Earth Overshoot Day – 29 July 2019

29 July 2019 has been calculated by Global Footprint Network as “the date 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.”

It’s worse for many countries, including New Zealand – they say that we used a year’s worth of resources on 9 May, well under half a year.

figure showing country overshoot days

While the trend has been flattening out over the last decade it has worsened substantially over the last four decades.

The calculation:

To determine the date of Earth Overshoot Day for each year, Global Footprint Network calculates the number of days of that year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s Ecological Footprint. The remainder of the year corresponds to global overshoot. Earth Overshoot Day is computed by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year), by humanity’s Ecological Footprint (humanity’s demand for that year), and multiplying by 365, the number of days in a year:

(Planet’s Biocapacity Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day

Global Ecological Footprint and biocapacity metrics are calculated each year in the National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts. Using UN statistics, these accounts incorporate the latest data and the most updated accounting methodology (the National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts 2019 Edition feature 2016 data.) To estimate this year’s Earth Overshoot Day, Ecological Footprint and biocapacity are “nowcasted” to the current year using the latest data from additional sources, such as the Global Carbon Project.

While the actual dates could be quibbled about, I think that a valid and important point is being made – the human population and the way we live exceeds what our planet can cope with, by quite a margin. If this excess continues then Earth will suffer badly (more badly) – which means people and all creatures and plants will suffer. We may be able too carry on despite the damage we are contributing to, but bodes badly for our children and grandchildren.

It’s easy to dismiss this as not our problem, to say that it’s someone else’s problem, but that’s a part of the problem.

It won’t be quick or easy to turn things around, but there is growing attention being paid to at least making things less bd.,

Solutions to #MoveTheDate

From there, one suggestion from Gene Geveridge who is from the north of New Zealand:

Anecdotally there is interest in creating or joining a shared garden for the purpose of food production, food security, food education, and if possible ecological regeneration. Achieving some economy of scale, fostering community relationships and reducing food transport would be more general goals. Success depends on a few people with the right knowledge and experience and a wider group for man-power and to learn the ropes in time.

A setup similar to this could work:

That would have environmental as well as community benefits – but it’s remarkable that the right knowledge and experience to help people to learn the ropes to grow their own produce in a garden is seen as necessary. The knowledge and the practice of home gardening seems to have deteriorated alarmingly over the last half century.

I have a home garden and orchard, but could and should do a lot more. This is a project I will be working on more – on it’s own it will just make a tiny difference, but we need a lot of tiny differences to make a real difference.