Earth Overshoot Day: How Do We Sustain Our Planet?

Today represents a stark reality on our planet. On July 29th, we reach Earth Overshoot Day - we find out how we can make sure this doesn't keep happening.

Earth Overshoot Day falls on July 29 this year. It marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what earth can regenerate in that year.

Nandita Bajaj, Executive Director, World Population Balance (WPB) believes that we should observe this day as one of the most significant days of the year, yet it’s a concept known to only a small minority of the population.

Based in Minneapolis, USA, WPB envisions a future where our human footprint is in balance with life on Earth, enabling all species to thrive. Its mission is to educate about the impacts of overpopulation on the planet, people, and animals, and offer solutions to address barriers to sustainable population.

Talking exclusively to Youth Time, in this interview Bajaj speaks more on the importance of the day, and elaborates on how young people can support this cause and live an eco-friendly lifestyle. 

She shares a very important tool for measuring your own personal Earth Overshoot Day –  Ecological Footprint Calculator.

Let’s see how WPB marks this day, how its work improves sustainability: planet, cities, energy, food, and population. Also let’s get inspired by Bajaj’s personal path in becoming an advocate for planetary justice.

 

Earth Overshoot Day

As we defined above, Bajaj says, Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s resource consumption (also known as our ecological footprint) for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year.

But, what does this exactly mean?

“It means that in less than eight months, we have already used up all the renewable resources that the planet can provide us for the entire year. 

“Overshoot results from too many people consuming too much energy and material resources,” she explains.

According to her, many other catastrophes that currently have our attention, such as climate change, resource scarcity, and deadly pandemics, are symptoms of our overshoot problem.

“Overshoot is the greatest existential threat for our planet, as we are literally consuming and polluting our own home from within, while also creating great suffering for human and non-human animals.”

“The more of us there are, the less planet there is per person and for wildlife,” she adds.

“With over 7.8 billion people on the planet and increasing consumption, humans are destroying wildlife habitats and driving massive plant and animal extinction.”

 

Youth Reducing their Ecological Footprints 

It is estimated that from the 7.8 billion people in the world today, 1.8 billion of them are young people – 90% of whom live in developing countries, where they make up a large proportion of the population.

Hence, Youth Time and Bajaj understand the importance of educating the youth to live a more ecological, eco-friendly lifestyle- they will be the ones educating future generations.

Among the steps one can take to reduce his/her own ecological footprint are moving to a plant-based lifestyle, taking fewer or no flights, not owning a car, and thinking deeply about your decision to have biological children.

Earth Overshoot Day How Do We Sustain Our Planet 1
Making Change: Nandita Baja

“Each new person added to a high-income country like ours has an ecological footprint equivalent to 10-15 new people added to a middle- or low-income country.”

Further, Bajaj invites you to take part in their new initiative that they are launching on Earth Overshoot Day called Small-Footprint Family, Whatever Family Means To You.

 

How Planet-friendly is Your Lifestyle?

According to the calculations from the Global Footprint Network, Bajaj emphasises, humanity’s current demand for resources requires 1.7 Earths.

“This is both a planetary and intergenerational justice issue, because we are stealing resources that should otherwise be budgeted for other species and well as future generations, such as yourselves,” she highlights.

Also, the rate of consumption of these resources is extremely unevenly distributed.

“High-income countries have a disproportionately high consumption rate compared to middle and low-income countries. There are many steps that we can take to reduce our individual and collective impact on the planet.”

We can make ecological footprint measurements for individuals, cities, states, and countries. 

To measure your own personal Earth Overshoot Day, you can use this Ecological Calculator, Bajaj adds.

 

Planetary Justice

Finally, she shares that she grew up believing that in order to be happy and successful in life, she needed to follow a specific path. 

“This path included finding a reputable job that would earn me a high salary, marry the right person, have children, own a house, a car, and other significant material possessions.”

However, over the last 10-15 years of uncovering these layers of personal and cultural conditioning, her own journey towards realizing what actually makes her happy, and her responsibility to other human beings, animals, and the environment, looks quite different.

“I left a highly reputable career in Aerospace Engineering to work in the fields of education and planetary justice. 

“My husband and I found that instead of having children, adopting a rescue animal in need made our lives complete and joyous. I also got rid of my car, adopted a vegan lifestyle, and gave up all non-essential flying.”, she says.

“Depending on our life conditions, everyone’s personal journey toward fulfilment and planetary justice will look different. 

However,” she goes on, “given the urgent nature of our planetary crisis, it is important to challenge the cultural, political, and economic systems that promote unsustainable human population and consumption at the expense of marginalised human communities, animals, and the natural world.

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Youth Time has elaborated some of the benefits of minimalist living

Achieving Success Through Minimalism: An Interview with Andrew Rocha

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