Earth Overshoot Day: COVID-19 has caused humanity’s Ecological Footprint to contract

COVID-19 has caused humanity’s Ecological Footprint to contract, pushing the date of Earth Overshoot Day back more than three weeks compared to last year.

The challenge of relaunching our economies presents countries with a unique chance to act on the future we want, according to campaigners. 

By August 22, humanity will have demanded as much from nature as Earth can renew in the whole year, according to Global Footprint Network.

Coronavirus-induced lockdowns caused the global Ecological Footprint to contract almost 10% but we still use as many ecological resources as if we lived on 1.6 Earths.

This year more than ever, Earth Overshoot Day highlights the need for strategies that increase resilience for all.

Global Footprint Network Global overshoot started in the early 1970s. Now, the cumulative ecological debt is equivalent to 18 Earth years.

This means it would take 18 years of our planet’s entire regeneration to reverse the damage from overuse of natural resources, assuming overuse was fully reversible.

Solutions suggest that it is possible to live within the means of our planet. If we #MoveTheDate 5 days each year, humanity would be using less than one planet before 2050.

Act on disruption

As public health and economic recovery have emerged as dominant concerns globally, decision makers are called to act on the unprecedented current disruption to build a future where all thrive within the means of our planet (“one-planet prosperity”).

“Sustainability requires both ecological balance and people’s well-being ensured over the long-term, therefore this year’s sudden Ecological Footprint contraction cannot be mistaken for progress,” said Global Footprint Network CEO Laurel Hanscom.

“This year more than ever, Earth Overshoot Day highlights the need for strategies that increase resilience for all.”

Global Footprint Network says many solutions exist that can be adopted at the community level or individually to ‘significantly impact’ the kind of future we invest in, one decision at a time: how we produce the food we eat, how we move around, how we power ourselves, how many children we have, and how much land we protect for wildlife. Reducing the carbon Footprint by 50% would move the date by 93 days.

Food systems

With food systems currently using 50% of our planet’s biocapacity, what we eat matters, Global Footprint Network says.

Policies aimed at reducing the carbon-intensity of food and the impact of food production on biodiversity – while improving public health – deserve ‘special attention’, it says in its  joint research between Global Footprint Network and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition.

Cutting food waste in half would move Earth Overshoot Day 13 days, it says.

Because we need to prepare for a world increasingly shaped by climate change and resource constraints, spells out what individuals can do, while the Footprint Calculator can help them measure their progress.


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