As of today (8 August), humans have used more natural resources than our planet can generate within a year, meaning this is Earth Overshoot Day, with it falling five days earlier than it did in 2015.
Marked each year since 1971 by the Global Footprint Network, Earth Overshoot Day is an effort by researchers to quantify how we as humans need to live within our ecological limits.
Rather than just marking it on the same day each year like Earth Day, the date of Overshoot Day is determined by dividing our planet’s biocapacity by humanity’s ecological footprint and then multiplying by 365.
Five days earlier than 2015
Examples of our planet’s ability to heal itself in the face of challenges would include the oceans’ and forests’ ability to absorb atmospheric CO2, or a positive birth rate of marine life in our oceans.
Based on this year’s calculations, Overshoot Day has been determined as today (8 August) marking the earliest it has ever been held, five days earlier than 2015.
However, based on a revised version of its calculations, it has been determined that last year’s Earth Overshoot Day should have been held on 9 August.
This alone marks a considerable change from the first Overshoot Day in 1971, which has since been calculated as being on 24 December in that year.
In order for us to balance the books in terms of our environment, the Global Footprint Network has estimated that we would need to have 1.6 Earths to keep up with our demand for natural resources.
The Global Footprint Network has also highlighted the worst-offending nations by estimating how many Earths we would need if the entire planet acted like these nations.
So, for example, if the Earth’s population lived like Australia, we would need 5.4 Earths to balance our ecological books, while we would need 4.8 Earths if we lived like the US.
We need a ‘new way of living’
If we are to meet the goals set out by the recent Paris climate agreement, the CEO of the Global Footprint Network, Mathias Wackernagel, said we will need to get our heads round an entirely new way of living.
“Such a new way of living comes with many advantages, and making it happen takes effort,” he said.
“The good news is that it is possible [to begin a new way of living] with current technology, and financially advantageous with overall benefits exceeding costs.
“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.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as the network highlights countries like Costa Rica as good examples of changing their tack environmentally, with 97pc of its electricity sourced from renewable energy during the first three months of 2016.
Oil pumps image via Shutterstock