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Earth Reaches Overshoot Day, Environmental Groups Say

| by Selena Darlim
An aerial image of Earth's lights from space.An aerial image of Earth's lights from space.

For the rest of the year, humans will be using more natural resources than what environmental groups consider to be ecologically sustainable. Earth has reached its "overshoot" point.

Earth Overshoot Day, a yearly marker for when humans have used more resources than can be replenished annually, occurred on Aug. 2 this year, according to environmental groups World Wildlife Fund  and the Global Footprint Network.

2017 marks the earliest-ever overshoot date, continuing the trend of earlier start dates since the Earth first reached a recorded overshoot point on Dec. 21, 1971, Newsweek reports.

According to the Independent, overshoot day used to take place in November in the 1980s. The date inched up to October in 1993, then to September after the millennium. 2016's overshoot date fell one day earlier than 2017, on Aug. 3.

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"#EarthOvershootDay has arrived,"  said the United Nations' Environment Program in an Aug. 2 tweet acknowledging the first day of overshoot. "The world has consumed more natural resources than the Earth can renew throughout the whole of the year."

GFN and WWF say it would take the resources of 1.7 Earths to meet up with current annual demand. Their data shows that most people from leading developed nations use up to three times the sustainable yearly amount.

According to GFN's research, the U.S. comes in second place as the most resource-intensive nation of all large nations, with the average American citizen using five times the amount of soil, water and energy than environmental groups recommend.  

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The most resource-intensive large nation is Australia.

Australia uses 5.2 times the sustainable amount of resources, according to GFN's standards. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that if every nation were like Australia, Earth Overshoot Day would have occurred on March 12.

GFN has four main factors in its equation for calculating humans' impact on the world's resources, also known as our "Global Footprint." They consider population size, resource consumption, production efficiency and the amount of resources the Earth can naturally produce each year.

Carbon emissions count for 60 percent of the Global Footprint. If those emissions were cut in half, the overshoot date could be delayed by 89 days, The Telegraph reports.

Food accounts for 26 percent of the global footprint. The GFN estimates that number could be reduced by 16 percent by halving food waste and swapping high-protein foods, such as meat and fish, for fruits and vegetables, the Independent reports.

GFN and WWF launched a campaign to push the overshoot date back by 4.5 days per year by offering tips for individuals to reduce their global footprint. If that goal were achieved, the environmental groups estimate that Earth could reach a sustainable point by 2050.

Sources: Independent, ABC, The Telegraph, Newsweek, UN Environment/Twitter / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: NASA via Wikimedia CommonsNASA Earth Observatory via Wikimedia Commons

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