"The stream of time moves forward and mankind moves with it. Your generation must come to terms with the environment. You must face realities instead of taking refuge in ignorance and evasion of truth. Yours is a grave and sobering responsibility, but it is also a shining opportunity. You go out into a world where mankind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and its mastery — not of nature, but of itself.
Therein lies our hope and our destiny."
Rachel Carson said this in June of 1962. Rachel Carson has left us a lasting legacy with her insightful and revealing research and writing of 'Silent Spring', her pioneering book that shaped how we look at Environmental activism today. Rachel Carson is the reason we celebrate Earth Day each year. Rachel Carson challenged the notion that Man could master Nature by pumping it with chemicals, fuels and gases. With her unique combination of poetic and scientific writing, she brought to the forefront the harm that was being done to the environment. Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and also by the government, but she urged people to question authority, and asked the hard questions about who decides to allow species to die and our waters to be poisoned. In 1970, Silent Spring inspired the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and Earth Day. Unfortunately the trend of ignoring Climate Change and its effects continued (and still continues), making way for new and young activists, such as Greta Thunberg.
Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 each year, and will celebrate its 50th year in 2020. Earth Day is a global movement that highlights the impacts of climate change, and it is a day of action to promote changes in human behavior and provokes governments and agencies to change their policies.
Earth Overshoot Day
The concept of Earth Overshoot day, previously known as Ecological Debt Day (EDD) was started by Andrew Simms in 2006. Earth Overshoot day is the day of the year when we exceed the natural resources that Earth can generate for us for that particular year. We overcome this deficit by depleting even more natural resources, or borrowing from the future, to keep up with growing demands. This year, Earth Overshoot Day was on July 29. On July 29, we exhausted all the natural resources that our planet can renew this year. Simply put: We are living beyond our (ecological) means.
Earth Overshoot day is calculated by Global Footprint Network. The formula:
(World Biocapacity/World Ecological Footprint) x 365 = World Overshoot Day
World Biocapacity: An area's biological productivity on land and sea, such as forests, grazing land, cropland, fishing, etc.
Ecological Footprint: Demand for plant-based food, meat and poultry, seafood, timber, space for urban infrastructure etc.
If a populations' demands exceed the supply, that region becomes ecologically deficit.
By the early 70s, humans began consuming more than what the Earth could produce. It is estimated that by the mid-21st century, we will require resources of two planets in one year. Case in point: In 1987, the date was Octoer 23, slowly regressing towards August from 2005-2018 (Aug 1), and finally, July 29 in 2019.
Several areas have been identified to #movethedate back, and dozens of organizations are actively working towards identifying solutions.
Cities: How do we design and manage cities to contain sprawl and infrastructure?
Energy: This makes up for the biggest dent in the footprint. How do we move towards renewable energy?
Food: How do we consume food, what should we eat, how should we grow and transport it?
Planet: How do we protect our natural resources?
Population: How do we empower women and girls, and control population growth?
Like everything else, this calculation is not fool-proof and not without its critics. Some claim the methodology to measure the footprint is flawed, i.e. it does not capture all the sustainability factors, and that it most likely underestimates global overshoot. More vocal critics such as Michael Schellenberger argue that most of the resources are either in deficit or in surplus and thus balance out; carbon emissions are the only metrics that are off-balance.
What can we do?
Earth Overshoot day and Earth Day are both great reminders that it's not too late to change the tide of climate change. Collectively, we can do our very best to bring the date closer to the end of the year, and make small changes in our own lives, in our place of work, in how we vote and what we stand for. A good place to start?
Check your personal Footprint Calculator
Movethedate solutions around the world
Take action for Earth Day
We can all do our part to reverse and reduce the impact of climate change and our ecological footprint- small changes add up to make a big difference!