Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. We maintain this deficit by liquidating stocks of resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Not all countries consume the same 

Today, the majority of countries in the world are running ecological deficits, using more natural resources than ecosystems within their borders can regenerate. Others depend heavily on resources from elsewhere, which are under increasing pressure. In some areas of the world, the implications of ecological deficits can be devastating, leading to resource loss, ecosystem collapse, debt, poverty, famine, and war.

If the whole world consumed like Italy, Earth Overshoot Day would fall on 13 May this year. If it consumed like Qatar, Earth Overshoot Day would have already fallen on 9 February. Like Indonesia, it would fall on 18 December.

An anniversary that always plays in advance

While economies and populations grow, the size of Earth remains the same.

Since 1961, humanity’s demand on resources has gone from being within the means of what nature could support to significantly over budget. Our planet went into global overshoot in the early 1970s. 

Over time, Earth Overshoot Day has inexorably shifted, anticipating the day when humanity ends up indebted to the future by consuming more resources than the Earth makes available annually. It fell on 29 December in 1970, 4 November in 1980, 11 October in 1990, 23 September in 2000, 7 August in 2010, 22 August in 2020.

Ecological Footprint 

The Ecological Footprint measures how much demand human consumption places on the biosphere. It is measured in standard units called global hectares. 

Italy ranks 15th in the world for its total ecological footprint (in global hectares). While the top 10 places are China, the United States, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Germany, Mexico and South Korea.

The large share of the carbon footprint

A major component of the Ecological Footprint is the carbon Footprint, which represents the land area required to sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Today, the carbon Footprint makes up 60% of humanity’s total Ecological Footprint and is the leading driver of climate change, which is the most pervasive result— together with biodiversity loss—of our ecological overspending.

While Italy’s carbon footprint equates to 2.72 global hectares per person, the global average is 1.69 hectares, ranging from 6.87 in the United Arab Emirates and 5.74 in the United States to 0.26 in Kenya and 0.05 in the DRC.

How much land would we need if…

The estimated level of resources and ecosystem services needed to sustain human activities today is 1.7 Earths. If the world consumed like Italy, we would need 2.8 Earths. If we lived by the standards of the United States, 5 Earths; Australia, 4.6; Russia 3.4.

What can we do?

The impacts of ecological overspending are already evident in soil erosion, desertification, deforestation, rapid species extinction and rising carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. Staying on this course will increasingly jeopardise the well-being of many of the planet’s inhabitants.

Five key areas define our long-term trends and there it is crucial to act to move the date forward as all of them are shaped by our individual and collective choices: how we help nature thrive, how we design and manage cities, how we power ourselves, how we produce, distribute, and consume food, how many of us there are.

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