Earth Overshoot Day falls three weeks later this year – but are we really making progress?

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date on which humanity has used up all of the natural resources that the Earth can regenerate each year. This year, the date falls on 22 August, just three weeks later than last year’s 29 July, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that progress has been made.

According to the Global Footprint Network (GFN), the delayed date is a direct result of the national lockdowns seen across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic, which brought production to a halt in many sectors.

The two leading drivers behind the shift in growth of humanity’s ecological footprint are a decrease in wood harvest, and reduced CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption. However, GFN warns that this shift should not be considered as tangible progress, believing it is ‘a far cry from the intentional change which is required to achieve both ecological balance and people’s well-being, two inextricable components of sustainability’.

Humanity first fell into an ecological deficit in the early 1970s, and this has been steadily growing ever since – currently, we are using 60 per cent more than what can be renewed, the equivalent to 1.6 Earths.

Whilst major areas of ecological consumption have fallen, the global food footprint appears to have escaped the pandemic unscathed. The global food system suffered serious disruptions this year, including a temporary shutdown of food services and the impossibility for migrant food workers to cross borders, but food waste has continued to rise, along with malnutrition.

GFN, working with Czech partner Mapotic, has developed a new solutions platform to help #MoveTheDate – users can use the platform to share their methods with others, either personal actions or community projections, in a variety of categories including energy, cities, food, nature and human development. The Overshoot Day website also features a portfolio of suggestions to help people reduce their ecological footprint.