Earth set to run out of resources two days sooner this year, says study
August 1 will mark the day humanity’s annual demand for natural resources will exceed what the planet’s ecosystem can provide for the year, a date that has arrived two days sooner than last year.
The day is marked as Earth Overshoot Day, illustrating the point at which the consumption of resources such as carbon, food, water and wood exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate.
“It is barely eight months into the year and we have already used up the nature’s budget for the entire year. The fact that the overshoot day is constantly moving up the calendar — from late September in 1997 to its earliest yet in 2018 — is symbolic of the unprecedented pressure mankind and human activities are putting on nature and its resources,” said Dr Sejal Worah, conservation director, WWF-India.
The Global Footprint Network, an international think tank that calculates the Earth Overshoot Day by coordinating research, said that at the current rate of consumption and waste production, humanity will need 1.7 earths to satisfy its exploitative needs. “Our economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet. We are using the Earth’s future resources to operate in the present and digging ourselves deeper,” said Mathis Wackernagel, chief executive of the Global Footprint Network, in a press release. “Each day this date moves up is a stark reminder of the fact that we are running out of time to reverse the trend,” said Dr Sejal Worah, conservation director, WWF-India.
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 3.
“This is not an absolute date on which natural resources run out but represents a trend that we need to roll back to a date as close to December 31 as possible. The ‘business as usual’ attitude will not help,” said Dr Rajiv Seth, pro vice chancellor at TERI School of Advanced Studies in New Delhi.
The Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by taking into account “biologically productive land and sea area, including forest lands, grazing lands, cropland, fishing grounds, and built-up land”, and comparing their state with a population’s demand for plant-based food and fibre products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure, and forest to absorb its carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
The data shows that if everyone in the world lived like the people in the US, we would need five earths to sustain our lifestyles. If everyone lived like Indians, we would need 0.7 earths.
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