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Green Is The New Black

It is No Longer Acceptable to Remain Ignorant of Earth Overshoot Day

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earth overshoot day green is the new black

Consumerism is at its worst, we have basically robbed the Earth of its natural resources for the year 2022, and it seems like we don’t care that we did. Data collected since 1971 has helped in defining an annual ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ – and this date is climbing up the calendar at an alarming pace. It landed on December 25th in 1971 to July 28th in 2022. Here’s the 101 on Earth Overshoot Day.

In simple terms, to overshoot means to exceed. In terms of supply and demand, Earth Overshoot Day occurs when humanity’s forecasted demand for Earth’s natural resources exceeds the planet’s ability to supply them for a particular year. 

Once upon a time the most commonly accepted definition of sustainability was as defined by the United Nations Brundtland Commission, in 1987: meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Yet we have surpassed a tipping point where we are unable to sustain our own demands; forget about the future generations’. Evidently, within half a century, consumerism, commercialism, and capitalism have wreaked havoc on ecological equilibrium, and humanity is now living on credit. 


earth overshoot day green is the new black

Calculating Earth Overshoot Day

Earth Overshoot Day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network (GFN), an international research organization. This seemingly impossible calculation was first conceptualised in partnership with Andrew Simms, a Fellow of the UK think tank, New Economics Foundation in 2006.

By their definition: Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth regenerates during the entire year. The mathematical formula boils down to a deceptively simple division and multiplication. It is calculated by dividing the planet’s biocapacity by humanity’s ecological footprint, and multiplying that by 365. 

The GFN measures this ecological wealth in a manner similar to a bank statement’s income (biocapacity) and expenditure (ecological footprint) records. 

Mid-read glossary: Biocapacity and Ecological Footprint

According to the GFN, biocapacity is an ecosystem’s ability to produce biological materials for human use and absorb waste material generated by humans. In layman’s terms, a city, state, or country’s biocapacity is the bio-productive land and sea area like agricultural and grazing grounds, forests, coastal fishing regions that can be used by civilization, based on the yield generated per hectare. It is obvious that biocapacity can neither be uniform across the globe nor across time; as consumption is constantly increasing and natural real estate is on the dwindle. 

This brings us to ecological footprint, the measure of a population’s demand on Earth’s resources to use as food, fibre, construction material and space for infrastructural development. This also includes available forest land to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Both biocapacity and footprint are usually expressed in global hectares (gha), wherein 1gha is equivalent to 10,000 square metres. 

Why overshoot days aren’t uniform across different countries

In the GFN’s list, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe are just a few of the Global South’s countries that do not have an Overshoot day. On the other hand, Qatar and Luxembourg exceeded their yearly quota of renewable natural resources in less than two months, marking their individual overshoot days on February 10th and 14th respectively. 

How does this make sense? It goes back to the formula. Countries whose ecological footprint per person is less than the global biocapacity per person (currently at 1.6gha) – will not observe an overshoot day, and can boast an ‘ecological reserve.’ The opposite however makes a country run on an ‘ecological deficit.’ 



Varied geography and topography attribute to an imbalance in the availability of natural resources to a region. As developed, high-income nations deplete their rations at a faster rate, they import necessary materials by living off low-income nations. This means that while most countries in the Global South experience overshoot dates only towards the end of the year, the Global North’s consumption habits nullify their prolonged reserves and Earth Overshoot Day continues to climb up the calendar. 

The WWF indicated that we could soon require the resources of five planets to meet our demands, if the global population squandered natural supplies at the rate of the average American. 


Disclaimer: We shouldn’t consume data blindly

At present, some Nordic countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark as well as Switzerland have stellar reputations concerning sustainable initiatives, and even rank in the top 10 of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). However, their overshoot days in 2022 fell between March and May. 

No doubt, this data is cause for confused and skewed perceptions. The ugly truth is that past economies of these countries left a large dent on the planet’s resources; so now, and over time, they have had to sustain themselves through nations that always lived sustainably, following indigenous knowledge. 

