Barely eight months into 2018, we have used nature’s budget for the entire yearNew Delhi, 1 August 2018: On 1 August 2018, humanity will have used nature's resource budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network (GFN), an international research organization. This date is called Earth Overshoot Day—the date when humanity's annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth's ecosystems can renew in that year. This means that the world will now be operating in overshoot for the year – exerting excess pressure on the planet for any resources drawn.
The date, which has moved from late September in 1997 to its earliest yet in 2018, is symbolic of the unprecedented pressure that human activities are applying on nature and its resources. Last year, this day was marked on August 2 – a day before this year. Each day that this date moves up is a reminder of the fact that we are running out of time to reverse the trend. According to GFN, the estimated level of resources and ecosystem services required to support human activities at their current rate equals 1.7 Earths, fast moving to 2 Earths by 2030!
For India in particular, data suggests that according to our current rate of consumption, we will need 2.5 countries to meet our growing demands! According to the Living Planet Report (LPR) released by WWF in 2016, the ecological footprint (the rate at which we are consuming vis-a-vis the resources generated by the planet) of the top five countries makes up about half the global total. Analysis of the 2014 National Footprint Accounts reveals that China (16 per cent) and the USA (15 per cent) generated 31 per cent of the world’s total carbon footprint. The LPR further states that when multiplying population with per capita demand, India shifts from the 136th—largest footprint per capita to the third largest in total. This implies a low personal footprint at an individual level, but a challenge when aggregated by population. This equation will be further complicated as wealth grows and consumption patterns change. Of all the environmental challenges facing India today, water stands out as a key area where better management is most needed. Fourteen of the twenty major river basins already water stressed and will move towards extreme water scarcity. Seventy percent of our surface water is polluted and 60 per cent of India's groundwater resources are expected to be in a critical state within the next decades. This poses direct challenges to livelihoods, health, food production, and energy generation.
Setting the context of Earth Overshoot Day for India, Dr. Sejal Worah, Programme Director, WWF-India, said, ‘’We face a unique challenge in the imperative to lift millions of people out of poverty and at the same time ensure that the natural resources required to sustain development are not depleted. The future lies in development trajectories that are not as resource intensive. While India has put in place some ambitious targets for renewable energy and afforestation, much more needs to be done to translate policy into practice. Integrated development planning and implementation requires government agencies to work in synergy while harnessing the power of businesses and listening to the voices of civil society. While there are several examples across the country of initiatives that have successfully integrated development and sustainability, these need to be scaled up as a matter of urgency. Earth Overshoot Day reminds us that time is running out.’’
The practical impact of this overshoot is immense. The costs of this continued ecological overspending will result in a wide spread collapse of our ecosystems with direct and indirect impacts on our lives including increasing levels of pollution, scarcity of water and more severe natural calamities like floods and droughts. These threats often start moving people out of the places they inhabit to other cities and countries, only to add to more pressure to existing resources available in those places. While economic growth and development brings many benefits—improved education, living standards, health measures, and job opportunities, if not properly planned, it can also pose a significant challenge to the stability of natural environment. We have a critical window of opportunity now to put in place commitments and actions to reverse the trend of nature loss and help ensure the health and well-being of people and our planet.
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Rituparna Sengupta, Associate Director, Marketing & Communication, WWF-India
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Bani Bains, Senior Communications Officer, Storytelling, WWF-India
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