#MOVETHEDATE of Earth Overshoot Day

“Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived. The air is unbreathable. The heat is unbearable. And the level of fossil fuel profits and climate inaction is unacceptable. Leaders must lead.” Antonio Guterres, 27 July 2023

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demands on nature in a year exceed what Earth can absorb. Examples of demands on nature are taking fish from the sea to eat or discharging polluting gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If we use only what the Earth can supply for our use or only create as much waste as the Earth can absorb, we stay in balance. If we use more in a year than Nature can supply or absorb, we run down nature’s resource stocks and we start messing with the Earth’s atmosphere. It is like not just eating the eggs that your golden goose lays but starting to take bites out of the golden goose itself.

On the supply side, we have the Earth’s biocapacity, i.e. forests, land for grazing, land for growing crops, fishing grounds, and land for building on. On the demand side, the Ecological Footprint measures a population’s demand for food, fibre, livestock, fish, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure, and forest to absorb its carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. The carbon footprint makes up 60% of humanity’s ecological footprint.

If a nation’s demand for nature’s assets exceeds the supply, that region goes into debt, in the same way as if you spend more money than is in your bank account. A nation in nature deficit meets demand by importing from elsewhere or by liquidating its own nature assets, e.g. by overfishing and so reducing the number of mature fish that can reproduce to maintain fish stocks into future years.

The above graphic shows that in 1971 Earth Overshoot Day was December 25. Fifty-two years later it is 2 August. During those fifty years, the Earth’s population has gone from 3.6 billion in 1971 to 8 billion and the global economy has grown six-fold, faster than ever before in history. This has brought many benefits to people but the downside of all this growth is now becoming more obvious. As the graph shows, we are eating away at our natural resource base and we are pumping more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air every year which are accumulating and causing dangerous climate breakdown.

What about South Africa? A country’s overshoot day is the date on which Earth Overshoot Day would fall if all of humanity consumed like the people in that country. South Africa’s Earth overshoot day in 2023 occurred on 1 June.

The good news is that through human ingenuity and problem-solving abilities, we have the solutions to #MoveTheDate. You can read about many of them on the Earth Overshoot website (a few of them are also listed below.). One of the most powerful ways to move the date in South Africa is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. There is much evidence that South Africa could power the country using renewable energy and a shift away from private cars to electrically powered public transport, particularly in cities.

Our policy makers are well aware of the risks of ‘business as usual’ but actual change is hard and there is resistance from vested interests who are making obscene amounts of money out of the current system. That is why we need to build social pressure and push our politicians to respond to the climate crisis and over-use of the Earth’s resources far faster than the current pace of change. That is why we stand here today in solidarity with others around the world to say #Move the date …..or everything dies.

A few ways that we can #movethedate:

Decarbonize — Reducing the carbon component of humanity’s ecological footprint by 50% would move Earth Overshoot Day by 93 days, or more than three months.

Renewable Energy — Generating 75% of electricity from low-carbon sources (up from 39% currently) would #movethedate by 26 days.

Eliminate Food Waste — If we cut food waste in half worldwide, we would #movethedate by 13 days.

Shorter Work Week — Reducing the length of work-weeks, without a reduction in pay, has the potential to #movethedate by 11 Days.

Bicycle Infrastructure — Effective bicycle infrastructure that is safe, direct, and with as few interruptions as possible entices more people to choose a bicycle over other modes of transportation and #movethedate by 9 days.

Shift Towards a Plant-based Diet — If we replaced 50% of global meat consumption with plant- based substitutes, we would move Overshoot Day 7 days, from CO2 and land-use alone. (If we include methane emissions, the impact is even greater.)

Lending Libraries — Using lending libraries to reduce the consumption of durable household goods by would #movethedate by 3 days.

Meatless Mondays — Eliminating meat consumption one day per week would #movethedate by 1.8 days.

Eating Local — If we sourced 80% of our food locally, we would #movethedate by 1.6 days.

Improved Emission Standards for Trucks — Implementing stricter emissions standards for freight trucks would #movethedate by 1.4 days.

Air Drying Laundry — If household dryer usage was reduced by 75%, it would #movethedate by 1.3 days.

Urban Trees — Using trees to cool cities and reduce the need for air conditioning would #movethedate by 0.9 days.

Reduce Business Travel — Replacing 75% of global business travel with video conferencing would #movethedate by 0.8 days.



Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by the Global Footprint Network, which is an international research organization. The Global Footprint Network uses national footprint and biocapacity accounts based on UN data. See https:// www.overshootday.org/about/


“Renewable energy, particularly from solar, provides a vast new alternative, zero emissions energy system that can be deployed across Africa with far less technical complexity.”  https://carbontracker.org/reports/african-sun-why-solar-not-gas/

Read the full press release here