The Earth is a pretty amazing thing. Every year, it regenerates an enormous amount of the environmental resources – water, soil and clean air – that we humans use up. But in the last few decades we've started using substantially more of those resources than can be replaced every year.
That's why, in 1986, environmental groups began calculating the day each year on which we go over our limit and start living on credit. This year, the day falls on August 2. "By August 2, 2017, we will have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the whole year," the WWF and Global Footprint Network said in a statement.
"In other words, humanity is currently using nature 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.7 Earths. This means that in seven months, we emitted more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb in a year, we caught more fish, felled more trees, harvested more, and consumed more water than the Earth was able to produce in the same period."
Earlier and earlier
The milestone arrives earlier and earlier every year. In 1987, the first year it was calculated for, it fell on December 19. In 1995 it was November 21. In 2007 it was October 26. About 60% of humanity's ecological 'footprint' comes from burning coal, oil and gas.
Individual countries have their own Overshoot Days. Australia hits it on March 12, the United States a couple of days later, and the UK on May 4. You can find data for your country on the Overshoot Day website.
There is a silver lining to this bad news, though. The rate at which Earth Overshoot Day is moving up the calendar is slowing down, the groups say. To slow that rate further, we (meaning: you) need to eat less meat, burn less fuel and cut back on food waste.
The full details of how the date is calculated, and lots of solutions to the problem, can be found on the Earth Overshoot Day website.
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