This year it looks like we’re going to hit Earth Overshoot Day – the estimated date when the global demand for renewable resources and waste assimilation exceeds what the planet can provide – around August 19. According to economists at the Global Footprint Network, the world reached this milestone on August 22 in 2012, but it’s been arriving earlier each year for several decades and there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue.

To get a sense of the trend, I plotted it up and was surprised to see how strong and linear it is (below). The slope of the line (-3.6) indicates that Overshoot Day has been arriving almost 4 days earlier each year since 1975, when it first fell within a year. If that rate continues, it will fall on January 1 around 2078, which is only 65 years from now. That’s a shocking prediction, partly because it reflects a time when the Earth’s capacity for renewal and assimilation will be completely accounted for. It is also on a time scale that people can relate to. It says that a world that is continuously ‘living beyond its means’ is not more than a century away; it could show up within the span of a human life. 

Overshoot Day is a reminder that the world continues to go down an unsustainable path, so it’s a day worth noting. This year, on August 19, I’m going to stop, take some deep breaths, and renew my appreciation for clean air, the prairie sky and other things the world provides. I figure that’s a good place to start.

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