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Earth Overshoot Day

Earth Overshoot Day refers to the date in which the Earth exhausts its bioecological resources to support humanity for the year. After the overshoot day, the resources used by populations to sustain themselves are to the detriment of future generations, as countries draw from local resources, using more than they can produce and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As of today, most countries consume more than the Earth can produce annually, and the Overshoot Day falls earlier every year as a consequence.

Each year, the Global Footprint Network calculates, and sets, the date for overshoot days - both for the world and for each country. In 2020, also due to the restrictions on travel implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, overshoot day fell on August 22, almost a month later compared to 2019, when it was instead set on July 29. Since 1970, however, the world has been increasing its overall ecological footprint, and overshoot day has moved from December to August.

The data used to set overshoot days mainly refers to countries' ecological footprint. The data is collected by different international bodies, such as the United Nations (UN) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the footprint is found by calculating how much productive land is needed to provide for the needs of the people. The parameters taken into consideration to track countries’ footprint include food consumption, travel habits, and energy consumption, amongst others.

Some countries perform better than others. This year, most countries are expected to reach their overshoot day before June. Specifically, high-income countries are the ones with the biggest ecological footprint, and consequently an earlier overshoot day. According to the data collected, the world’s population is currently consuming the resources corresponding to one and a half planets, and it is further exhausting the renewable supplies that the Earth can provide worldwide.

Beside the striking difference between the ecological footprint of low and middle-income countries, and high-income countries, the lack of action taken by each country to move their overshoot day is alarming. Although international organisations are making an effort to include climate change and global warming in their agendas more each year, countries such as the United States and Australia continue to have the ecological footprint of almost five planets. Few countries are living in an ecological footprint deficit. Surprisingly, India is performing extremely well, despite the negative image the international community often gives to the South Asian country.

Overpopulated cities tend to have a higher ecological footprint, due to the high demand, and low disposal, of land. It is estimated that by 2050, between 70% and 80% of the world population will be living in urban areas. As a result, smart city planning, such as green buildings and self-cooling facilities are at the core of tackling the problem of ecological overconsumption. Additionally, a few actions - including an increase in the use of public transportation, a vegetarian diet, and a boost in the daily use of renewable energy - can be taken to decrease a country’s ecological footprint. The Earth Overshoot Day for 2021 is set to be released early this June.


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