Earth Overshoot Day: Living Beyond Our Means

Climate, Scope 3, Sustainability
3 Min Read -
Posted August 01, 2023

Earth Overshoot Day 

Although not part of our everyday narrative, this date – August 2nd, 2023 – holds profound significance marking the day in the year when humanity has spent its annual ecological budget, effectively consuming more natural resources and producing more waste than the planet can regenerate and absorb in a single year. Like having a salary of $100k but spending $300k.

What is Earth Overshoot Day?

Earth Overshoot Day is an initiative by the Global Footprint Network, an independent research organization aimed at raising awareness about the current state of our planet’s resources. This day serves as a stark reminder of our impact on Earth’s ecosystems. It is the moment when we cross the line, overconsuming the Earth’s resources and depleting its capacity to regenerate itself within a single year.

The calculation of Earth Overshoot Day involves comparing two crucial variables – the global ecological footprint and the Earth’s biocapacity. The ecological footprint measures humanity’s demand on the Earth, including factors such as carbon emissions, land use conversion, and resource consumption. Biocapacity, on the other hand, represents the planet’s ability to regenerate these resources and absorb carbon dioxide and other emissions.

When the total global ecological footprint exceeds the Earth’s biocapacity for a given year, we have reached Earth Overshoot Day. Essentially, we are living beyond our ecological means, borrowing resources from future generations and compromising the planet’s ability to sustain life. And let’s be clear, this is contextual – vast areas of the global south exist at subsistence level, and it is we in more developed economies who vastly over consume resources and contribute to waste and carbon generation.

In the 1970s, Earth Overshoot Day occurred in late December, giving the Earth a chance to recover and regenerate. Over the past few decades the date has been marching inexorably forward, an alarming trend of accelerating resource depletion. This year, the date has moved up to August 2nd, reflecting a completely unsustainable rate of current resource consumption.

The implications of this overshoot are far-reaching and impact every facet of human life. Depleted fisheries, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, and rising greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change and extreme weather events, and jeopardize the wellbeing of ecosystems and species worldwide. Moreover, it exacerbates issues like food and water scarcity, leading to social unrest, migration, and geopolitical tensions.

To address the challenges posed by Earth Overshoot Day, collective action is imperative on a global scale. Governments, businesses, communities, and individuals all play a vital role in mitigating our ecological impact and promoting sustainable practices – a more Circular Economy, Renewable Energy Transition, Regenerative Agriculture, Biodiversity Conservation and Responsible Consumption all play an important part.

But at the heart of all of these concepts, we must start to value planetary boundaries so they are incorporated into the future-shaping decision-making required to turn these challenges around. For too long these intangible externalities have been invisible in economic pricing mechanisms, and if we know that “metrics move markets” then we need to leverage that to shape a future worth aspiring to for generations not yet born.

#Earth Overshoot Day
#sustainable supply chains

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