Earth Overshoot Day edges ever earlier
Sustainable Population Australia says it is no surprise but nevertheless alarming that this year’s Earth Overshoot Day (28 July) is two days earlier than last year (30 July).
Earth Overshoot Day marks the day that humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth regenerates during the entire year. From Earth Overshoot Day until the end of the year, humanity operates on ecological deficit spending, that is, it is in “overshoot”. This year, there are over five months of overshoot.
SPA national president Ms Jenny Goldie says “Not only are the consequences of overshoot dire for the integrity of our natural ecosystems, they also impose an annual monetary loss of several trillions of dollars and threaten our life-support system.”
Ms Goldie says the earlier date of Earth Overshoot Day is no surprise given that global population has grown by 80 million in the past year.
“No matter how poor someone is, they still demand biological resources to live,” says Ms Goldie. “They need food, shelter and clothing for a start. After that, they generally need transport, schools, hospitals and workplaces. Every extra person makes demands on the planet’s biocapacity.
“There are a number of solutions, the most urgent being decarbonising the energy system. If we did that, we could move the date of Overshoot Day back three months.
“After that, slowing and ending population growth is critical. If every other family had one less child and parenthood was postponed by two years, by 2050 we would move Overshoot Day back by a month and a half. By the end of the century, we could have restored sustainability.
“Other solutions include: reforesting 350 million hectares of forest (8 days); replacing half the ‘car miles’ with public transport, walking and cycling (13 days); and cutting meat consumption in half and replacing meat with vegetarian food (17 days).
“Those last three options add up to less than a month, so clearly, decarbonisation and reducing population growth are the main levers for shifting the date back to December 31. This is where it should be if the planet’s biocapacity is to be in balance with humanity’s demands on it.”
Ms Goldie says that globally we now need 1.75 Earths to supply all our needs.
“We don’t have 1.75 Earths so the only solution is to live within the Earth’s biological capacity, to get back to only needing one Earth, or much less.
“If all humans consumed like Australians, Overshoot Day would occur late February. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek needs to understand that, in an environmentally sustainable finite world, one can’t also have economic and population growth”.