Every year, Earth Overshoot Day marks the day when humanity has consumed all the resources that the planet can produce over the entire year. This year it falls on 22 August. Laurel Hanscom, CEO of the Global Footprint Network, lays out five steps we must take to shrink humanity's ecological footprint.
This year, for the first time since overshoot started, Earth Overshoot Day has moved back over three weeks in a single year. Why? The international response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp contraction in our global Ecological Footprint. Given the drastic and tragic circumstances that led to it, this extraordinary shift is nothing to celebrate. On the contrary, we at Global Footprint Network envision a world where all thrive within the means of our one planet. Disasters like the pandemic are the antithesis of change that leads to good lives for everyone.
To achieve sustainability through forethought, careful planning, and bold actions, we identify 5 key solutions pillars. Each of them is supported by individual and collective actions that are interrelated and complementary. And each of them supports good lives for all.
Humanity’s quality of life is dependent on the health of our planet’s biological resources including fertile soil, clean water, and clean air necessary for humanity to thrive. Conservation, restoration, and regenerative practices strengthen our planet and humanity’s abilities to thrive.
How we design and build our cities is crucial. If we make them compact, bike and pedestrian centric, and efficient, cities can support great lives at a much lower footprint. City planning and urban development strategies are instrumental to balancing the supply of natural capital and population’s demand.
How we power ourselves. Is it with renewable energy? Or old dirty energy? Where our energy comes from makes a huge difference on how much pressure we put on our planet and its systems. Decarbonizing the economy is our best possible chance to address climate change and would improve the balance between our Ecological Footprint and the planet’s renewable natural resources.
How we feed ourselves. Today, half the planet’s biocapacity is occupied by food production. How we meet one of our most basic needs–food–is a powerful way to influence sustainability. Where our food comes from, how it gets to us, how it is produced, and what we eat all makes a difference.
How many we are. If there are more people, there is less planet per person. Being committed to everyone living secure lives in a world of finite resources requires addressing population growth. Empowering women is essential for global sustainability.
More and more, this year has shown us how much we rely on one another and how interconnected we are to one another and our planet. As Carolina Schmidt, Chile's Minister of the Environment and COP25 President, says: “By protecting ourselves, we also protect others.” Wear your mask, wash your hands, and get your community on board to build a future where we can all thrive.
Together we can #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day.
To learn more about what you can do to #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day, check out www.overshootday.org/solutions.
As CEO, Laurel Hanscom leads the overall operations and strategy of Global Footprint Network. Laurel is a member of Population Matters' Expert Advisory Group.
The views expressed in guest blog posts do not necessarily reflect the opinions and position of Population Matters.
Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our work.