While the pandemic had humanity burning up the world’s resources more slowly than usual, the trend has reversed. Earth Overshoot Day, alas, arrived yesterday on July 29.
If you’re not familiar with this day, it’s the date that humans’ use of ecological resources and services exceeds what Earth can regenerate in a year. Last year, thanks to global lockdowns, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 22. Although the pandemic is still raging in many countries, the world has somehow crept back to where we were in 2019.
“With almost half a year remaining, we will already have used up our quota of the Earth’s biological resources for 2021,” said Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, as reported by EcoWatch. “If we need reminding that we’re in the grip of a climate and ecological emergency, Earth Overshoot Day is it.”
Another way to look at the data is that humanity is using nature up 1.7 times faster than Earth can regenerate its ecosystems. At this rate, we will need 1.7 planets to sustain our environmentally reckless lifestyle.
Carbon emissions are still a little behind 2019 highs, but if you’ve been in a U.S. airport lately, you’ve probably noticed it looks as busy as before the pandemic. There’s a mood of wanting to get back to normal. And normal, for many people, means using a lot of resources.
“Rather than recognize this as a reset moment, governments have been eager to get back to business-as-usual. Global emissions are already creeping back up to pre-pandemic levels,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity, as reported by EcoWatch.
The National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts graph released by Global Footprint Network reveals the huge disparity in Earth Overshoot Day if you slice and dice data by country. Qatar overshoots on an astounding February 9, with the U.S. and Canada not too far behind on March 14. Countries that come closer to making their resources last a full year include Ecuador, which makes it to December 7, and Indonesia on December 18.
Another of Global Footprint Network’s interesting charts asks how many Earths would we need if the world’s population lived like different countries. If everybody resource-partied like the U.S., we’d need five whole planets. But if everyone lived as people do in India, we could survive on seven-tenths of Earth.
Lead image via Pixabay