Happy Earth Overshoot Day!
Earth Overshoot Day: it’s the day when humanity has collectively used all of the ecological resources that the Earth can supply us in one year. It’s also the day when we can no longer offset our carbon footprint with Earth’s natural carbon sinks. Now, I’m going to make you read that again because this calculation is that important. On July 29th, 2019, humanity has collectively used up all of the resources (e.g., fish, timber, etc.) that were supposed to last us the entire year.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to define an “overshoot day.” We’d use only what the Earth is capable of regenerating. But it’s not a perfect world, and we’re using our finite resources at an unsustainable rate. Think about this: in 2019, we will spend 43% of our days at a deficit; straining our current ecosystems and borrowing resources from future populations.
In the United States, the picture is a bit bleaker. Our cushy lifestyles have resulted in a National Overshoot Day that comes quite a bit earlier than Earth Overshoot Day. If everyone in the world consumed ecological resources and had a carbon footprint like us here in the U.S., Earth Overshoot Day would have fallen on March 15.
To find out if you’re any better than the general population, you can take the test to determine when Earth Overshoot Day would be if everyone on Earth consumed ecological resources at the rate you do.
Feel bad about the results? Join the club; my personal Earth Overshoot Day would have been on May 31st. And this is coming from someone that habitually recycles, buys organic produce, composts food scraps and other organic matter, eats mostly vegetables, and commutes less than three minutes to work. Like I’ve said before, I’m no expert when it comes to sustainability, and I've clearly got a lot to learn.
However, I would like to add that an individual’s ecological footprint is also dependent upon the country in which they live. We are only actually able to change our ecological footprints to a certain extent. The rest of that extent falls on the shoulders of our government. So, while I encourage making lifestyle changes to reduce the part of your ecological footprint that you can directly control, never forget the importance of environmental activism (sign petitions, stand behind candidates that support conservation, and make donations to environmental campaigns).
Tangent aside, let’s get back to the thing that you can directly control: your lifestyle. The test you took a few minutes ago will highlight your pitfalls. Maybe you eat red meat every day and for that reason require an exceptionally large amount of land to supply the needs of the livestock you put on your dinner plate. Or maybe you have a lengthy commute to work and have a high carbon footprint as a result.
But it's not all bad news. From your bad habits, you can learn what corrective action(s) you need to take to reduce your ecological footprint. Together, we can make an effort to #MoveTheDate. If we continue to follow the status quo, Earth Overshoot Day will come even earlier next year.