Changing Planet

Earth Overshoot Day Arrives Earlier Than Ever

Earth Overshoot Day is calculated 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 366, the number of days in 2016: (Planet’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day.”

Earth Overshoot Day 2016: August 8

As of today, we humans have used as much from nature in 2016 as our planet can renew in a whole year. Nothing will seem to change for many of us from this day to the next, but collectively we are draining Earth’s capacity to provide. Overshoot Day is a red light warning of trouble ahead — and it is flashing five days earlier than it did last year (Aug. 13); eleven days earlier than the year before (Aug.19).

Earth Overshoot Day is devised by Global Footprint Network, an international think tank that coordinates research, develops methodological standards and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.

To determine the date of Earth Overshoot Day for each year, Global Footprint Network says on its website,  the think tank 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.


“The matter is urgent, and the concept of Earth Overshoot Day is one way we can visualize our extreme danger.” — Dr. Peter Raven, Chairman of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration and President Emeritus of Missouri Botanical Garden.

“By providing accurate and verifiable information on the percentage of the world’s sustainable productivity, Global Footprint Network has been able to show convincingly that we’re using 50 percent more than is actually available,” said Dr. Peter Raven, Chairman of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration and President Emeritus of Missouri Botanical Garden. (A world leader in botany and ecology and advocate for global biodiversity conservation, Raven was described by TIME magazine as a Hero for the Planet.) The world population as a whole had used all of what nature provides in a year by Earth Overshoot Day, which this year occurred on August 8, he added. “For the rest of the year we’ll be eating into our savings account, in effect!”

No Room to Catch Up for Some Countries

With some countries demanding much more than they have available internally, there’s really no room for the others to “catch up,” Raven said. “There are 7.4 billion of us, growing at 250,000 per day, and we’re headed for 9.8 billion in 34 years, by 2050.” What’s needed to remedy the situation is a stable population, social justice and equitability around the world — and improved technology would be necessary to get there,” he added. “Sharing fairly across the planet would be possible only if there are major moral and ethical changes everywhere.  We have a nasty habit of killing one another to get what we want, and more than 200 million people have died in wars during the past two centuries.  The matter is urgent, and the concept of Earth Overshoot Day is one way we can visualize our extreme danger.”

We’re depleting what our planet does for us, so year after year, there is less for us to use. — Dr. Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Burdens Fall Disproportionately on World’s Poor

“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,” explains Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment (and emeritus member of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration). “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.”


Overshooting the planet’s capacity to care for us puts us all in jeopardy, people and nature. — Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the African People & Wildlife Fund

Impossible to Estimate Value of Species Lost

“Overshooting the planet’s capacity to care for us puts us all in jeopardy, people and nature,” says Laly Lichtenfeld, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the African People & Wildlife Fund (and a National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee). “We are losing species at an unprecedented rate. While we can calculate our planet’s biocapacity, it is nearly impossible to estimate the value of these lost species from an economic, societal, moral and ecological point of view. It is clear that we need to find a better balance in terms of how we use the earth’s resources.”

  • Readers are invited to share their thoughts and ideas in the comments section below the charts.



Hottest Year EverEarth’s ‘Annual Physical’ Lists Symptoms of a Hotter World (Aug. 2016) — A new State of the Climate report confirmed that 2015 surpassed 2014 as the warmest year since at least the mid-to-late 19th century, says NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).  Read the assessment; view the charts.

Thratened-megafauna-590x301Urgent Action Needed to Stop Extinction of Last Megafauna (Jul. 2016) — A swift global conservation response is needed to prevent gorillas, lions, tigers, rhinos, and other iconic megafauna from being lost forever, scientists demonstrate in the journal BioScience.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • wim de groot

    It would be interesting if we knew how many there is left of the resources, in other words when would earth be exhausted going on like this? I am sure long before that human race will be forced to spend less resources and finally we will lose not nature.

  • wim de groot

    When will all resources be finished IIgoing on like this I wonder although we will be forced to another way of living long before that

  • Lee M

    Not exactly a chart I am happy Australia is at the top of.

    The problem as I see it is Government are too beholden to the big companies that dont want to change to be more environmentally friendly. This seems to be true all over the world and in most cases simply means legalised corruption

  • David Maxwell Braun

    It’s more likely we will see a big human population crisis before nature recovers. That’s how equilibrium will be restored. It could be a combination of mass starvation, millions of people becoming climate refugees, and more wars over water and other dwindling resources.

  • Tony Marshallsay

    It’s simple: the “Blue Planet” picture showed clearly that there is only one pie and its size is fixed.
    The greater the number of slices, the thinner they get; and Overshoot Day tells us just how much of each slice is already virtual.
    And the only way to make all the slices real is to reduce the number of them. Unfortunately for Gaia very few people are willing to talk about that.

  • Sam Parrott

    love that new zealand isnt on this scale

  • B Koehler

    Another case of… Ya don’t know what ya got until it’s gone. The entire world clearly needs better leaders.

  • Henry

    I noticed that Australia wasn’t mentioned on the second infographic. Does that mean that the demands of its population are less than what it can provide and the population and lifestyle of Australia is sustainable?

  • Ahmed Pathan

    I noticed that Australia wasn’t mentioned on the second infographic The problem as I see it is Government are too beholden to the big companies that dont want to change to be more environmentally friendly. This seems to be true all over the world and in most cases simply means legalised corruption

  • Iluzia

    its simple, let us all say fück babylon, leave our home go live in nature (as in forrest) let our buildings fall and regrow forrest.

