Earth Overshoot Day 2017: Human Beings Have Already Used Up the Planet's Natural Resources for the Year

Planet Earth Trump protest
An activist prepares a balloon painted to look like planet Earth and decorated with orange hair and eyebrows in the likeness of U.S. President Donald Trump during a climate protest prior to a meeting of European Union leaders at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on June 29. Sean Gallup/Getty

It's happened again.

The day by which the human race has used up more natural resources than can be replenished in a year—known as Earth Overshoot Day —has been getting earlier for some time. But in 2017, it's come earlier than ever before.

As of August 2, human beings have used up its allowance of resources such as water, clean air, and soil for 2017, according to environmental groups the Global Footprint Network and the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). And there's still five months to go in the year. Great job guys.

"This means that in seven months, we emitted more carbon than the oceans and forest can absorb in a year, we caught more fish, felled more trees, harvested more, and consumed more water than the Earth was able to produce in the same period," said the groups in a statement.

Uh oh, it's #EarthOvershootDay 🌏 This means we've used more resources than our planet can renew in the whole year!

— WWF_Australia (@WWF_Australia) August 1, 2017

Planet Earth has been in resource overshoot since 1971, when the Earth Overshoot Day was on December 21. The date has gradually gotten earlier and earlier. By 1990, it was October 13; by 2000, it had moved forward almost a month to September 23; and in 2010, the date when the planet entered resource deficit was August 9.

The rate at which the date has moved forward has slowed in recent years, but humanity is still using Earth's resources at a rate 1.7 times faster than they can be regenerated. This means that the human race would need 1.7 planets to meet its resource demand.

The coming of Earth Overshoot Day means that, in effect, any natural resources used by humans from this day forward in the year 2017 are unsustainable. It's as if we are using a biological credit card, although it's not quite clear when we are going to pay off the bill.

Read more: A timeline of 100 days of Donald Trump's assault on the environment

Carbon is the key culprit in draining the Earth's resources; carbon emissions make up 60 percent of humanity's ecological footprint. This includes the burning of fossil fuels, but also processes such as deforestation—which reduce nature's ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—and intensive farming and overfishing.

Unsurprisingly, industrialized nations are the biggest offenders in terms of using up natural resources. Australia tops the list: if the world's population lived like Australia's, we would need 5.2 planets to meet our resource needs. The United States comes in second, with the American population demanding the equivalent of five planets to satiate its energy requirements.

How many earths
If the world lived like the population of Australia, we'd need 5.2 planets to meet our energy needs. Global Footprint Network National Footprint Accounts 2017

The environmental groups have launched a campaign to encourage individuals to make choices that can cut their resource usage, such as eating more vegetarian meals and cutting food waste. The ultimate goal is to move Earth Overshoot Day back by 4.5 days every year; if that were the case, we would return to using the resources of just one planet by 2050. So put down that chicken wing and pick up some spinach.