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Earth Overshoot Day Arrives Earlier Than Ever

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...

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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.

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“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.

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Briefings:

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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Meet the Author

Author Photo David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max 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. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed 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. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn