The current world population is 7.6 billion and growing. However, by some estimates, the earth’s natural resources are only sufficient for 2 billion people. We, humans, are already consuming 2-3 times more of the natural resources than what is sustainable. It’s obvious- with the rate at which we are using up the planet’s natural resources, it won’t be too long when the damage is irreparable.
A recent study shows that the human population has consumed a year’s worth of natural resources such as carbon, food, water and wood in a record 212 days. Consequently, the Earth Overshoot Day – the annual date when we have caused a year’s worth of environmental damage (when human consumption exceeds the nature’s capacity to regenerate)- has moved forward to 1 August, two days earlier than last year- the earliest date ever recorded, as reported by Independent
According to Global Footprints Network, an international research organisation that calculates the Earth Overshoot Day, we would need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths, to maintain our current appetite for resources.
Earth Overshoot Day
The overshoot first began five decades ago in the 1970s, when increasing population and rising demand pushed the human consumption of natural resources beyond a sustainable limit. Since then, the earth overshoot day has only moved forward.
Thirty years ago, the overshoot was marked on 15 October. Twenty years ago- on 30 September and ten years ago, it was marked on 15 August. Despite a brief slow down a few years ago, the pace has again picked up in the past two years. As per current trends, there is a high probability that next year could mark the first time, the planet’s budget is busted in the month of July!
What do Experts say?
“It is barely eight months into the year, and we have already used up nature’s budget for the entire year. The fact that the overshoot day is constantly moving up the calendar — from late September in 1997 to its earliest yet in 2018 — is symbolic of the unprecedented pressure mankind and human activities are putting on nature and its resources,” Dr Sejal Worah, conservation director, WWF-India told Hindustan Times.
According to Mathis Wackernagel, chief executive and co-founder of Global Footprint Network, our current economies are running a “Ponzi scheme” with the earth. “We are borrowing the Earth’s future resources to operate our economies in the present. Like any Ponzi scheme, this works for some time. However, as nations, companies, or households dig themselves deeper and deeper into debt, they eventually fall apart,” he said in a press release.
Explaining the concept in layman terms, Dr Rajiv Seth, Pro vice-chancellor of TERI School of Advanced Studies in New Delhi said that the ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ is not a specific date on which we run out of all natural resources but just a representation of a trend that we need to roll back to a date as close to December 31 as possible.
“Each day this date moves up is a stark reminder of the fact that we are running out of time to reverse the trend,” said Dr Sejal Worah, conservation director, WWF-India.
The Global Footprint Network has suggested some key inputs to address the crisis of Natural resources. Experts believe that reducing the use of a personal car and shifting to walking, cycling or public transport can make a difference. Reducing food wastage – According to reports by FAO, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted around the world. If wastage is divided for alternative consumption, it will help in preserving the resources for a bit longer time.
Reducing meat consumption. The network says “it takes 14 times as much land to produce a ton of beef as to produce a ton of grain. Pork takes 1.9 times as much. And global livestock is responsible for at least 9 per cent of all human-made carbon emissions.”
The massive increase in Population around the world is another reason for running out of global resources. According to the Network, If families around the world gave birth to one less child, Overshoot Day would move back 30 days by 2050.