Science | July 28, 2022 1:03 pm

Today Is “Earth Overshoot Day,” Which Is Not a Cause for Celebration

Arriving earlier than ever, July 28 marks the time when humans have used up "all that ecosystems can regenerate in one year"

Activists of Extinction Rebellion demonstrate on "Global Earth Overshoot Day" with a symbolically "burning" globe in front of the Brandenburg Gate. The environmentalists drew attention to the day on which, according to their calculations, all renewable resources in the current year would be used up
Activists from Extinction Rebellion demonstrate on "Global Earth Overshoot Day" in 2020.
Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty

The sustainability think tank Global Footprint Network has marked July 28 as Earth Overshoot Day, the day when “humanity has exhausted Earth’s budget for the year.” And by budget, they mean the biological resources that the planet can regenerate during the entire year.

“For the rest of the year, we are maintaining our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” they write. “We are operating in overshoot.”

When measured in 1971, this day would have arrived in late December. July 28 is the soonest this overshoot estimate has arrived on record (there was a slight bump backwards in the calendar in 2020 because of the pandemic and many people staying at home).

So who’s at fault? Well, look in the mirror. As notes, if everyone lived like an American, the theoretical overshoot date would have fallen on March 13. Most of the blame in this framework centers on the food production system (translation: we should really be eating less meat).

“If we could cut meat consumption by half, we could move the date of the overshoot by 17 days,” says Laetitia Mailhes of the Global Footprint Network (decreasing food waste would add another 13).

The GFN outlines five key areas — healthy planet, cities, energy, food, and population — where people and, more importantly, countries and governments can make a difference, and suggests several action plans centered around decarbonization, plant-based meals, emissions standards, smart cities, wind turbines and more.