In 2018, Bo Øksnebjerg, secretary-general in WWF stated: “In Denmark, we have an incredibly big and negative impact on the world. We simply pay the price of not having done enough for nature for the past many years. It is especially our agriculture, fisheries and CO2 emissions that are the major culprits.”

In similar regard, Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network spoke of Switzerland’s status in 2018. “While good efforts exist in Switzerland such as boosting thermal efficiency of houses or using electricity from hydropower, the country overall is still far from being planet compatible.” In 2018 Switzerland contained 0.99gha biocapacity per person while their footprint was 4.3gha per person. Of this demand, 26% was attributed to personal transport and 25.5% to food. To better visualise this data – Swiss food consumption habits alone required the capacity of more than one entire Switzerland, and the same applied to mobility. 

Tracing overshoot over the decades: Earth’s ecological deficit changes yearly

Half a century ago, the planet’s biocapacity was enough to meet human needs and wants. Since then, Earth Overshoot Day has been regular in depicting the shortening duration within which humans consume natural rations. As the date gets closer every subsequent year, the chasm between nature’s supply and humanity’s demands widens drastically. In the early 70’s it landed in December, in 2000 it hiked up to September and from 2005 to 2018 it stayed in August. 



However, a rare trend reversal was marked during COVID-19 in 2020, when Earth Overshoot Day moved back three weeks and was once again observed in August, instead of July; which is where it was in pre-pandemic 2019. A study by the GFN estimated that the pandemic had driven a 14.5-percent decrease in humanity’s carbon footprint compared to 2019. Unfortunately, this contraction has little to do with a change in mindsets regarding consumption and production, and everything to do with the economic lockdown brought on by the pandemic. The distressing takeaway from this once again veered towards planet vs. profit – with industrialists calling for an assignment of economic value to nature. 

“The deficit is getting bigger and bigger, and yet there has been no real jolt to the political system. Any delays in the yearly date have been incidental, not intentional. We observed an improvement during oil shocks, the pandemic, and financial crises.”  – Véronique Andrieux, director of WWF, France.

Can we #MoveTheDate

The future has never been more predictable. Environmental data is mined meticulously, with purpose, and is transported across the globe with a large bumper sticker that says – Earth is fragile, handle with care. Despite this, Overshoot Day ‘22 went by as just another date on the calendar and much of the world remained unaware of its significance. 

To many, this date is a symbolic representation of nature vs. nurture. And human nature is winning. Despite numerous solutions to mitigate climate change, we remain stuck in our capitalist mentality – commoditizing everything including nature. 

Through its Power of Possibility platform, the GFN highlights combat strategies to improve resource security in five key areas: planetcitiesenergyfood, and population. From designing smart cities to managing production and distribution of food, each action makes a signification contribution to #MoveTheDate. The platform lists solutions, their impact and their potential scalability. Some of which include rural solar power micro-grids, plant-based meals in canteens, short-chain food systems, government-funded decarbonisation and community-centred conservation, among many others.  

Laetitia Mailhes of GFN says, “If we could cut meat consumption by half, we could move the date of the overshoot by 17 days. Limiting food waste would push the date back by 13 days.” Even if we consume this data with a pinch of salt, it still advocates simple steps to mitigate and track our individual carbon footprints – for which there is an urgent need. 


FEATURED IMAGE: via via Unsplash | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: photograph by Bernd Dittrich, desert land and dying trees

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A pre-crastinator with a love for list-making, Aarushi pens down everything, including important conversations to reference later. A self-chat on Whatsapp is spammed with ideas for articles, blogs and notes on the next travel destination. She often visits smaller towns and villages across Europe and Asia in the name of bleisure - interviewing local craftspeople and sharing their stories on larger platforms. Her tryst with the fashion industry began after reading about the consequence of WWII on women's hemlines and skirt lengths. Since then she has been attracted to the socio-cultural and psychological aspect of fashion. Taking her responsibility to voice opinions on sustainability, diversity and craftsmanship quite seriously, she writes regularly for international publications.