Earth Overshoot Day: The Sacrifice of Our Planet Continues

22 Aug 2020

Today, August 22, is Earth Overshoot Day, the day humanity runs out of all available resources produced by the Earth for the entire year. It’s the yearly reminder that the resources at our disposal aren’t infinite. And above all, they don’t belong to us.

For a moment, during the months of lockdown, it seemed that the Coronavirus had managed to give our planet some respite. The quality of the air had improved, animal species, even those on the verge of extinction, were returning shyly in cities and countryside finally free from humans, and even the waters of our seas, thanks to the reduction of wave motion, had returned cleaner.  width=

Covid-19: year zero for a new collective ecological awareness or yet another wasted opportunity?

This year, in contrast with the past but perhaps without too much surprise, the start date of our ecological debt to the planet arrives three weeks later than expected: the global stop imposed by the pandemic has reduced our ecological footprint by 9, 3%. However, the effects tell the consequences of the global economic crisis and not those of a conscious transformation of our consumption patterns.

Sustainability: a long-term challenge

The Global Footprint Network, the international non-profit organization that promotes sustainable and more conscious lifestyles through the improvement of the ecological footprint, shows how humanity is currently consuming the resources of 1.6 times planet Earth.

“Sustainability requires both ecological balance and people’s well-being ensured over the long-term, therefore this year’s sudden Ecological Footprint contraction cannot be mistaken for progress,” said Global Footprint Network CEO Laurel Hanscom. “This year more than ever, Earth Overshoot Day highlights the need for strategies that increase resilience for all.” width=

Not a wonderful world

As we can see from the graphs, the main world economies have on their shoulders the responsibility for the wicked and not at all sustainable policies they have been implementing for years, increasingly compromising the future of the new generations.

For example, China, the USA, and India together globally impact almost as much as the rest of the world. Similarly, if the entire world population lived at the pace of the United States, today we would need the resources of five times planet Earth. 4,1 Earths would be needed for Australia, 3,2 for Russia, and 2,7 for the UK. The lowest impact comes from the least developed countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific islands.

Slow Food’s commitment toward our planet

Food systems use 50% of our planet’s biocapacity and, for this reason, it’s particularly important to pay attention to what we eat and to policies that aim to reduce the carbon intensity of food and the impact of food production on biodiversity: in fact, reducing food waste by half would mean delaying Earth Overshoot Day by 13 days.

Slow Food has promoted for 30 years a lifestyle and food choices that can significantly reduce our impact on the planet. Protection of biodiversity and considered choices that allow us to reduce pollution and harmful emissions are behaviors that we can all adopt every day, thus also preserving our health.

Together: the only possible change!

Global overconsumption began in the early 1970s. Now, the cumulative ecological debt is equivalent to 18 Earth years. In other words, it would take 18 years of our planet’s entire regeneration to reverse the damage from the overuse of natural resources. Reversing this destructive trend is possible, provided that this happens at the community level, and that the challenge of economic recovery pushes national governments to build a more sustainable future.

If Earth Overshoot Day could be postponed by five days each year, humanity could live within the capacity of our planet before 2050. Each of us can contribute in a small way by buying local foods, which follow the season, and are produced according to agroecological techniques. We can – and must! – avoid all forms of waste, refuse meat from intensive farming, and avoid processed foods and industrial products as much as possible. Of course, it’s not enough: we ask the institutions to intervene, to support farmers in the transition to agroecology, and build a future that is truly healthy for us and for the children who grow up today threatened by climate change and the global crisis.

Only together we can make that change that can no longer wait!

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