Earth has hit Overshoot Day — the day when humanity has used more natural resources than the planet can produce in a single year — sooner than ever before, according to the international think tank Global Footprint Network (GFN).
Today — August 8, 2016 — is Earth Overshoot Day. Not only is this the earliest overshoot, the benchmark day has been getting earlier with each passing year. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day occurred on August 13th. In 2014, it happened on August 19th. The first Earth Overshoot Day took place on December 19, 1987.
This shows that humanity has been using up more and more renewable resources with each passing year.
“When overshoot day arrives, it means we have spent all the interest on the planet’s ecological bank account and are now dipping into the capital,” said Stuart Primm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, according to National Geographic. “That is, we’re depleting what our planet does for us, so year after year, there is less for us to use. Less forest, fewer fish in the ocean, less productive land — burdens that fall disproportionately on the world’s poor.”
Estimates show that, in order to meet the ever-increasing global demand for renewable resources, humanity would need 1.6 Earths. That increases when looking at individual countries. For instance, we would need 5.4 Earths if the whole world lives like people in Australia, and 4.8 Earths if we live like those in the United States.
There are many factors that contribute to ecological overshoot, but carbon emission is the biggest. The carbon footprint now makes up more than 60 percent of our civilization’s demand on nature, Gizmodo reports.
This trend is deeply concerning from an ecological standpoint. So much so, that GFN says humans need to depend on different resources if they want to help conserve the planet.
Officials say that making such a change is both possible and financially advantageous with current technology. The overall benefits of the shift would exceed the costs, as well as stimulate renewable energy and reduce the risks that typically come with climate change.
“Globally, the longer we go on pretending that natural resources are unlimited, the faster we are jeopardizing the very capacity of our planet to provide us with the renewable resources that we need to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves,” said Global Footprint Network spokesman Sebastian Winkler, according to The Huffington Post. “Balancing how much renewable natural resources we use with how much is generated is paramount if mankind is to thrive on our beautiful planet.”