Population Matters

Now we’re in debt: Earth Overshoot Day

Now we’re in debt: Earth Overshoot Day

Credit: Global Population Speak Out

Today marks Earth Overshoot Day, the date on which humanity has used more natural resources than the planet can renew in a whole year. What’s more, this date continues to move forward every year, making the 2nd of August the earliest Overshoot yet.


About Earth Overshoot Day

Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network, an international think-tank that coordinates research, develops methodologies and provides decision-makers with tools and information to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits. Earth Overshoot Day is the public face and campaigning focus of their highly technical work.

Calculations by Global Footprint Network (GFN) show that human beings are demanding 1.7 times more renewable resources (such as fresh water, wood from natural forests and healthy soil) from the natural world than it can provide. Each year, a symbolic date is passed on which all resources are ‘used up’ and human beings ‘overshoot’ what Earth can provide.

A country comparison

The Overshoot Index, issued by Population Matters and calculated using data from the Global Footprint Network, provides a country-by-country assessment of the demands and capacities of individual countries. GFN  has assessed, firstly, what renewable resources each nation’s land and waters can provide, and what level of emissions and waste it can absorb. They then assess the impact of consumption, waste and emissions and assess whether each country is using more than it can provide.

Each country is not isolated, of course – resources are shared, traded or exploited between countries while the impact of a nations consumption and emissions can be felt elsewhere. The numbers do not balance at a sustainable level, however. At current levels of consumption, based on the assumptions made by GFN there are 2.7 billion people more than the earth can sustainably support; a number that will increase as world population continues to rise by around 80 million per year.

Overshoot needs to be tackled in two ways: the first way is by moving towards more sustainable lifestyles to reduce our per capita consumption. The second way is to tackle population growth so that there is a larger share of biocapacity for each of us.

Population Matters in action

To mark Earth Overshoot Day, Population Matters took “Big Foot” to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History today, as part of our campaign to persuade educational institutions and nature organisations to start telling the full truth about humanity’s impact on the world. Please support the campaign by signing our petition.

For more ideas on how to solve our population problems and #movethedate of Earth Overshoot Day, be sure to check out our recently launched Solutions webpage.

Don’t be like Big Foot! Find out ways to reduce your global footprint and take action today