Today marks Earth Overshoot Day, and in case the name didn't give it away, it's not an occasion to whip out the streamers and celebrate.
Falling on a different day each year, it marks the point that world's demand for ecological services officially exceeds what the planet can provide annually. In other words, it's 212 days into 2017 and we've already used up the natural resources that are supposed to last us all year. At this rate, we'd need 1.7 Earths to sustain the food, fiber, and fuel we're burning through.
Though people only started acknowledging this bleak occasion in 2006, the Global Footprint Network—the international think tank that crunches these numbers—has used historical data to retroactively calculate when the day would have fallen in the past. Unsurprisingly, it has crept up on us earlier and earlier each year as the global population continues to grow. However, the last few years have shown progress: There's a 13-day difference between where Earth Overshoot falls now compared to 10 years ago, while there was a 45-day difference over the 10 years before that. This volatility is due in part to disasters like recessions and oil crises, but the steadying carbon footprints of major world powers thanks to a decreased reliance on coal also play a role in evening things out.
"In the U.S., for instance, we have a very high level of consumption, but even though the economy is now larger than it was 10 years ago, the footprint is smaller per capita," Mathis Wackernagel, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of the Global Footprint Network tells mbg. The four major areas that the Network have identified as contributing to this global footprint are urban sprawl and transportation, electricity generation, food, and family planning and overall population.
In order to keep Earth Overshoot Day day from arriving any earlier come 2018, we all need to take actions that reduce our strain in these key categories. Here are some top tips on how to do so, straight from mbg's climate experts: