Celebrate our Amazing Planet with Earth Overshoot Day
Earth Day might be the oldest environmental holiday, but saving the planet takes more than one day per year. That’s why environmental activists have devised so many other collective actions to remind Homo sapiens to take care of our habitat. In our Celebrate our Amazing Planet series, your kids will learn about the challenges affecting our environment and how they can be part of the solution.
The Earth contains many natural and renewable gifts that humans have learned to harness and use throughout history. We fish in rivers and oceans, harvest trees, and harness wind for energy, use natural rainfall to water our crops and emit carbon dioxide, which we exchange with trees for their expelled oxygen.
But our planet does not have eternal or limitless resources. Even those that are renewable have their limits. Earth Overshoot Day, also known as Ecological Debt Day, is more of a sobering reminder of this than an actual holiday, but its message is clear: We’re living in debt.
In 1961, humanity was consuming 86% of the resources that the earth produces in the year, meaning the planet had a 14% resource budget “surplus.” By the mid-1970s, the earth was at full resource capacity.
In 2016, our planet consumed 100% of the earth’s resource budget by August 8th; the rest of the year, we’re living in deficit, expending resources faster than they can be replenished. In fact, right now we need the resources of 1.6 Earths to cover the resources we consume from the environment. Since we only have one earth, this rate of consumption will ultimately lead to climate change, food shortages, and species extinction.
Scientists and economists from the World Footprint Network and the New Economics Foundation calculate when we will have used up Earth’s resources each year, and the results are frightening. Each year, Earth Overshoot Day is earlier than it was the last year. And on this day, we all need to face the question, “What can we do about it?”
Since the date changes every year, Earth Overshoot Day is really a time to reflect and advocate for change. Encourage your kids to keep track of the day on a calendar, setting a goal to reverse the encroaching dates within their lifetime, or at least to move towards a day when that date stands still.
The first thing you can do is learn which countries consume more than the earth’s allotment of resources. It’s not too hard to guess which ones are the worst offenders: Australia, the United States, Switzerland, South Korea, Russia, and Germany are at the top of the list.
Encourage your kids to learn more about how people live in places where they consume less than their annual resources: Scandinavia, Canada, and most of South America fall into that category, which has to do with both population and consumption levels. Nonetheless, there is probably something you can learn from these countries.
Kids can calculate their own carbon footprint to see where they fall in terms of resource consumption too. Together, spend Earth Overshoot Day brainstorming behaviors to change or modify over the course of the next year. Then one at a time, try them out!
After the Fact
Advocates for ecological responsibility offer a number of “pledges” that you can take for Earth Overshoot Day, and all year ‘round. Visit the website to make your pledge official and participate in the online community to reduce our ecological footprint. Tracking your changes with photos and sharing on social media is a great way to amplify your voice for change too.
Need some ideas? Host a vegetarian dinner party, commit to reducing your paper waste, eat leftovers in the fridge instead of throwing out food, walk or bike to school instead of driving, find ways to switch to renewable energy or consume less energy in general in your household.
One of the easiest ways to expand the planet’s resource capacity is to plant a tree. It’s something you can do all year, and it will make a difference for generations.
The Long Run
Check out Global Footprint Network’s interactive ecological footprint map for some serious encouragement. You can click on a country to see its historical biocapacity, as well as the nation’s ecological footprint. In many cases, it shows the trajectory of declining resources and expanding usage over the past 50 years.
However, there are countries that have reached peak consumption and begun to decline. The resource-rich United States peaked in ecological consumption in the 1970s and had another spike in 2005. Since then, American resource usage has been declining.
Although the country still runs an ecological deficit, the declining footprint is encouraging. It reminds us that it is entirely possible to change the trends. Although we’re not there yet, this should give you hope that your kids can live in a sustainable world.
When we each do our part to train our kids as environmental stewards, it will benefit them along with the rest of the world.
How do you plan on celebrating Earth Overshoot Day this year? Share your fun ideas with us!Tags : celebrations celebrate our amazing planet green holidays environment nature earth overshoot day