  • Anthony

    I don’t necessarily see this as we need to consume less. I think it shows that we drastically need to change HOW we produce what we consume. For example I’m utterly amazed solar isn’t our primary power source when the earth recieves enough energy from the sun in just a few seconds to power all of humanity for a fI’ll year.

  • Stevo

    Sam Parrott.. Don’t think we in New Zealand are not in this because we fit into our country, that we live better than others. Here is a quote from the ‘Encyclopedia of new Zealand
    “An ‘ecological footprint’ is a measure of the area of land and sea area required to support the lifestyle of a country’s population, including the absorption of its carbon dioxide emissions. In 2008 New Zealand’s footprint was 7.7 hectares per person, the sixth highest in the world. The global average was 2.7 hectares, the United States’ was 9.4 hectares and China’s was 2.1 hectares.”

  • BDA

    Australia doesn’t appear in the second infographic because there are 23 million people sustained by an entire continent. The countries depicted in the second graphic have large populations and comparatively far less land to grow crops, mine for resources, etc; and subsequently rely upon the surplus production of resources from neighbouring nations like Australia to sustain themselves.

  • Dimitri

    The reason why Australia is nit on the second is that the country has a huge suface compared to the population. So even Australia is not a sustainable country, it can provide what the population need, wich doesn’t mean it’s good, that’s why the first list show the truth as if everybody consum as an average Australian does we would need 5.4 times the surface of our planet.

  • Gabriela Larrosa

    why we always need to blame the “Governments “, lets take part of the responsibility, we put those “Governments” there. Of course they take bad decisions, but we need to start at home with the changes, think how you can help to save the planet. This idea is not an idea any more, is a fact , if we are not doing something quick (even a little) every day to save Nature, probably we are going to finish like the movie WALL-E.

  • Real Lehoux

    The problem is that our leaders are more misleading by thinking politics of self interests, greed and power instead of foresight and wisdom. Each country is thinking of self serving benefits and afraid that if it does follow the path of more eco sustainable politics they will lose more than gain and give advantage to other countries…The perfect storm for our doom is building and the voice of reason as usual is lost to those who prefer to stay oblivious of the imminent disaster.

  • Jmz_p

    What the Earth needs is a good global catastrophe! Thin out the population and start over.

  • Nicole

    Why is Canada not on the list?

  • David Maxwell Braun

    Canada is not on the list because it said that its biocapacity exceeds its ecological footprint of consumption. That might be mostly because the population of Canada is relatively small for the physical size of the country. Canadians are consuming less than their country’s ecosystem naturally renews in a year.

  • David Maxwell Braun

    Canada is not on the list because it is said that its biocapacity exceeds the ecological footprint of human consumption. The Canadian population is small relative to the country’s size, so the geographic territory is able to renew more than what humans consume from nature in a year.

  • Ville Siitonen

    Would love to know the statistics for Nordic Countries such as Finland and Sweden, in case you have data on them?

  • Kieran

    I’m interested to know exactly what industries and activities that are used to measure unsustainability. Ie. Do Australians take really long showers and leave lights on all night? The trouble with leaving a report at this level of ambiguity is that the reader has no advice on taking positive action, all that’s permitted is blaming and griping.

  • Pauline

    Maybe if we stop the factory farming of cattle ect, we wouldn’t need so much land and water to feed (and kill) them. We would use the land to feed us. Surely this is one of the biggest impacts on our ecosystem?

  • David Maxwell Braun

    Cutting meat consumption would help, in part because of the enormous amount of feed required to raise livestock. A focus on solutions, and what we could do about the situation in a positive way, is a good idea. We will look into producing such a feature. I will let you know about the Nordic countries mentioned. db

  • Tash

    I feel ashamed as an Australian that our government and people care so little and have such little respect for the land on which we live. It’s sad that we can’t see beyond the rosy tinted glass the politicians of our country has conveniently created for us.

  • Francis Noel-Hudson

    Neo-liberalism ! Is that not THE cancer consuming the whole world ? Thinking about problems, making decisions and getting things done is no longer the burden of governments who abdicate their responsibility. It is left increasingly to private companies. Their only interest is their own enrichment. Additionally Directors are under legal obligation to maximise profit, this year, for the share holders holders. Next years problems are for somebody else to deal with… Corruption is so endemic, everyone assumes it’s normal. This trend has accelerated with the proliferation of so-called ‘free-trade’ deals that companies squeeze out of politicians who are too week to resist. It’s as if some people actually want global civil war. We have to control companies but they are doing everything to escape ANY control whatsoever. Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Saunders provided a brief glimpse of what we could have had. Youngsters were drawn to them in millions. Maybe there’s hope. But more people need to know what neo-liberalism is. It has nothing to do with being liberal.

  • Sanjay

    Our ancestors taught us to use only that is required. Today the manufacturers push more than one required and people without thinking long term accepts what is pushed. We all are in to a vicious cycle of keeping the economies vibrant by manufacturing more and more, pushing to the consumer more and more so that industry runs and economy remains vibrant. The human race has no idea where are they heading. How much far away have they gone from conserving the nature. We have so far not cared. But its about time to wake up.

  • jesse

    hi guys

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