Humanity uses up full year's global resources by July, now living on credit

Science & Environment  Getty ImagesEyeEmBernt Ove Moss
JUL 28, 2022 LISTEN
© Getty Images/EyeEm/Bernt Ove Moss

Thursday 28 July is Earth Overshoot Day. By that date, humanity had consumed all the earth can sustainably produce for the entire year 2022, according to calculations made by the Global Footprint Network. Every year, the date of Overshoot Day advances inexorably.

"From 1 January to 28 July, humanity has used as much from nature as the planet can renew in the entire year. That's why 28 July is Earth Overshoot Day," said Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network.

He added: "The Earth has a lot of stock, so we can deplete Earth for some time but we cannot overuse it for ever."

Global Footprint Network said Earth Overshoot Day has fallen ever sooner over the last 50 years.

In 2020, the date moved back three weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, before returning to pre-pandemic levels.

If everyone lived like an American, the date would have fallen even earlier, on 13 March, Wackernagel added.

Agriculture and livestock farming singled out

The two NGOs Global Footprint Network and WWF point the finger at the food production system and its "considerable" ecological footprint.

"In total, more than half of the planet's biocapacity is used to feed humanity," they said.

"A large part of the food and raw materials are used to feed animals, animals that are consumed afterwards", exlained Pierre Cannet of WWF France.

In the EU, "63 percent of arable land . . . is directly associated with animal production", he added.

"Agriculture contributes to deforestation and climate change by emitting greenhouse gases, it results in the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems, while using a significant share of fresh water," the NGOs said.

Reducing meat consumption

Based on scientific advice, the two organisations recommend reducing meat consumption in rich countries.

"If we could cut meat consumption by half, we could move the date of the overshoot by 17 days," said Laetitia Mailhes of the Global Footprint Network.

"Limiting food waste would push the date back by 13 days, that's not insignificant," she added, noting that one-third of the world's food is wasted.