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Today, August 2, marks Earth Overshoot Day, the day humans exceed the amount of resources Earth can generate to sustain the population for the entire year. This is the earliest, since 1969, the occasion has been marked. The date every year is calculated by comparing the total yearly consumption by humans — also known as our ecological footprint — with Earth’s ability to regenerate natural resources in the same year. According to an independent think-tank, Global Footprint Network, we currently require 1.7 Earths to sustain our demands.
In 1969, the first year in which the global footprint was calculated by the private organisation, it was in sync with the biocapacity and Earth could sustain our demands for just over the entire year. Since then, Earth Overshoot Day has gradually been advancing. In 2001, Earth Overshoot Day fell in October, while it advanced to September in 2009. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 3, while in 2015 it fell on August 5.
According to Global Footprint Network, which has listed solutions to help move the date back, cutting back on carbon emissions by 50 per cent will help move the date by nearly 89 days. Similarly, reducing global food waste by half can help move the date by 11 days. Eating less protein-intensive food can move Overshoot Day by a month.
Further, if we delay Earth Overshoot Day by 4.5 days every year, we could return to living within the means of one Earth by 2050. By overspending natural resources beyond its capacity to regenerate, we are causing deforestating, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Each country’s ecological footprint can be compared as well. As per the most recent data of 2013, it would take 3.1 Earths if everyone lived like the Swiss — using three times what is available for exploitation — as opposed to 0.6 Earths if people lived like Indians. If humanity was to live like Americans, we would require 5 Earths, as per the Global Footprint Network.