Overshoot day is underestimated but we can still use it

Yesterday was our global overshoot day. The day in which we’ve used up all our resources, for the year as a world. Plenty of countries have overshoot days way earlier (we’ve highlighted some here). It’s also good to remember that overshoot is most likely also a pretty vast underestimation. It’s more an input of numbers we know, of some things (mostly from UN data), and the output of that. ⁠

It focuses in on a few areas and doesn’t tell us much more beyond that. As far as calculations go, it’s highly imperfect. It doesn’t take into account soil degradation and water depletion nor the stocks of natural resources (all things which impact our future greatly). But we can still use it. We can use it as a way to communicate to others just how much we’re consuming each year. We can highlight resource use per country in a way we can easily understand. We can track it over time to see which way we’re headed and just how far we’ve come (the wrong way, too far).⁠

We don’t really have a great, scientifically sound method of measuring our true impact on the Earth – for both humans and all the other millions of species – and accounting for the future implications of today’s estimates. We’ve got a lot of indicators that don’t fit neatly into one table together. We also simply don’t know the extent of some of it and other things become tricky grounds to measure. Even in very simple terms, what sustainability means can vary. What is an accurate parameter of sustainability? What does that sustainability mean for non-human species or future generations? What does it mean for our living standards? Are we aiming to survive for a certain amount of time and it’s therefore sustainable for ten years or one hundred years?⁠

What we can see and agree on though is that our resource use is definitely unsustainable and overshoot day is likely only going to jump earlier and earlier.