The Earth Overshoot Day is the considered as the day in each calendar year when we, humans, complete using all the resources that the Earth provides for an entire year. For the rest of the year, we use the resources that the planet should have saved for the next year. These include fresh water, breathable gases, crude oil among other natural resources essential for human life to continue on Earth. In short, after the Overshoot Day each year we are stealing the essential resources from the future.
Since 1983, the Earth Overshoot Day has steadily been moving closer to the start of the year. From mid-November in 1983 to end-July in 2019, the human population has been consuming resources at an average of 60% more than available. This resulted in an acute shortage in the visible future of the planet.
The data for the Earth Overshoot Day is calculated each year by the Global Footprint Network.
This year , the Earth Overshoot Day falls on August 22, a huge difference from the July 29 in 2019.
Owing to the global lockdown, there has been a three week extension in reaching the Earth Overshoot mark this year. And many conservationists now believe that the reduction of human interference has helped the planet ‘heal’ and social media has been flooded with a series of images of rare sights of animals claiming urban spaces around the world. The air has become cleaner, pollution levels have dropped, rivers are breathing easier and a general sense of ‘Earth is breathing easy’ was brought to the fore.
And now we know, that nothing was further from the truth. The need to constantly oversimplify the impact of climate change and global warming, has been such a deterrent to continued, constructive measures to actually save the planet. Go no further, if you would rather stick to the ‘feel good’ reports.
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Waste management took a serious hit, worldwide. With lesser staff to filter (don’t be shocked, India still relies heavily on human-sorting of garbage) the garbage, more and more toxic waste has found its way to the dumpyard. Around the world, a new item emerged as a serious threat, surgical mask.
The irresponsible disposal of waste has not stopped. The dumping of waste into rivers, seas and oceans has not stopped.
Food and plastic waste has shot up during the global lockdown and there are widespread reports of the same. Cling wrap and single use plastic are raising their ugly heads as well with paranoia gripping people as demonstrated in the race to hoard toilet paper. The full impact of loss of potable water remains to be seen.
Well, at least the “Earth is breathing easy” some would like to say. Is that true?
After the initial joy of celebrating a world with more access to animals and aquatic life taking it easy, disturbing reports of encroachment on forest lands and increase in poaching cases came to the fore.
The worst-affected, according to recent reports, was Siberia. The Siberian tundra, once the coldest regions of Russia, has not only reported the highest temperatures ever recorded but also, in a recent report, is engulfed in fire.
In the face of a global economic recession, countries are so focused on trying to save and rebuild their economies that making space for conservation efforts, climate resilience and renewable energy.
We may have extended our Overshoot Day by a few weeks but now is not the time to rejoice. This is the time to understand that sustainable living is no longer an option but the need of the hour.
— Text and video by Susmita Mukherjee