Earth Overshoot Day 2019: Let’s Move the Date!
In my book ‘Designing Regenerative Cultures’, published in 2016, I have a short chapter entitled ‘Rolling back Earth Overshoot Day’ and since it was published I have written a number of posts on how living well within planetary means without stealing from future generations is the challenge of our time.
“Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.”
Climate change and the mass extinction event we are in the middle of are the results of humanity collectively having lived well beyond its means for my entire life! I was born in 1971 and humanity first went into planetary overshoot the year before, in 1970. Since then, we have grown a massive ecological deficit by drawing down the ecological reserve life as a planetary process built up over 3.8 billion years of life’s evolution on planet Earth.
Our collective impact has resulted in the bio-productivity and biocapacity having decreased ever since — at the same time our degenerative impact keeps growing. This simple fact illustrates why we need diverse regenerative cultures everywhere. We need to undo the damage we have done where that is still possible. For tens of thousands of species we have driven to extinction by our actions it is already too late!
Putting the blame on an over-consuming humanity having caused this impact is somewhat misleading. More truthfully, a small proportion of humanity have been causing the bulk of the damage while all of humanity will have to suffer the consequences.
To be even more truthful, millions of people in the global South who’s parents and who themselves had comparatively minuscule impact on causing this mess we are now in, are already suffering and dying from the impacts caused by comfortable people — like me and you.
Yes, by you reading this I can venture a guess that we are both part of the educated and privileged who are somewhat comfortable in the top 15% of the world’s population (by income and wealth). If you think this generalisation does not include you, you can check by following a few steps on Global Rich List.
You can calculate a rough estimate of your own ecological footprint here.
One more time, let us be explicit about the many biases that this kind of statistical data and percentage juggling brings in: while we — the top 15% — should be more conscious of our privilege and role in all this, it is also true that 100 companies are reported to be responsible for 71% of the global greenhouse gas emissions and that our personal role in keeping these companies in business might not be big enough to justify seeking all the blame with us.
There is another layer of extreme wealth that makes most of us seem relatively insignificant when it comes to our impact. Some say 26 billionaires now own more than half the world’s wealth, others say it is as little as six people. Either way, it is simply obscene to have this level of inequality in the world and we will not move the date on ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ without also addressing these issues of inequality.
‘Earth Overshoot Day’ has been steadily moving towards being earlier and earlier each year. It is now for the second year in a row falling on July 29th, 2019. The day my baby daughter celebrates her 2nd birthday.
If you want to get involved in a global campaign to share solutions on how to #MoveTheDate the Global Footprint Network has just made this possible. Check out the Move the Date Solutions map below:
#MoveTheDate Solutions (beta)
Can we live in balance with the Earth? Discover, champion, & share existing solutions that accelerate the shift to…
The data set used by the Global Footprint Network is getting improved upon every year and that means that sometimes the estimates for past overshoot days are also moving. Last year (2018) we assumed that we overshot on August 1st but looking at it again in the light of new data it seems that we overshot on July 29th last year as well as this year.
Don’t get too hung up on the data! Yes it is somewhat a rough estimate based on the best data available at the time, but it is clearly indicative! What we do know is that we are still making things worse every year rather than beginning the many decade long journey of restoring healthy ecosystems functions and creating diverse regenerative cultures everywhere.
It is time to build a global movement to #movethedate and end overshoot!.
Steps to #MoveTheDate
© 2019 Earth Overshoot Day. Global Footprint Network. All Rights Reserved.
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Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.
Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures
More on Overshoot:
Rolling back Earth Overshoot Day
Humanity first overshot the Earth’s annual regenerative capacity in the early 1970s. That is to say our species reached…
Ecological Footprint, Earth Overshoot Day and the Happy Planet Index
Excerpt of the ‘Ecological Design Dimension’ of Gaia Education’s online course in ‘Design for Sustainability’