No Plan(et) B.

We’re currently using 1.5 Earths; the only Planet B (and C) we currently know of are 1,200 light-years away

Graph showing the percentage of the year spent in ecological deficit, 1971 to 2011.

Earth Overshoot Day, 1971-2011

I saw the image above in the Earth Overshoot Day Media Backgrounder at Global Footprint Network and it made me wonder whether there was a list of dates in each year when Earth Overshoot Day fell. And I also became interested in the idea of asking people when they think the next Earth Overshoot Day (EOD) will fall. I wrote to the address in the ‘media backgrounder’ and this is the response I received:

Thank you for your email and your interest in Earth Overshoot Day.

We’ve never published a list of past Overshoot Days. However, my colleague has dug out the dates for the most recent years:

Earth Overshoot Day dates
August 22, 2012
September 27, 2011
August 21, 2010
September 25, 2009
September 23, 2008
October 6, 2007
October 9, 2006
October 11, 2005

Please keep in mind that it might be a little misleading to offer these dates as clues in a contest to guess this year’s date.  Our methodology is constantly being refined, so calculations that were made two or three years ago would not have been as precise as those being made today. If we were to go back and recalculate the day we went into overshoot in 2008, for example, we would likely get a different date than Sept. 23.

I should also say that Overshoot Day 2010 was a total aberration. Our Science and Research team was still revising its methodology that year, so it decided to choose a “symbolic day” – rather than one based on calculations – for Overshoot.

Good luck with the poll. We will be very interested to learn how it goes for you.

Given that the global human population is rising (currently at just over 1% per year), and that our economy is based on ever-increasing growth, (and assuming that the folks at the Global Footprint Network don’t revise their algorithm again) it seems likely to me that EOD this year will continue to fall earlier every year.

As a bit of fun (and in an attempt to help to spread the word about our unsustainable habits!), I offer you:

The EOD poll for 2013

(Note: The poll is set to close in one month from today; the folks at the Global Footprint Network will announce EOD 2013 on their Earth Overshoot Day page and on their social media channels, including FaceBook, Twitter and Google+.)

Update: Earth Overshoot Day 2013 fell on 20 August. One of the six voters who took part in my little poll got it spot on and wins an all-expenses paid trip to Kepler 62.

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About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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11 Responses to No Plan(et) B.

  1. witsendnj says:

    This makes no sense to me. We are NOW in total overshoot according to several critical criteria, so how could it be days, weeks or months into a new year before we reach EOD? We are already in the sixth great mass extinction event in Earth’s history, which is occurring, according to what I’ve read, faster than any other. We have also EXCEEDED several of the essential nine planetary boundaries as defined by Rockstrom et al – not approaching exceedence, already exceeded. We are using up various non-renewable resources at an accelerating rate such as fresh water. It seems to me it isn’t their methodology that needs to be tweaked, it’s their data and their understanding of the exponential function.
    Anyway, if there’s only one write-in vote for January 1, it’s mine.

    • pendantry says:

      I hear what you’re saying. Yes, we are into overshoot, and have been since the mid-1980s — and I think the Global Footprint Network folks agree with you; by their numbers we’re currently using resources at a rate that assumes that we have one and a half Earths to draw upon (which, clearly, we don’t).

      Another way of looking at it is that each year the Earth provides a supply of (renewable) resources; and it takes time to eat into those resources. Assuming an (admittedly totally arbitrary) start of the year at 1 January, it’s possible to calculate — with a degree of error, as my correspondent above acknowledges — a date on which we have used up all the resources for the year; and that date is progressively falling earlier in the year every year, as our rapacious greed accelerates.

      Such a technique does have the advantage that it may be a way (perhaps the only way) to get the growthmaniacs to acknowledge the problem, and it also provides a mechanism by which our broken economic numberings system can be reconfigured to take account of the environmental damage our activities cause.

      Fifty-seven (of over 200) nations have engaged directly with the Global Footprint Network; to date only seven nations have formally adopted the Ecological Footprint (Japan, Switzerland, UAE, Ecuador, Finland, Scotland and Wales).

      Yes, it’s pretty much a forlorn hope at this stage, I admit; but a drowning man will still grasp at straws.

      • witsendnj says:

        I know, I know. I’m just got up on the ESPECIALLY grumpy side of bed this morning having been reading through this, have you seen it? http://mahb.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Consensus-Statement.pdf

        Even as they assert they are trying to put all the threats together, it is absurdly optimistic – yes drowning scientists grasping at straws.

        No mention of ozone other than as a greenhouse gas, either!

        • pendantry says:

          Lots of words; I skimmed it, and then took just this from the one-page summary:

          By the time today’s children reach middle age, it is extremely likely that Earth’s life-support systems, critical for human prosperity and existence, will be irretrievably damaged by the magnitude, global extent, and combination of these human-caused environmental stressors, unless we take concrete, immediate actions to ensure a sustainable, high-quality future.

          I saw no point in reading any further, since one only has to turn on the idiot box and listen to a random politician whittering on about ‘growth’ to make it perfectly clear that we are heading in the wrong direction for the ‘unless’ to be of any relevance.

  2. Rachel says:

    The ironic thing is, I think we’d all be a lot happier if we consumed much less and lived a little more.

    • pendantry says:

      I agree with that a thousand per cent.

      The problem, as I see it, is twofold: a) overcoming years of upbringing that has taught us all what is ‘normal’, and b) allowing oneself to be persuaded that there is actually a real problem that needs to be tackled.

      Unfortunately, these two parts are in conflict with each other: you can’t accomplish (b) till you’ve done (a) — but you can’t start (a) till you’ve done (b)…

  3. In 2011, Earth Overshoot Day came a few weeks later than it did in 2010. Does this mean we reduced global overshoot? The answer, unfortunately, is no.

    • pendantry says:

      If you note the comment from my correspondent (above) at the Global Footprint Network, he did say:

      Overshoot Day 2010 was a total aberration. Our Science and Research team was still revising its methodology that year, so it decided to choose a “symbolic day” – rather than one based on calculations – for Overshoot.

  4. Pingback: The march of progress: ONWARD! | Wibble

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