Today is Earth Overshoot Day, the day when we as humanity have used as many resources as the earth can regenerate in a whole year. In other words, we live as if there were 1.75 Earths when we only have one. In the Netherlands, the day of the overexploitation of the land coincides with the nitrogen problem and the sky-high energy and food prices. No coincidence: Earth Overshoot Day is a reflection of global resource scarcity, excess emissions, massive declines in biodiversity and increasing competition for food and energy. Earth Overshoot Day emphasizes that we must accelerate energy and food transitions within the limits set by the planet if we want to keep our Earth habitable and affordable for future generations.
50 years of interrogation
Over the past 50 years, Earth’s congestion has grown at a rapid pace. Since North America and Europe began exceeding the ecological limits before 1970, we have reached deficits earlier and earlier, according to the Global Footprint Network. The consequences of this are becoming more and more noticeable with the increasing heat waves, droughts and floods worldwide. In the Netherlands, Overshoot Day fell on April 12 this year: in 2022 we will use the capacity of 3.6 Earths. When it comes to food, the situation for the Netherlands is even more extreme: the Dutch consume more than what seven Netherlands can produce. “But of course this is the world upside down,” says Mathis Wackernagel, founder of the Global Footprint Network Foundation and Earth Overshoot Day. “Our demand must match the earth’s capacity, not the other way around. That is why we are now faced with crises without parallel: in climate, biodiversity – and the energy and nitrogen crisis that is derived from this.”
Systems under pressure
The food and energy sectors are under enormous pressure. In addition, the war in Ukraine and Corona-related economic problems are exacerbating our vulnerability and dependence. Wackernagel: “What we know for sure is that the future will be shaped by more climate change and increasing resource scarcity.” We can only achieve food security if the soil where the food grows is healthy and there is a good ecological balance. Ecology, not economics, therefore determines our future prosperity. “It is time to move from measuring prosperity based on GDP to measuring well-being and ecological capital. Our systems are stuck, and it makes sense because the highest goal of quantitative growth is at odds with our inherently circular Earth.”
#MoveThe Date: no overexertion of Earth by 2050
Collaboration, system changes and use of (often already existing) solutions can reduce congestion. Reduction of our CO2emissions are crucial in this regard. Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten says: “Earth Overshoot Day underlines how urgent and necessary climate action is. It is quite clear that we have asked too much of our planet for a long time. And to turn the tide, we will need to produce , consume, travel and generate energy in a fundamentally different way. It’s happening step by step, which is why we work every day on policies that bring us one step closer to the goal: a prosperous, climate-neutral economy within the boundaries of the earth.”
The Global Footprint Network provides a platform with solutions on five themes, including food and energy. For example, food waste has a huge impact. If we cut it in half, Earth Overshoot Day will be moved thirteen days. And if we replace 50% of global meat consumption with plant-based options, Earth Overshoot Day shifts seven days in the right direction. Wackernagel: “There are many more examples. If we push the date back six days each year, we can master congestion by 2050.”