On 4 May, Germany celebrates “Earth Overshoot Day“. A bitter “holiday”, especially for the climate movement, because from this day onwards the German population lives off resources that will not be produced at all this year.
Each hectare of land can only provide a certain amount of food and materials for production per year. As soon as this budget is exceeded, ecosystems start to suffer severe stress. Every year, the initiators of the Global Footprint Network from the United Kingdom calculate after how many days of the year the planet’s regenerative resources are used up. The result marks Earth Overshoot Day.
Humans need a second earth
Since 2006, the concept of “Earth Overshoot Day” exists. If global resource consumption is averaged across the entire world population, Overshoot Day 2023 is calculated to be 28 July. From that day on, humanity would need a second Earth to ensure its survival.
The Global Footprint Network’s calculation can also be applied to individual countries, because not every country needs the same amount of resources. Thus, Qatar’s Country Overshoot Day already occurred on February 10th. If all people lived as they do there, six Earths would be just enough to supply humanity per year. For the USA, the day was 13th of March, which can be converted to about four Earths per year. Germany still needs three: our Overshoot Day is on May 4th.
The date is calculated using a simple equation. Current data is used to determine the ecological per capita footprint in hectares of a country’s land area. The data required for this is collected and evaluated by the public platforms of the United Nations, but also via scientific publications. The value determined in this way is finally divided by the value for the global per capita biocapacity of the Earth, which is 1.6 hectares.
Ecosystems will no longer be viable
Not all countries have a Country Overshoot Day. Developing countries in particular do not exhaust their resources to the limit. Industrialised countries, however, tend to reach this day relatively early in the year, which is why the world’s population lives beyond its means on a global average. Unlike CO2 emissions, however, Overshoot Day is not just about how much is emitted and where, thereby driving atmospheric warming. Rather, the project shows which other ends humans could tighten in order to relieve the burden on our planet. While the observable weather and climate changes cause catastrophes such as storms, floods and droughts, the overexploitation of soils, waters and other ecosystems ensures their destruction. Thus, they will not be exploitable in the long run. Conversely, it will become increasingly difficult to grow food or to obtain materials for the production of necessary materials.
For the German climate justice movement in particular, the 4th of May is thus a sad day. Although German Overshoot Day has moved back at a rate of about one day a year in recent years, this is still far from enough. Globally, the day is also moving further and further towards January. So once again it becomes clear how far we are from a sustainable way of life. After all, the available resources must be sufficient for a world population that continues to grow demographically and economically.