Earth Overshoot Day meaning and significance!
What is Earth Overshoot Day?
It was previously known as Ecological Debt Day. It is a calculated illustrative calendar date on which humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year. The term “overshoot” symbolizes the level by which the human population overshoots the sustainable amount of resources on Earth. From the economic point of view, EOD represents the day on which humanity enters environmental deficit spending.
It is calculated by the Global Footprint Network, which is a campaign supported by many other nonprofit organizations.
How Earth Overshoot Day is calculated?
Global Footprint Network first calculates the number of days of that particular year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s Ecological Footprint and the remaining days of the year correspond to global overshoot. Biocapacity is the ability of resources to renew themselves – it is calculated by observing Earth’s available resources (how many hectares of forests, pastures or farmland, the size of fish or animal populations, etc.) and dividing these figures by the total population, this gives an average value in hectares per person indicating how many hectares/resources we should consume per person each year in order to maintain the balance between planet and resources. Ecological Footprint – the impact we have on the environment – it is calculated by assessing how much biologically productive sea and land are needed to produce all the resources a population consumes and to absorb human waste and the carbon emissions – it is also calculated in hectares per person.
Earth Overshoot Day (EOD) is computed by dividing the planet’s biocapacity by humanity’s Ecological Footprint and multiplying by 365, the number of days in a year:
(Earth’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day
Current Scenario of Earth Overshoot Day:
The situation was under control until the early 1970s when humans consumed without exceeding the natural capacity of natural ecosystems but since the early 1970s, the day kept getting earlier. Last year, EOD was on July 29 – the earliest ever since 1970, and this followed a 30-year trend that has steadily pushed overshoot days earlier. What does it mean? It means that we are using natural resources 1.75 times faster than the Earth can regenerate.
In 2020, it is predicted that EOD will be on August 22 because of the impacts of coronavirus that has resulted in the halt of economies around the world. As per a research conducted by Global Footprint Network, there has been a 9.3% reduction in the global Ecological Footprint compared to the same period last year and the main drivers were the carbon Footprint (reduced 14.5% from 2019) and the forest product Footprint (reduced 8.4% from 2019). If there would have been no coronavirus EOD would have been earlier than July 29.
Disparity in countries:
Our world is very diverse, some countries are developed and many are developing. Obviously the demand for resources is also going to be different in different countries. Therefore, if the whole world consumed resources like the developed and industrialized nations, the overshoot day would be much worse. Qatar is the worst offender in overshooting resources, with the country overshoot day of February 11, followed by Luxembourg – February 16, the UAE – March 8, Kuwait – March 11 and the USA – March 15.
What has led to such a bad situation?
The major factor responsible for EOD shifting earlier and earlier is the increasing population, from 3 billion in 1960 to 7.7 billion in 2019. As the population increases the demand for resources increases, but there is a limit on the number of resources that the earth can provide. So, when the earth was not able to keep up with the demand it resulted in overshooting of resources.
Along with an increase in population, there has been an increase in the income of people that lead to people buying more resources again putting pressure on the resources and overshooting them.
If we continue exploiting the resources provided by Earth at a pace greater than their regeneration, then as per UN projections and Global Footprint data increasing population and consumption would lead to the requirement of two earths by 2030 to fulfill humanity’s demand of resources. We need to do something quickly about the exploitation of resources. Governments should invest and promote startups such as AeroFarms which is producing food sustainably with minimal resources and maximum yields containing all nutrients necessary for a balanced diet. New technology like 3D printing is being used to make houses very quickly and with minimum materials and also lab-grown 3D printed meat is being produced using the technology. We also need to focus on population control because all the efforts would be in vain if the population continues to grow because the demand for resources will increase leading to earth resources being exploited.
Remember the clock is ticking very fast and very little time is left to do something about climate change.