May the 4th be with you, as Star Wars fans gleefully say to each other today, but it isn’t just Star Wars day. More ominously, it’s also Britain’s overshoot day. Or at least it was when it was calculated in 2017.
Every year humanity uses more resources than the earth is able to replenish in a given year – timber grown, fish caught, waste processed and CO2 absorbed. That consumption is very unequal, with some people using few resources, and others consuming far more than a sustainable share.
If everyone in the world consumed at the same rate as we do in Britain, we would overshoot the earth’s biocapacity on the fourth of May.
Japan, you’re tomorrow. France was yesterday, and there’s a longer list here. The earlier your nation’s overshoot day falls, the worse your environmental performance. Ideally you don’t want to be on the list at all, and that means that your consumption is sustainable.
Going into overshoot isn’t the same as ‘running out of resources’. It’s more like going into overdraft on your bank account. You can keep spending, but you’re digging a deeper and deeper hole in your finances. With the earth, it’s quite possible to use more resources than the planet can replenish, but it lowers regenerative capacity for the next year.
If we take a global perspective, the world’s overshoot day falls in August, and represents “the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate over the entire year.” The exact day will be revealed later this year, and there’s a contest to see if you can guess it correctly at overshootday.org. You can also work out your personal overshoot day here.
- feature image by Kristaps Grundsteins