We’ve Used up Our Yearly Supply of Natural Resources in Less Than 8 Months
There’s a huge problem and it’s getting worse every year
This problem is commonly known as Earth Overshoot Day. Ever heard about it?
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when we consume an entire year’s worth of our planet’s resources.
It’s the point in the year in which our consumption exceeds the environment’s renewal capacity, both in terms of natural resources produced and CO2 sequestration capacity.
Ideally, this would come on the last day of the year, or not come at all. The problem is that this year, Earth Overshoot Day came on August 8, and it’s been coming earlier each year since 1970.
This means that in less than 8 months we’ve exhausted the Earth’s budget for the whole year and have been using more from nature than our planet can provide in this 12 month period.
Another way to look at this is that the world’s population is demanding 62% more from the planet than it can actually provide. We currently need 1.6 Earths to support our demand on nature.
We are over emitting, overfishing, and over harvesting
We are depleting our resources earlier each year. So year after year, there is less for us to use. Less forest, less productive land, more pollution, less productive land, less fish in the ocean.
The worst part is that for the rest of the year, we’ll be borrowing (or stealing) resources from future generations. We will be operating in overshoot.
This will undoubtedly bring worse long term effects.
We’re going into ecological debt earlier each year
This year, we broke a world record; we used up all of our resource budget for the entire year in record time, once again. Overshoot day came five days earlier than last year. The problem is that this has become a habit, meaning that our consumption rates have been rising and are not slowing down.
We’ve been going into ecological debt earlier each year since the 1970s. In 1971, it fell on December 24. After ten years, it moved up to mid-November. Ten years later, it came in October. And since 2005, we’ve been reaching the limit in August.
Where does this overshoot come from?
About 60% of the overshoot comes from carbon emissions. And guess who are two of the greatest contributors to carbon emissions in the world? No other than the electricity and transportation industries.
Source: IPCC (2014)
Together, these two industries represent a great opportunity to slow down and even reverse this overshoot trend.
With growing population and increasing demand for products and services, the energy and transportation industries face a huge challenge.
How are we going to meet this ever-increasing demand for electricity without emitting greenhouse gas emissions, especially now that electric vehicles are poised to take over and leave internal combustion engines in the past?
Well, it’s already happening.
Carbon emissions from the global energy sector stalled in 2014 for the first time in 40 years and stayed flat for the second year in a row in 2015. This means that greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.1 billion tons in 2015, having remained essentially flat since 2013.
This is due to the surge in electricity generated by renewable energy sources (which accounted for about 90% of new electricity generation in 2015) and improvements in energy efficiency.
All of this while the global economy continued to grow by more than 3%, meaning that the link between economic growth and carbon emissions is weakening.
Even though we’re making progress on the energy front, we still have a long way to go, and we’re not moving quick enough.
We can’t expect to live forever in a state of ecological overshoot, the system will eventually collapse.
What can you do about it?
All of us can play an important role in creating a world in which we can live in harmony with nature.
Even small actions can make a big difference. If you take a look at just one aspect of your lifestyle, be it energy, transportation, food, etc., we can reverse this.
You can choose to install solar panels on your house or even get into the renewable energy business.
You can start carpooling or even buy an electric vehicle, favoring more resource-efficient travel options and shared transport.
You can eat local and organic food more often.
You can reduce paper waste at home and at the office. Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away each year in the US alone.
Everything adds value and can help push Overshoot Day later on the calendar. Even a tweet can help spread the word.
As small as the action might sound, the more people on board, the greater the impact will be.
For example, by reducing our carbon emissions by 30% before 2030, we could push back the Overshoot Day for an entire month.
By contrast, if we keep on the same path, we will need at least two planets to meet our needs by 2030.
This must serve as a reminder that the planet in which we live in has its limits; we can’t go on living our lives as if resources are infinite. We have to be more responsible and conscious of the gifts that the planet gives us.
The good news is that all of this is possible right now with existing technologies. We don’t need any technological miracles to come and save us from ourselves. And the best part is that the financial benefits exceed the costs.
There are no technical or financial reasons to stop this from happening.