'Earth Overshoot Day' arrives earlier than ever

The Earth.
The Earth. Photo credit: File

As of Thursday, humanity's used more resources in 2018 than the Earth can produce in a whole year, according to environmentalists.

According to Global Footprint Network, this year's 'Earth Overshoot Day' came earlier than ever before.

"Since the 1970s, when global ecological overshoot became a reality, we have been using more renewable natural resources than our planet can regenerate," the international non-profit says.

"This is akin to drawing down the biosphere's principal rather than living off its annual interest.

"To support our demands on nature, we have been liquidating resource stocks and allowing carbon dioxide to accumulate in the atmosphere."

How Earth Overshoot Day has moved over the decades.
How Earth Overshoot Day has moved over the decades. Photo credit: Global Footprint Network

In the early 1980s, it took until mid-December to reach Earth Overshoot Day, calculated by working out the world's biocapacity and dividing it by demand.

About 86 percent of countries use more than they produce. New Zealand, despite being an advanced and wealthy country, isn't one of those thanks to our large areas of forest and grazing land, and minimal urban area.

Global Footprint Network
New Zealand's resource use, compared to capacity. Photo credit: Global Footprint Network

But we're still big spenders. If everyone lived like Kiwis, we'd need three Earths' worth of resources to get by, according to Global Footprint Network. And the gap between what we use and what our land can carry is narrowing.

The biggest resource consumers are from UAE, Luxembourg and Qatar. If everyone lived like Qatarians, we'd need more than nine planets and Earth Overshoot Day would happen on February 9.

When comparing resource use to production, the worst offender is Singapore - using 99 times the resources it produces, compared to New Zealand's 0.5.

The world began consuming more resources than it can create around about 1969, according to Global Footprint Network. Since then, the world's population has doubled.

Though the pace of increasing consumption has levelled off in recent years, August 2 (NZ time) is still the earliest Earth Overshoot Day has arrived.