A Look Into Earth Overshoot Day


As a growing population, we are responsible for understanding our impact on the environment, and although the environment has been a growing concern over the past several years, there are still many unique areas of study that we may not be aware about. If you are anything like me, you are probably wondering what Earth Overshoot Day even is about. To understand what Earth Overshoot Day is, we must first know about ecological footprints: a measure of the land and water that is used to produce resources and handle waste for each individual in hectares. Each footprint is put into more relative terms such as the amounts of “Earths” that are required to support a certain lifestyle. 

Earth Overshoot Day describes the particular day where, due to human activities across the globe, we demand more resources than our environment can resupply. The Global Footprint Network, an environmental resource organization, divides the ecological footprints of Earth’s inhabitants by our planet’s total biocapacity to find the exact day of the year that overshoot day lands on. 

The earlier this day is in a year, the worse off our environment is. For 2020, Earth Overshoot Day landed on August 22nd. This may not sound alarming considering there is still time before this day hits January, but half a century ago, this day fell on December 29th. At this rate, Earth Overshoot Day may approach January within the next 50 years. 

To understand what we as a school can do to move back the date, we should be aware of the factors that contribute to the progression of earlier overshoot days: our planet, food, cities, energy, and population. 

The planet factor concerns the biological resources that are necessary for our life support systems, including the food, water, fertile soil, and clean air that make up our biocapacity. In Australia, a lack of legal regulations along with overfishing practices by recreational fisheries has caused the Great Barrier Reef to decline in condition. Though this is one of many problems we face by not taking care of our surroundings, a few ways we can improve the planet is by restoring ecosystems, practicing regenerative agriculture, fishing sustainably, and strengthening park systems at county, state, and national levels. 

The food factor involves reducing resource inefficiency in food production and eliminating as much food waste as we can. 

“We can really easily cut back on saving resources by eating less meat,” senior Wilson Su said. “If we instead invested all the food, water, and transportation [from eating meat] to ourselves, we could be saving a lot of energy and resources.” 

Taking up a vegetarian or Mediterranean diet may very well push Overshoot Day back by 2 weeks. 

Today, half of the global populace dwell in cities, which currently contribute to up to 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The cities factor regards the long-term movement of over seven-tenths of Earth’s population to urban areas in the next 30 years. To accommodate for this future influx of city residents, it is suggested that people and governments practice implementing energy-efficient buildings, compact cities, and clean, accessible methods of transportation to promote sustainable living standards.

Energy is just as it sounds. If we want to reduce our carbon footprint, which makes up 57% of humanity’s total ecological footprint, taking advantage of renewable sources of energy is the place to start. The main goal of this focus is to retrofit old energy generators and start phasing out the use of fossil fuels in our daily lives.

Population is the final factor that determines how early Earth Overshoot Day comes each year. Though there is no one solution to stabilize our numbers, we should aim to stay conscious about our growing population.

It is, however, worthwhile to note that “the overpopulation problem is super controversial” as said by AP Environmental Science teacher, Ms. Jennifer Bartlau, and we should still take time to “wrap [our] thoughts around potential solutions”.