Earth Overshoot Day

I was forwarded an email the other day that suggested I take a look at a website about something called Earth Overshoot Day. With a furrowed brow, a muffled “hmmm,” and a click of the mouse, I opened my browser to www.overshootday.org.

My eyes fell on the headline:

On August 8, 2016, we will have used as much from nature as our planet can renew in the whole year.

With raised eyebrows and a mumbled “wow,” I read the next sentence:

We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester.

I pondered that statement and decided to find out more about the enormity of its claim.

To begin, I discovered that the concept of Earth Overshoot Day was conceived by a chap named Andrew Simms, who was associated with the UK think tank, New Economics Foundation. The foundation found a partner, Global Footprint Network, and together in October 2006 launched the first Earth Overshoot Day campaign. Today, we’re talking August. It seems to me that we’re moving along on this path a bit fast.

Now I wondered how Earth Overshoot Day was calculated. I found that Global Footprint Network establishes the date for Earth Overshoot Day 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), then multiplying by 365 (the number of days in a year).


I’m not a math whiz, but I get the basic equation they use. It’s the quantitative measures – and where to find them – of supply and demand that I don’t quite grasp, so I dug deeper to gain a better understanding.

Neatly explained on the website, I learned that the Ecological Footprint measures demand for plant-based food and fiber products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure, and forest to absorb its carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.

From the supply side, a geographic area’s biocapacity represents its biologically productive land and sea area, including forest lands, grazing lands, cropland, fishing grounds, and built-up land.

Okay, good enough for me, but you can delve further into the details on the Earth Overshoot Day website.

This notable day provokes thought and recognition of the issues and challenges we face as stewards of a sustainable future.

If you’d like to get more involved, take some action. “Pledge for the Planet” to help reverse the trend of overshooting our planet’s resources.

As I read more about the method and reasoning of the date on the Global Footprint Network and Earth Overshoot Day websites, I became more aware of the need for adults and, maybe more so, school-aged kids to get a firm grip on what’s at stake in our quest for a sustainable future.

At Facing The Future, we fully support the efforts and goals of Earth Overshoot Day. As well, we support the efforts of teachers to inspire students to think about how their solutions-oriented approach to take action can have a local as well as global impact.

Engaging Students Through Global Issues champions student exploration of interrelated global issues such as climate change, biodiversity, energy and population, through hands-on activities, real-world examples and student-in-action profiles.

Greater awareness and comprehension at all levels of education can help put the date of Earth Overshoot Day in full retreat.

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