Humanity marks a dubious milestone on Thursday, the day humanity consumed all of Earth to produce sustainably for this year, with NGOS warning the rest of 2022 will be living in resource deficit.
The date – dubbed “Earth Overshoot Day” – marks a tipping point when people have used up “everything that ecosystems can regenerate in a year,” according to the Global Footprint Network and WWF.
“From January 1st to July 28th, humanity has consumed as much of nature as the planet can replenish in a year. That’s why July 28 is Earth Overshoot Day,” said Mathis Wackernagel, President of the Global Footprint Network.
He added: “Earth has many supplies, so we can deplete Earth for some time, but we can’t overstress it forever. It’s like money; we can spend more than we earn for some time until we are broke.”
It would take 1.75 earths to sustainably supply the world population, according to the measure that researchers developed in the early 1990s.
According to the Global Footprint Network, Earth Overshoot Day has been falling earlier and earlier over the past 50 years.
– Uneven load –
In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the date was pushed back by three weeks before returning to pre-pandemic levels.
The load is not evenly distributed. If everyone lived like an American, the date would have been even earlier, on March 13, Wackernagel said.
The two NGOs point the finger at the food production system and its “significant” environmental footprint.
“Overall, more than half of the planet’s biocapacity (55 percent) is used to feed humanity,” the two NGOs said.
“A large part of the food and raw materials is used to feed animals and animals that are subsequently consumed,” said Pierre Cannet of WWF France.
In the EU, “63 percent of arable land … is directly linked to livestock production,” he said.
“Agriculture contributes to deforestation, climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and ecosystem destruction, while consuming a significant share of freshwater,” the NGOs said.
Based on scientific advice, they advocate reducing meat consumption in rich countries.
“If we could halve meat consumption, we could push back the exceedance date by 17 days,” said Laetitia Mailhes of the Global Footprint Network.
“Limiting food waste would push the date back by 13 days, that’s not inconsiderable,” she added, while a third of the world’s food is wasted.
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