Earth Overshoot Day, also known as Ecological Debt Day, marks the date each year when we’ve used up as many natural resources as Earth can regenerate in a single year.
This year, it falls on Monday, August 8: the earliest date yet.
The timing of Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by international think tank Global Footprint Network.
"Earth Overshoot Day is computed by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year) by humanity’s Ecological Footprint (humanity’s demand for that year)," according to the Global Footprint Network website. "This ratio is multiplied by 365 to get the date when Earth Overshoot Day is reached."
Since its inception, the day has been creeping forward slowly but steadily; in 2000, Earth Overshoot Day fell in late September. Last year, it fell on August 13.
The Global Footprint Network attributes the early date to high rates of carbon dioxide emittance, depletion of fisheries, and forest harvestation. It calculates that the carbon footprint makes up 60 percent of humanity’s total ecological footprint.
But there is some indication of improvement: The rate at which the day moves up on the calendar has slowed. When the project was established in the early 1970s, the day moved up at an average of three days per year. Now, aside from the jump between 2015 and 2016, the average rate has slowed to less than one day per year over the past five years, Time reports.
The day’s creators are hopeful that the trend could someday reverse altogether. In a news release, the organization calls for adherence to the goals set by the Paris climate agreement, saying that the carbon footprint could fall to zero by 2050.
"Such a new way of living comes with many advantages, and making it happen takes effort," said Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and chief executive officer of Global Footprint Network, in the release. "The good news is that it is possible with current technology, and financially advantageous with overall benefits exceeding costs ... The only resource we still need more of is political will."