Earth overshoot day: Today the planet runs out of natural resources
This year, August 1 marks the Earth Overshoot Day, the day when humanity would have used up all the natural resources that can be replenished by the Earth within a year.
This year, the day arrives one day earlier than last year and is the earliest since the overshoot began in the 1970s. The growing needs of the humanity means that this date has been moving up the calendar - from late September in 1997 to its earliest yet this year.
Next year, if actions are not taken to reverse the trend, the date will be in July, just seven months into the year.
The rate at which the overshoot date is moving up the calendar, however, has slowed. Over the last five years, on average, the day has moved less than a day a year, compared to three days a year on average since overshoot began in 1970s. Last year, the day came on August 2.
In the context of India, if we continue to use our resources at the current rate, we would need 2.5 countries to satisfy the needs of our population.
‘’We face a unique challenge in the imperative to lift millions of people out of poverty and at the same time ensure that the natural resources required to sustain development are not depleted. The future lies in development trajectories that are not as resource intensive. While India has put in place some ambitious targets for renewable energy and afforestation, much more needs to be done to translate policy into practice,” said Dr Sejal Worah, conservation director, WWF-India.
So, what can be done?
The Global Footprints Network, a think tank that calculates the overshoot date, proposes four solutions.
Cities: With populations moving towards urban settings, smart city planning to make buildings more energy efficient and public transport more accessible is needed. If driving is reduced by 5% across the world and one-third of it with public transport and rest by walking or cycling, the overshoot day would be pushed back by 12 days.
Energy: Phasing out fossil fuels and sticking to the Paris Accord would help in reducing the carbon footprint. Reducing the carbon component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint by 50% would move the date by 93 days.
Food: If everyone in the world cut food waste in half, reduced the food items whose production is carbon dense such as meat in their diets, and consumed world-average calories, overshoot would be pushed by 38 days.
Population: If every other family in the world had one less child, the Overshoot Day will move back by 30 days by 2050.