Today, September 27th, is the symbolic day when humanity used all resources it could sustainably use this year – the Earth Overshoot Day. Since the year is not over, we seem to actually need about 1,5 Earths, so to speak.
Last year’s Earth Overshoot Day happened to come much earlier – on August 21st. However, this is not as good news as it may seem. First, the day is only a symbol, the Global Footprint Network does not aim at assessing precise numbers (this would be futile) – the goal is rather to give an approximate idea about how much we overuse the Earth’s resources. Furthermore, the calculations are improving every year, so the exact Earth Overshoot Days of each year are not perfectly comparable:
Ecological Footprint and biocapacity calculations Global Footprint Network made last year placed Earth Overshoot Day a few weeks earlier in the year than this year’s estimates do. This has raised the question as to whether we have reduced global overshoot. The answer, unfortunately, is no. Global Footprint Network is constantly improving the calculations and data sets that are the basis for determining Earth Overshoot Day, and as such the date of Earth Overshoot Day varies from year to year.
Even if it were that we have improved somewhat: the fact is that humanity is still emitting too much CO2, consuming too much meat, grain and fish, using too much timber, converting too much natural space into roads, settlements etc. The levels of all these activities are not sustainable at the global level, even though they may be sustainable in particular regions of the world (especially in poor countries).
The sad side of all this is that there are still one billion people out there who are hungry. There are many more whose other basic needs (medical care, shelter, basic education…) are not properly satisfied. While we in the developed world are living in affluence, the vast majority of the world population is living in real poverty.
It is apparent that something has to change. We cannot go on overusing the Earth’s resources, since this will have an end at some point in time – which is likely to become a catastrophe. Thus, huge as the challenge may seem, it is humanity’s moral obligation to provide living space for the poor of today as well as those who are to come after us.