Author: Divya Kasarabada
Earth Overshoot Day marks the day we use up all the resources the Earth can renew during the year. The faster we use up our resources, the earlier Earth Overshoot Day is. In 2022 levels of deforestation, fishing, farming, and burning of fossil fuels are increasing at an unprecedented level, bringing Earth Overshoot Day sooner in the year.
Since the industrial revolution, our global political economy has eaten up resources at an escalating speed, mostly via the four above-mentioned activities. The sharpest escalation has happened in the last fifty years: We have seen the Earth Overshoot Day move from December 30 in the 1970s all the way up till July 29 in 2019. It took the pandemic to move back the Earth Overshoot Day by three weeks.
How do we turn this temporary shift into something permanent?
While the pandemic caused a skyrocketing level of loss of human life, it also brought a lot of shifts in our lives. State and regional governments were willing to make unprecedented and dramatic changes to collective life from Shanghai to Sicily. For the first time in a long time, the question was asked: what really matters in our global economy?
The pandemic heralded changes that we never thought we could live with. With an overall reduction in human pace, the Earth Overshoot Day moved three weeks later than usual, all the way to August 22 in 2020. But a snap return to business as usual resulted in the Overshoot day arriving on Jul 29th in 2021 again.
We can’t rely on pandemics to bring our political economy within planetary bounds: but we can take inspiration from the way states and communities were able to take decisive action in order to defend life.
Call to the Nordics
A country overshoot day is a day on which Earth overshoot day would fall if our entire planet were to consume the way a certain country did. If the ecological footprint per person is more than the global biocapacity per person, then a country has an overshoot day.
What’s really important to note is that not all countries have an overshoot day! Countries like India and Cuba notably still survive without overconsuming resources.
*Numbers based on the year and data available at the time
All four Nordic countries have an overshoot day quite early in the year and are among the earliest 15 countries on the list. The population of the Nordics are sparse compared to countries like Qatar, Canada, the USA, UAE which are among the countries that have the earliest overshoot days in recent years.
How can this be happening when the Nordics are often ranked among the greenest countries in the world and recognised as sustainability leaders? The answer lies in how the data is collected: many emissions statistics only take into account resource use in the country itself, a measure that allows the Nordics to perform dazzlingly. What Earth Overshoot days take into account is our region’s dirty secret: overconsumption. Most of the resource depletion that we are responsible for happens through our food, clothes and mobile phones, produced for the most part in poorer regions of the world and then shipped here to be used and discarded.
With climate collapse intensifying, we have got to make this change. There are ways we can delay the overshoot day and for this, we all need to act together. No more business as usual: we need to slash all the major activities that contribute to an early overshoot day, even if it means stricter policies and laws down to the individual level.
Youth plays a crucial role
Here at ReGeneration 2030, we believe that youth play a critical role in pushing for change. With only 8 years left to achieve Agenda 2030, we must act at a speed that can save our planet. As a region together, we must focus on SDG 12: Sustainable production and consumption without using the excuse of the pandemic. We cannot wait for our leaders to act; we need to become them. On this note, we want to share some words from Keira Dignan, Secretary General of ReGeneration 2030:
"You need to join us, the generation of the future, in being brave and radical. It is time to ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Create more shared funds, and sustainable resources like community gardens, public transport, and local leisure. Make private overconsumption impossible. The window of opportunity to keep our planet inhabitable will close soon: act now or regret it forever."
Divya is an independent sustainability writer platformed by ReGeneration 2030. If you want to join our open platform and share your articles or creative texts with our community, drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.