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Planet Earth: Our Loving Home

Earth Overshoot Day

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The concept of “Earth Overshoot Day” was initiated by Andrew Simms while working at the UK think tank New Economics Foundation. On today's program we’ll explore what Earth Overshoot Day is and why we need to care about it.

“Earth Overshoot Day is central to the science of sustainability. It’s when our demand for natural resources exceeds supply. It’s calculated by dividing the amount of natural resources that the Earth produces on an annual basis or biocapacity by the amount of natural resources that humankind uses, our ecological footprint. All of that times 365 for the number of days in the year. But what exactly is our ecological footprint? It’s all the ecological assets in hectares that a population needs to produce the natural resources it consumes.”

And what is biocapacity? Biocapacity is the capacity of the Earth's ecosystems to absorb waste generated by humans, such as carbon dioxide, and to regenerate biological resources we have consumed, such as wood from cut-down trees in forests. Since 1970, the faster consumption of an expanding human population on a limited planet has caused overshoot days to consistently fall earlier and earlier every year. Obviously, this trend is a worrisome problem for humans and our planet.

“Today, people use the equivalent of one-and-a-half Earths to provide the resources we all need in a year, and it’s taking longer and longer for the planet to replenish what we use, overfishing, over-farming, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the forest can process is altering the natural balance. This study says we’re living way beyond our ecological means.”

What is the solution? The Global Footprint Network says we can do so by living more sustainably. Besides actions such as cutting down on fossil fuel use by taking public transport, biking, and walking, and deploying green technologies for building, industrial processes, and electricity production, they emphasize a nutritionally balanced vegan diet. The plant-based diet generates a 2.5 times smaller ecological footprint than a diet mainly comprised of animal-people proteins. “So, if everyone turns to the plant-based diet, we have more food immediately and an easing of conditions like drought and flooding, with abundant harvests and food supplies quickly restored.”
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