Monday Aug. 8 marked “Earth Overshoot Day” an unsettling reminder that the global population has used up all of the planet’s resources to live sustainably for a year, according to data from the Global Footprint Network.
Global Footprint Network (GFN), a non-profit research organization focusing on sustainability, created Earth Overshoot Day as a marker to determine when humanity’s annual demand on our natural resources exceeds what Earth can regenerate in a given year.
The GFN calculates the exact date by using a formula that takes the amount of the planet’s natural resources that are available and divides it by humanity’s ecological footprint (how much of the planet’s resources we use) and then multiplies it by the days in a year. The GFN says its calculation uses more than 15,000 pieces of data from the United Nations per country each year.
As the global population has grown and consumption has increased, Earth Overshoot Day has moved from late September in 2000, to Aug. 8 this year, according to the GFN.
In one bright spot, the think-tank noted the rate in which Earth Overshoot Day has moved up on the calendar has slowed to less than one day a year on average in the past five years, compared to an average of three days a year since the first overshoot day was calculated on December 24, 1971.
“The good news is that it is possible with current technology, and financially advantageous with overall benefits exceeding costs,” Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and CEO of Global Footprint Network, said in a statement. “It will stimulate emerging sectors like renewable energy, while reducing risks and costs associated with the impact of climate change on inadequate infrastructure. The only resource we still need more of is political will.”
Looking at Canada on an individual level, the organization found we have the 12th highest total ecological footprint (the majority coming from high carbon dioxide emissions) and the fourth highest footprint per capita, after Luxembourg, Australia and the United States.
If everyone on Earth lived as Canadians do, the GFN said it would require 4.7 Earths to sustain the level global consumption.
“Canada is fortunate to still have an abundance of renewable natural riches, when much of the world no longer does,” said David Miller, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada, a partner on Earth Overshoot Day, in a statement. “It’s vital that we take care of these resources now so they can continue to take care of us in the future.”