Today is Earth Overshoot Day. Unfortunately, it’s nothing to celebrate.
As of August 2, 2017, we have officially used up more natural resources than the Earth can replenish for the year. That’s right – every natural resource used from now on this year is not sustainable.
Calculated by dividing the number of ecological resources produced every year by humanity's ecological footprint, and then multiplying that by 365, the Global Footprint Network produces a day every year that is the maximum date we as humans have before we overshoot our sustainability mark – sadly, that day arrives at little over halfway through the year.
So what is to blame? The Earth Overshoot Day website currently lists three main culprits that result in our depletion of ecological resources: overfishing, deforestation, and the emission of CO2 into our atmosphere at a rate that forestry cannot replenish.
Deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate. According to the WWF, every year we remove 130,000 square kilometers (50,200 square miles) of forestry – that’s an area the size of England. Not only is this damaging to habitats, oxygen production, and animal populations, but the burning of large areas of woodlands result in vast amounts of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.
Alongside motor fumes and the burning of fossil fuels, this leads to 38.2 billion tons of CO2 entering the atmosphere as a result of human activity every year. Being a greenhouse gas, CO2 results in an insulatory effect, increasing the temperature of the global climate.
Couple this with heavy rates of overhunting and overfishing across the globe, and an unbearable amount of stress is placed on our planet.
So how does Earth Overshoot Day 2017 compare with previous years?
As seen in the graph above, the total time that we are using up all our resources is dramatically decreasing. Since 1969, we have been depleting them at a constantly increasing rate.
Thankfully, this trend appears to be slowing. With the relatively recent guidelines in place that provide countries with sustainable goals to reach, such as the Paris Agreement, it appears to be slowly halting the depletion of resources.
On the Global Footprint Network website, you can now calculate your own overshoot day, while it recommends eco-friendly lifestyle choices that can help. Whilst you can’t stop deforestation, you can do your bit to help the planet.
World Overshoot Day serves as a warning to both countries and individuals – climate change is real, it is devastating, and it needs to be at the forefront of both political and scientific discussion. To slow climate change, we need the cooperation of all countries, groups, and individuals of the world before it’s too late.