Consumption Vs Overconsumption

Fishermen at work in Mahanadi river in Cuttack district, Odisha, India.

The World Overshoot Day

There are the small but important occurrences and issues in life. Then there are the large – often very large – occurrences and issues. In your life and in mine. Some of them so large we have problems seeing them.

Here is one such issue: According to a study we – that is, the Earth – exhausted our annual allowed consumption of natural resources for all of 2016 on 8 August. This annual ceiling represents the maximum outtake if we want to manage Earth sustainably.

This is consumption not at the individual level (although the cause for overconsumption is partly found at this level), but at the global level. Let us keep this in mind as we go about our work today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and ...

Update (August 2018)

It is early in August 2018. More than two years has past since I posted this article, and an updated dataset of how fast Earth's resources are being depleted is now available.  To quote the Global Footprint Network, or GFN, "The Earth is finite. Civilization's appetite ... is infinite" (Quartz 2018). This year we overshot nature's annual budget on 1 August. On this date we had consumed 1.7 Earth's worth of natural resources. The correct rate of outtake would be one where outtake of natural resources balances regeneration. Given current rates we will need two earths to keep up with demand by 2030.

There are some positive developments in all this, though. This includes that use of energy is decreasing, among others because use of renewable energy is increasing relative to use of fossile fuels.

Lars Soeftestad

(1) Photo credit: Lingaraj Panda. Fishermen in Maharandi river, Cuttack District, Odisha, India.
(2) Permalink:
(3) This article was published 13 August 2018.

Vidaya Vernkat. 2016. "The world has already finished off this year's quota of natural resources." The Hindu, 8 August 2016.
Quartz. 2018. "Humans have depleted the earth's natural resources with five months still to go in 2018." 1 August 2018, at:

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