Everything we do in our daily lives consumes some kind of resources; our food, our water, our clothing, the products we use and the transportation we choose to get around. This is an inevitabilty – whilst many people frown upon the term ‘consumption’ we cannot live our lives without ‘consuming’ in some way. This consumption should be in balance of our surroundings and our resources, but we know this is just not the case. And each year, the human population of the world is demanding more. Earth Overshoot Day marks the day, each year, that as humans, we have taken more resources than the Earth can naturally replenish on an annual basis.
This year, it was 29th July 2021.
To put it simply, if Earth was our bank balance, we are now heading into our overdraft before (in theory) we get ‘paid’ again on Jan 1st 2022. Five months of spending into the red. We have taken and used more than we had. And each year it generally gets earlier. Even during 2020’s CV-19 pandemic, where lives as we knew them went on hold and our behaviour was changed almost overnight, the date was in August.
Of course, Earth’s clock does not magically reset on 1st Jan each year, with the coffers of our resources suddenly overflowing and bountiful, but you get the point. The way we live is stripping the resources from the planet we call home.
Now, not everyone lives the same kinds of lifestyles around the world, so whilst the global Earth Overshoot Day was 29th July 2021, it would have been far sooner if we all lived that kind of lifestyle. For example, if we all lived like the population of Indonesia, our Overshoot Day would be 18th December. Still in the red by the end of the year, but not by much. If we lived like those in Qatar however, our 2021 Overshoot Day would have be 9th February. Wow.
Sitting here in the UK, if everyone lived like us, we would be looking at an Earth Overshoot Day of 19th May.
So why is this important? Well, it really is like keeping track of your finances – if you know how much you have, you can plan and act accordingly to keep on track. The difference with Earth Overshoot Day is that not only are the stakes far, far higher, it’s that not many governments, corporations and policy makers seem to be doing much about it. We do hear, of course about fantastic individual actions we can all take to minimise our impacts – and whilst this is certainly to be encouraged (just look through all the suggestions we have on One Circular World!) this needs a much bigger and deeper amount of systemic change.
But the smaller actions do matter – according to Global Footprint Network, if we were to cut food waste by 50% globally, we could push Earth Overshoot Day forward by 13 days. Another 13 days could be ‘gained’ by reducing our reliance on fossil fuelled transportation by 50% and opting for lower carbon or carbon free alternatives, like biking and walking.
So what can we do? Of course, do the small actions, ensure we are working as circularly as possible – starting with Reduction and Refusing – but crucially, lobbying our governments to ensure that policies are created to truly tackle this merciless consumption of our Earth.
The billionaires may be jetting off into space, but for the rest of us – this is our only home.