What is Earth Overshoot Day and why should you care?

by Nati

The 29th of July it’s Earth Overshoot Day 2021: the day when we (all of humanity) have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. Basically that means that from that date until the 31st of December, we are in debt with our planet. We will have busted the Earth’s entire budget with still 5 months to go.

This short video explains what Overshoot Day is:

It’s not that difficult to realize that this is an unsustainable situation. The last time we were almost within the boundaries of the planet dates back to the 70’s (earliest data available at Global Footprint Network).

Here is how fast we started to put too much pressure on the planet:

1970: December 29th

1985: November 4th

2000: September 23rd

2015: August 6th

2018: August 1st

2019: July 29th

2020: August 22nd

2021: July 29th

In less than 50 years we went from living (almost) sustainable to a situation where after 6 months and 28 days we have used up more resources than available, causing deforestation, overfishing, global warming and biodiversity loss, amongst other things. That is not something to be happy about. And even the disaster of the coronavirus couldn’t push back the date far enough. In 2020 Earth Overshoot Day briefly got pushed back, only to jump to the same level as in 2019 a year later.

Who is causing the Earth Overshoot Day?

We. Humans. All of us. But honestly, some of us a little, or a lot more than others. The Global Footprint Network, the organization behind Earth Overshoot Day, does not only calculate the Global Earth Overshoot Day, it does so per country:

Country Overshoot Days 2021


Copyright: Global Footprint Network

It is clear to see that some countries are doing much better in taking care of our planet than others. And yes, many of the countries that are NOT doing well, are Western, ‘developed’ countries. One might wonder how developed we are if we are not able to live within the means of the only home we have…

Note: The Country Overshoot Day of The Netherlands, my country, was on April 27th (in 2020 it was on May 3rd, so no progress there).  I am sorry on behalf of all the Dutchies, dear planet Earth.

By the way, you can also calculate your Personal Overshoot Day. This shows you how many Planet Earths we would need if everyone in the world would live like you.

What can I do to push Earth Overshoot Day back?

I am positive that we do not need a pandemic to push back the date. There are so many things we can do ourselves. This low impact bucket list will help you get started. It includes actions like taking a vegan challenge, downsizing your wardrobe and preventing food waste. Another very useful source is the official Overshoot Day website, you’ll find a lot of ideas about what you can do to push back Earth Overshoot Day. 

Share your steps on social media with #movethedate to inspire others. If we are able to push back the date 5 days each year, in 2047 we will live within the boundaries of our planet again. I am going to be only 62 years old by then, so I would LOVE to see this happening. Let’s do it!

Originally published on August 1st, 2018. Last update: July 23rd, 2021

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