From food to fibers for clothes, the Earth provides us with everything we need to get through the year. That bounty is supposed to last us the whole year because, well, that’s all the planet can produce. But this year, we’re on track to burn through a year’s supply of food, timber, cotton, and carbon emissions in just 212 days.
This is the fastest humanity has consumed our annual allotment, according to an analysis put out Monday by the Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that keeps track of what they call Earth Overshoot Day. With this new record, August 1 is the day we finish Mother Nature’s annual harvest. At this rate, humans will need nearly two Earths to keep up with our current demand.
The group has declared Earth Overshoot Day every year since 2007, but the group’s data dates back to 1969. Back then, one planet was barely enough to support our annual demand. By the early 1970s, it wasn’t. Now, we’re on track to need two planets pretty soon.
Consumption has consequences. Cutting down the forest for timber eliminates a carbon sink. Producing paper with that timber leads to more waste in landfills. It’s an unsustainable cycle. While brands may celebrate feeble attempts they make to address environmental degradation, things won’t improve until our fascination with buy, take, and extract ends.
According to the Global Footprint Network, countries like South Korea, Japan, and Italy don’t have enough resources to keep up with their citizens’ demands. Each country would need at least another four of themselves to do so.
The U.S. and Australia are the worst offenders, setting horrible examples for the rest of the world. We’d need five planets if the rest of the world lived the way Americans do, carelessly using energy and throwing out food.
Luckily, the group offers suggestions on how to bring Earth Overshoot Day closer to the end of the year: Driving less, eating fewer meals with meat, and bringing fewer children into this already-deteriorating planet can help humanity live in better balance with the world we have. Hey, that’s me. What about you?