Overshoot Day is an important marker as it provides us with a very good indicator as to how quickly we are degrading the planet upon which we rely for our nourishment, shelter, clean water, and fresh air.
Closely associated with Overshoot Day is the calculation of how many Earth-like planets we would need to be able to continue to support our lifestyles indefinitely.
At present, on a global average, we would need 1.7 Earth-like planets!
Remember though, that this figure of 1.7 is the average for the entire planet. The rich nations require a lot more than 1.7 Earth-like planets. How many? Well, the computations have been done. What those computations show is bleak.
The U.S.A., Canada, and U.A.E. would each require 5.1 Earth-like planets. Australia would require 4.5, Russia 3.4, New Zealand 3.3, and Japan 2.9. The European nations require between 2.6 and 4 Earth-like planets each.
What about China? I hear some ask. Well, yes, the Overshoot Day and number of planets required by China has been calculated. China would require 2.4 Earth-like planets.2
What of the rest of the world? Most of the African nations, and much of Asia (including India) and Latin America require 1.0 or less Earth-like planets.
We can now ask ourselves: How much do we need to cut back in order to bring our lifestyles back to a sustainable level where we require just one Earth-like planet – this one Earth?
If you live in one of the rich nations then the answer to this question is simple. A lot!
Again, the calculations are straight forward. On a country-by-country basis, the rich nations of the world need to reduce their consumption and production of waste by the following amounts:
- U.S.A., Canada, and U.A.E. by more than 80%.
- Australia by almost 80%.
- Russia and New Zealand by around 70%.
- The European nations by between 60% - 75% each.
- Japan by 65%.
- China and South Africa by 58% each, and Brazil by 37%.
These numbers are extremely important. There is so much hype and focus on climate change and carbon emissions, that the importance of Overshoot often gets ignored, misunderstood, or lost in the debates. Climate is not the issue – Overshoot is. Carbon emissions are a by-product of Overshoot.
Dealing with Overshoot would automatically deal with carbon emissions.
Replacing and Substituting Will Not Work
When one truly considers and understands the implications of how much we must reduce our consumption and waste, it becomes obvious that trying to do so by replacing, or substituting with alternatives does not work.
We must reduce (by up to 80%) our use and production of transport. Replacing cars with electric (or hydrogen) vehicles will not work. We have to walk, cycle, or take public transport. We have to stop flying.
We still need food, but we do need to reduce our meat consumption (by at least 80%.) Furthermore, we must dramatically reduce our reliance on food that is produced overseas (and out-of-season) and food that is produced by monocultural agricultural transnationals.
We must cut back on our use of technology and our desire for ever more of the latest whiz-bang techo-invention. For example, replacing a mobile phone every three years does not work.
We must reduce our electricity demand – significantly. Switching the production of electricity from fossil fuels to “alternatives” will not work.
We must reduce our waste. Throwing away food, tins, paper, cardboard, plastic, and other items does not work. Especially, we must curtail (not simply reduce) our production of toxic wastes.
In each and every one of these cases above we, in the rich nations, must cut back by at least 60% and in many cases by up to 80%.
Can we do that?
Can we afford not to?
Will we do that?
1. I say “normally” because in 2020 it went “backwards” by about three weeks, because of the pandemic induced lockdowns around the world.
2. China is often pointed at when it comes to discussions about how much carbon is produced. Yes, China needs to reduce its consumption and waste production, but we in the rich nations cannot point fingers. We are far more responsible for Overshoot than is China.