We've Already Used Up The Planet's Resources For The Year (And It's Only August)

Photo by Andrey Pavlov

We're only 212 days into 2018, but theoretically we've already used up all the resources that the planet has to give this year. This pivotal moment, dubbed Earth Overshoot Day, continues to come earlier and earlier every year.

To determine the date, the Global Footprint Network calculates the demand that humans are placing on the planet and compares it to the planet's capacity to give, based on data from organizations like the United Nations, the International Energy Agency, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the 12 years that the group has been calculating Earth Overshoot Day, it has seen it go from falling on October 9 to August 1—an ominous sign for the future of our planet.

"You can't spend 70 percent more than what you earn forever," Mathis Wackernagel, Ph.D., founder and CEO of the Global Footprint Network, told mbg when we caught up with him about this year's overshoot day. While he says that the rate of our resource consumption continues to slow down, it's still increasing year after year (last year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 2). The four major areas that Wackernagel and his team have identified as major factors in this trend are urban sprawl and transportation, electricity generation, food, and family planning and overall population.

He explained that although we are making real progress across these key areas, we still have a long way to go—and the United States isn't helping push Earth Overshoot Day back much. According to the network's calculations, if everyone in the world lived like the average American, it would fall on March 15 every year. Eek! Comparatively, if we all lived like the Swiss, it would occur on May 7, like the Brits and it would fall on May 8, and if we consumed like the Vietnamese we would make it all the way to December 21.

Though these numbers can be distressing, Wackernagel doesn't intend for them to make people feel guilty or helpless. "The point is to provide information that we hope is empowering," he says. This year, events to call attention to the day will take place around the world. Anyone in Times Square in NYC today, for example, will be met by a big screen broadcasting livestreamed video from environmental leaders from around the world, including representatives from the U.N. and WWF.

You can calculate your own personal overshoot day here, and check out these resources from mbg's Planet section to lessen your impact a little:

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