Earth Overshoot Day: When We Go Into Global Resource Overdraft

Video screen capture. Global Footprint Network

OK, it’s the middle of the month and you’ve paid the mortgage, the car payment, the phone bill, and your bank account is now empty and you go into the credit card. That’s overshoot, where for the rest of the month you borrow against the future.

That’s what we are all doing with the planet. And each year, we have an Earth Overshoot Day, the day in the year when we have gone into overdraft—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.

Just like you do when you balance your bank account, the Global Footprint Network calculates the credits (Earth’s capacity to regenerate renewable natural resources in that year or biocapacity), and the debits, (humanity’s total yearly consumption or Ecological Footprint).

Each city, state or nation’s Ecological Footprint can be compared to its biocapacity. If a population’s demand for ecological assets exceeds the supply, that region runs an ecological deficit. A region in ecological deficit meets demand by importing, liquidating its own ecological assets (such as overfishing), and/or emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
overshoot by country

Global Footprint Network/CC BY 2.0

Every year Overshoot Day comes a little bit earlier, as we consume more and regenerate less.

Overshoot Day is being pretty much ignored in North America; it started in the UK with a British think tank and like the great green building concept, One Planet Living, has not really caught on. This is a shame since it is a relatively simple concept for people to grasp, perhaps even easier than the concept of personal carbon footprint. In 2017, the Global Footprint Network launched a new calculator where you can determine your own Ecological Footprint, and your own Personal Overshoot Day.


The author's personal Overshoot date/video screen capture

I did it and failed miserably; even though I bike everywhere, eat local and seasonal food and live in a duplex, I fly way too much. The calculator has a bit of a European bias (no questions about air conditioning or SUVs) but is still one of the better ones I have seen.