There are 145 calendar days left in 2016, and today marks the day that our population will have used all the natural and ecological resources that our planet can renew in a whole year. Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by the Global Footprint Network by looking at our current consumption patterns – the rate of our carbon emissions is higher than what Earth’s ecosystems can absorb, we are overfishing the world’s oceans, and the rate of deforestation has outpaced the natural ability for Earth to regenerate. When this occurs, it is called ecological overshoot.
Biocapacity is defined by the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate. Unsustainability occurs if human resource demand exceeds the planet’s biocapacity. The Global Footprint Network uses Earth’s biocapacity and our Global Ecological Footprint (our impact on the planet) to determine the date at which our resource use overshoots the natural ability of the planet to regenerate resources. With global population over 7 billion, overshoot is an important sustainability concept and using a global footprint is an excellent way to quantify our impact on the planet.
This year, Earth Overshoot Day challenges people to use the hashtag #pledgefortheplanet to make a personal pledge to change the trend of overshooting the planet’s resources. There is plenty that each of us can do to reduce our impact and to increase our awareness of our own ecological footprints. A first step could be to take a personal Footprint quiz. Some other changes that may be worth adopting are Meatless Mondays, only purchasing sustainably harvested fish and seafood, or taking public transportation if possible. Small changes can have a big impact – especially if all 7.4 billion of us made a #pledgefortheplanet.