Earth Overshoot Day 2020

August 23, 2020

Today is Earth Overshoot Day, the point where scientists say humanity has burned through all the natural resources that the planet can replenish for 2020. . For the rest of the year, we are maintaining our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We are operating in overshoot.

The international research organisation Global Footprint Network, which has been calculating this date since 1970, has found that the date of Earth Overshoot Day has crept steadily earlier and earlier, as human consumption grows. They estimate that 1.6 planets are required to support our population’s current way of life, which subsequently has caused scientists and environmental activists to question how to manage this in a world where success is measured by exponential growth.

However, due to Covid-19 for the first time in years, Earth Overshoot Day has been pushed to a later date. Last year, it landed on July 29 — nearly a month earlier. The pandemic has led to a “9.3% reduction in the global Ecological Footprint compared to the same period last year” according to the Global Footprint Network’s latest reports and projections.

But that is “not something to celebrate”, said Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network, “It’s not done by design, it’s done by disaster,” he added. Global Footprint Network has also said that efforts to control the pandemic show that changing consumption habits in a short time frame is possible, adding that the overshoot date is “an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on the future we want”.

The 2015 Paris climate deal saw nations commit to limit temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels through sweeping emissions cuts. The United Nations says for this to be possible, global emissions must fall 7.6 percent annually this decade. Therefore, without a systemic change in how the world powers and feeds itself, the emissions saved from the pandemic would be essentially meaningless.

Let’s keep moving the date in a positive direction for 2021. To do this, we can begin by mitigating our own consumption, but we also need government action. Why not write to your local council and ask them what they are doing to ensure environmental sustainability above economic growth? Ask if they support legislation to protect the planet’ finite resources from corporate interests.  We cannot return to the way things were. Together, let’s demand a new normal. To put things into perspective, globally:

  • Dropping meat consumption by 50% saves us 17 days
  • Cutting driving by 50% saves us 14 days
  • Reforesting 350 million tress saves us 8 days

 

Be curious. Find out. Do something.

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