Earth Overshoot Day - what can institutions do?

29th July 2019

Today is Earth Overshoot Day – Today marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate in that year according to Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability organisation that has pioneered the Ecological Footprint. The Ecological Footprint adds up all of people’s competing demands for biologically productive areas – food, timber, fibres, carbon sequestration, and accommodation of infrastructure. Currently, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel comprise 60% of humanity’s Ecological Footprint.

Over the past 20 years, Earth Overshoot Day has moved up two months to July 29, the earliest ever. This means that humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate, equivalent to 1.75 Earths. Humanity first saw ecological deficit in the early 1970s. Overshoot is possible because we are depleting our natural capital, compromising the planet’s future regenerative capacity.

Ecological overspending costs are becoming increasingly evident: deforestation, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leading to climate change and more frequent extreme weather events.

“Ultimately, human activity will be brought in balance with Earth’s ecological resources. The question is whether we choose to get there by disaster or by design – one-planet misery or one-planet prosperity,” said Mathis Wackernagel, co-inventor of Ecological Footprint accounting and founder of Global Footprint Network.

Iain Patton, CEO at the EAUC said: “World leading climate scientists published the landmark IPCC report last year. It outlined the non-negotiable need for urgent and unprecedented change over the next decade to prevent reaching a tipping point for the world that will see the human race on an irreversible path of extreme warming. Young people heard this and took heed, and they are now calling on everyone else to wake up to this dire situation before it is too late. Chief among these, is their education system – they want to see institutions setting an example and committing themselves to fighting climate change. Your institution can and should do this by declaring a climate emergency and committing to Net Zero Emissions as soon as possible.”

Sign the Global Climate Letter here.

Resources to help within your institution: Adapting universities and colleges to a changing climate: Making the case and taking action 

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