Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year), by humanity’s Ecological Footprint (humanity’s demand for that year), and multiplying by 365, the number of days in 2019: (Planet’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day.”
EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY 2020: July 26th
As of today, we humans have used as much from nature in 2019 as our planet can renew in a whole year. Nothing will seem to change for many of us from this day to the next, but collectively we are draining Earth’s capacity to provide. Overshoot Day is a red light warning of trouble ahead — and it is flashing five days earlier than it did last year (July 29th).
Earth Overshoot Day is devised by Global Footprint Network, an international think tank that coordinates research, develops methodological standards and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.
To determine the date of Earth Overshoot Day for each year, Global Footprint Network says on its website, the think tank calculates the number of days of that year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s Ecological Footprint. The remainder of the year corresponds to global overshoot.
“The matter is urgent, and the concept of Earth Overshoot Day is one way we can visualize our extreme danger.” — Dr. Peter Raven, Chairman of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration and President Emeritus of Missouri Botanical Garden.
“By providing accurate and verifiable information on the percentage of the world’s sustainable productivity, Global Footprint Network has been able to show convincingly that we’re using 50 percent more than is actually available,” said Dr. Peter Raven, Chairman of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration and President Emeritus of Missouri Botanical Garden. (A world leader in botany and ecology and advocate for global biodiversity conservation, Raven was described by TIME magazine as a Hero for the Planet.) The world population as a whole had used all of what nature provides in a year by Earth Overshoot Day, which occurred on July 29th, he added. “For the rest of the year we’ll be eating into our savings account, in effect!”
No Room to Catch Up for Some Countries
With some countries demanding much more than they have available internally, there’s really no room for the others to “catch up,” Raven said. “There are 7.4 billion of us, growing at 250,000 per day, and we’re headed for 9.8 billion in 34 years, by 2050.” What’s needed to remedy the situation is a stable population, social justice and equitability around the world — and improved technology would be necessary to get there,” he added. “Sharing fairly across the planet would be possible only if there are major moral and ethical changes everywhere. We have a nasty habit of killing one another to get what we want, and more than 200 million people have died in wars during the past two centuries. The matter is urgent, and the concept of Earth Overshoot Day is one way we can visualize our extreme danger.”
We’re depleting what our planet does for us, so year after year, there is less for us to use. — Dr. Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
Burdens Fall Disproportionately on World’s Poor
“When overshoot day arrives, it means we have spent all the interest on the planet’s ecological bank account and are now dipping into the capital,” explains Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment (and emeritus member of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration). “That is, we’re depleting what our planet does for us, so year after year, there is less for us to use. Less forest, fewer fish in the ocean, less productive land — burdens that fall disproportionately on the world’s poor.”
OVERSHOOTING THE PLANET’S CAPACITY TO CARE FOR US PUTS US ALL IN JEOPARDY, PEOPLE AND NATURE. — DR. LALY LICHTENFELD, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE AFRICAN PEOPLE & WILDLIFE FUND
Impossible to Estimate Value of Species Lost
“Overshooting the planet’s capacity to care for us puts us all in jeopardy, people and nature,” says Laly Lichtenfeld, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the African People & Wildlife Fund (and a National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee). “We are losing species at an unprecedented rate. While we can calculate our planet’s biocapacity, it is nearly impossible to estimate the value of these lost species from an economic, societal, moral and ecological point of view. It is clear that we need to find a better balance in terms of how we use the earth’s resources.”
Readers are invited to share their thoughts and ideas in the comments section below the charts.
*this article was published on Natgeo.com in 2016 and the Dates and numbers in this article have been updated to match the calculation for 2020.