It Takes 1.7 Earths Annually To Support Humanity’s Demand on Nature

Last Wednesday, humankind has already consumed the annual available supply of natural capitals.In 2017, the Earth Overshoot Day was on the 2nd of August, this is 1 day earlier than 2016 and over 2.5 months earlier than 30 years ago.


We are spending the rest of the year extorting resources from nature in an unsustainable manner. Each year, the date is calculated based on the ecological footprint of our population, and it is crawling up on our calendar to an earlier point ever since the 1970s.



The ecological footprint measures human demand on nature, and it can be compared to biocapacity which is the productivity of a region’s ecological assets. The human impact is tracked by six categories of productive surface areas. These are – in decreasing order of magnitude:


  • Carbon demand on land: to absorb the CO2 emissions,
  • Cropland: providing the necessary fruits, vegetables, and crops,
  • Forest area: supplying wood,
  • Grazing land: supporting livestock,
  • Fishing grounds: water bodies for fishing,
  • Built-up land: space required for constructions.


The numbers are expressed in global hectares, which are standardized based on world average biocapacity. In this manner, the consumption of any two regions of the world are comparable.


Australia and the United States are leading the list of countries with the greatest footprint – we would need over 5 planet Earths to sustain humanity if every single person in the world would live like the average citizen of these areas. India is an example from the other end of the scale. If the complete population would share the lifestyle of South Asia, we would use approximately only 60% of the total biocapacity.


Carbon demand is one critical issue, as it contributes more than 50% to the total ecological footprint in itself, and as such, there is an urgent need for this situation to be addressed. Even more so, as carbon dioxide emissions contribute also to climate change.


While there has been a number of warnings given by the scientific community about the trends of global warming, climate-related extreme weather events had to become far more serious and frequent to validate these predictions and to raise the awareness of the public audience.


Utilizing much more of renewable energy sources is a key step to reduce the consequences of our excessive consumption of natural capitals. Fortunately, lately, there is an increasing trend to favor green power sources over their coal-based counterparts.This process is augmented by the rapid decline in the cost of solar and wind power experienced over the last decade.


These are promising changes, but we have to be conscious about our decisions and make an effort to maintain our chances to win this ongoing race against time.


photo: CC by Porapak Apichodilok