According to the organization “Global Footprint Network”, it would take 1.75 earths to cover our current consumption of resources. Unfortunately, we don’t have these – and so today all the resources that would be available to the earth for the entire year have been used up. From now on we live with nature on credit.
July 28th is Earth Overshoot Day. Every year, the Global Footprint Network calculates the day when all the resources that the planet could naturally replace in a year will be gone.
This means that the day is one day earlier this year than it was in 2021. 22 years ago it was still on September 23rd. According to the environmental organization Germanwatch, human consumption exceeded available resources for the first time in 1970.
Even if the date is more of a symbolic character, it clearly shows that humanity is living beyond its means.
The earth produces a variety of resources: clean water, food or air to breathe. These are supplied independently by the ecosystem and generated naturally.
But humanity, for example, emits significantly more carbon dioxide than forests can absorb. The result: the anthropogenic – man-made – greenhouse effect. The earth is warming and this favors natural disasters. These include the ones we are currently facing: heat waves and forest fires.
The past few decades could actually be interpreted as a success story for mankind: Technologization progressed, which raised the standard of education, food production increased, and health care improved.
At the same time, however, there is also a significant increase in species extinction and ocean acidification, a loss of biodiversity, an increase in the amount of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere and ongoing deforestation.
This explosive growth in various socio-economic, environmental, and geographic metrics has been dubbed “the great acceleration” by researchers. “Anthropocene” means the geological age in which humanity has the dominant influence on Earth.
The term “the great acceleration” comes from the international research program “International Geosphere-Biosphere-Program”. There, socio-economic trends were compared with ecological trends. It becomes clear: Our way of life damages our ecosystem and thus also ourselves.
The observations also make it clear that rich OECD countries have a particular responsibility. This has attracted more attention in recent years due to the notion of “climate justice”, a concept that views human-caused climate change as an ethical and political issue.
The consequences of global warming should be considered and compensated according to the polluter pays principle: Certain population groups, mostly from the Global South, contribute the least to climate change, but are often the most affected.
Therefore, Earth Overshoot Day also reminds us of the injustice people experience because of the way of life and the economy of the Global North.
The lifestyle of the Germans seems to be particularly resource-intensive: If the occurrences of the earth were distributed among the countries according to the inhabitants, Germany would stand out particularly badly. According to the Global Footprint Network, its share of the year 2022 would have been used up in May.
In order to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement and to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees, a variety of courses of action must be pursued. Science agrees on that.
Some fields of climate protection:
The numerous forest fires, the flash floods like last year in the Ahr Valley, the massive heat waves – even in the global North it is becoming more and more clear what threats mankind faces if global warming continues.
Not every catastrophic event involving fire, flood and heat may be linked to climate change, but it is certainly these catastrophes that will proliferate on a depleted, ever-warming earth.
The Earth Overshoot Day can therefore be understood as a reminder. If no action is taken now, the summers will get worse year by year. Or, to put it in the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: “Either we act together or we commit collective suicide.”