Every year, the “Overshoot day” (or “Earth’s Day of Exceeding”) marks the moment when humanity has consumed all the resources the planet is capable of renewing in one year. In other words, from this day onwards, we begin to draw on the ecological reserves of the future.
This concept, developed by the non-governmental organization Global Footprint Network, highlights humanity’s growing ecological footprint and the increasing challenges posed by the over-consumption of natural resources.
A complex calculation
The calculation of the Overshoot day is based on a comparison between the global ecological footprint and the earth’s biocapacity. The ecological footprint measures human demand for natural resources (such as food and energy) and the capacity needed to absorb the waste generated by this consumption. Biocapacity, on the other hand, represents the Earth’s regenerative capacity to produce these resources and absorb this waste.
When the ecological footprint exceeds biocapacity, we are living on ecological credit, consuming resources faster than they can be regenerated. The Overshoot day is calculated by converting this disparity into a date, indicating the moment when we begin to exhaust ecological reserves for the current year.
In 2023, this date falls on August 2. To regenerate what humanity consumes today would require the equivalent of 1.7 Earths in terms of surface area. And this varies from country to country. In France, this date falls on May 5. And that’s not good news: if all humanity lived like the French, we’d need 2.9 planets. Despite commitments made by political decision-makers, this date has been stagnating for years. If this date has fallen behind previous years, it’s simply because of a change in calculations.
The disastrous consequences of overconsumption
Overshoot Day is a powerful reminder of the consequences of overconsumption. Depletion of natural resources can lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, soil deterioration, water scarcity and increased carbon emissions. And all these phenomena contribute significantly to climate change and disruption.
In the long term, these problems are likely to worsen the living conditions of vulnerable populations, thus fostering a future climate refugee crisis, and directly threatening the stability of ecosystems.
To put off that day, we need to implement sustainable solutions to reduce our ecological impact, both collectively and individually. But above all, it’s up to political decision-makers and major corporations to act: without their collaboration, any radical change in lifestyle is impossible. Now is the time to promote hard environmental policies, in response to the increasingly serious problems directly threatening the future of generations to come. Our impact on the planet must be drastically reduced.
This annual date is an urgent reminder that our ecological countdown is accelerating. The time has come to reorient our consumption patterns towards more sustainable practices. Every day counts in the race to save our only home, the Earth.