier in the year. The GFN calculated earlier years as a basis for how quickly we have transgressed in using up Earth’s resources; for example, in 1987, less than 30 years ago, the Overshoot Day was on December 19. Humans have come a long way in destroying the Earth since then.
In a statement regarding data collected to calculate the date, Mathis Wackernagel of GFN explained that humans demand 64 percent more from our planet than it can renew. Wackernagel and Balakrishna Pisupati, of UNEP Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, also said,
“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.”
Fortunately, not everyone lives like Americans, because if they did, then humans would need 4.8 Earths to live sustainably compared to the 1.6 Earths all of humanity actually needs. Needing more than the Earth we have, however, is still incredibly dangerous and over-reaching.
There is still hope for our planet, if only people would choose to make small changes in their lives to live more sustainably. Since carbon emissions are a huge factor in determining humanity’s ecological footprint, more people should convert to solar and wind energy and governments should support this change. Pisupati and Wackernagel wrote,
“The only resource we still need more of is political will. 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 group is asking for citizens around the globe to #PledgeForThePlanet and make an effort to eat less meat, reduce household energy use, reduce paper waste, and find alternative modes of transportation to use less fuel.
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