Earth Overshoot Day reached last month

Last month on August 22nd, the world reached what has been termed Earth Overshoot Day. According to the Global Footprint Network, this is the day that the demand for ecological resources and services exceeds what the earth can regenerate in a given year. As this date is calculated on the global scale it does not take into account the vast disparities in resource usage across the world. If the entire worlds population lived like the UK, overshoot day would be reached on the 16th of May.

Global overshoot started in the early 1970s. Now, the cumulative ecological debt is equivalent to 18 Earth years. In other words, it would take 18 years of our planet’s entire regeneration to reverse the damage from overuse of natural resources, assuming overuse was fully reversible. Solutions suggest that it is possible to live within the means of our planet. If we #MoveTheDate 5 days each year, humanity would be using less than one planet before 2050.

Due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic the date has moved back from last years date of July 29th, the earliest date ever. In 2000 the Day was reached on the 23rd of September, a change of 62 days in the first 19 years of this century.

How is Earth Overshoot Day calculated?

To determine the date of Earth Overshoot Day for each year, we calculate the number of days of that year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s Ecological Footprint. The remainder of the year corresponds to global overshoot. Earth Overshoot Day is computed by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year) by humanity’s Ecological Footprint (humanity’s demand for that year), and multiplying by 365, the number of days in a year, or 366 for leap year:
(Earth’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 366 = Earth Overshoot Day

COVID-19 has caused humanity’s Ecological Footprint to contract, pushing the date of Earth Overshoot Day back more than three weeks compared to last year. The challenge of relaunching our economies presents countries with a unique chance to act on the future we want.

What does Earth Overshoot Day 2020 mean in light of COVID-19?

Given the COVID-19 shock that has taken everyone by surprise this year, the question now is: how do we come out of this crisis and build the future we want to create? When the time comes to get our economies back into gear, Global Footprint Network will advocate for strategies that enable a transition to one-planet prosperity. Increasing resource security everywhere ranks high on the list of those strategies.

Humanity’s efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting economic slowdown, have reduced humanity’s Footprint. However, this is a far cry from the intentional changes we strive for. At Global Footprint Network, we envision a world where humanity transitions to one-planet compatibility by design rather than by disaster, so that all thrive within the means of our planet.

Learn more about Earth Overshoot Day here and see here for their latest blog on ‘Building Together with Nature’, which tells the inspiring story of Tribu De La Tierra (Tribe Of The Earth), A Bioconstruction Cooperative In Argentina.

“Bioconstruction is no different from what construction has always been, except that it grew from the realisation that certain materials pollute, and that infrastructure puts pressure on the planet. We also found ourselves thinking about what to do with all the waste we were generating — it was then that we named it Bioconstruction”.

Global Footprint Network is an international sustainability organization that is helping the world live within the Earth’s means and respond to climate change. Since 2003 we’ve engaged with more than 60 countries, 40 cities, and 70 global partners to deliver scientific insights that have driven high-impact policy and investment decisions. Together, we’re creating a future where all of us can thrive within the limits of our one planet. 


Image taken at an Extinction Rebellion protest, from the XR Glasgow Facebook page