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Earth Overshoot Day: A tipping point for the planet?

Earth Overshoot Day marks a point when people have used up all natural resources that ecosystems can regenerate in one year. 2022 could be even worse

A cow walks through a field as an oil pumpjack and a flare burning off methane and other hydrocarbons stand in the background in the Permian Basin in Jal, N.M., Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (AP)

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Ever wonder what people mean when they say things like, ‘We’re using up the resources of the future' or why the young generation keeps protesting for their environmental rights? That is because to sustain our present we are, in fact, trampling on the resources of the future. Simply put, we're living on borrowed time.

You might see a lot of posts and news on social media bout ‘Earth Overshoot Day’. Here's what it means and why it is important that more and more people know about it. “Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth regenerates during the entire year,” according to the website Today, 28 July, a little more than halfway through the year, is the day that humanity has used up all the biological resources the planet had generated for this year. Last year, this day fell on 29 July.

According to an AFP report, the date marks a tipping point when people have used up "all that ecosystems can regenerate in one year", according to the NGOs Global Footprint Network and WWF. Both the NGOs warned that the rest of 2022 will be lived in resource deficit, the AFP report adds.

Also read: G20 citizens admit Earth is approaching severe tipping points

How is the date predicted and what do the numbers say?

Earth Overshoot Day is predicted 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 it by 365, the total number of days in a year. Each year, this date falls sooner and sooner. The last time we used up resources within the allotted amounts was in the year 1970, when Earth Overshoot Day arrived on 29 December. Here is a representation of when the day has been arriving since then (see chart below).

By 2030, we would have run out of resources by the end of June
By 2030, we would have run out of resources by the end of June (Source: National Footprints and Biocapacity Accounts 2022 Edition)

Why is this day significant?

Earth Overshoot Day is significant because, since the late 1900s, this day has been arriving earlier and earlier every year. Essentially, humans have been using up the resources that the planet can produce faster than ever before. At the current rate of consumption of resources and generation of waste, we would need 2 Earths to sustain us by the end of this decade. Unfortunately, we have only one.

What can we do?

#MoveTheDate is the official tagline given to actions that promote the judicious use of natural resources and help in moving the date that Earth Overshoot lands on further. Around 60% of all of humanity's ecological footprint is carbon. We begin by keeping our carbon emissions to a minimum.

There are a bunch of resources available on on how we can contribute at state, city and even individual levels to keep our consumption and emissions in check. With miniscule changes – beginning with the kind of food we consume (vegetarian instead of meat, for example, in some cases) to the source of energy we use (renewable instead of non-renewable), humans can drive positive change to #MoveTheDate.

Also Read: A scorched Earth and boiling seas

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