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Earliest Ever 'Earth Overshoot Day' Shows Humanity's Consumption of Planet's Natural Resources Raging Unabated

"Systemic change isn't radical, it's what we need to survive," says Sunrise Movement

An environmental activist cuts an orange, painted as a globe, during an event to mark the Earth Overshoot Day on August 1, 2018 in Berlin.

An environmental activist cuts an orange, painted as a globe, during an event to mark the Earth Overshoot Day on August 1, 2018 in Berlin. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when we (all of humanity) have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. (Photo: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

There are more than five months left in the year, but on Monday humankind had already burned through the planet's ecological resource budget for 2019.

It's the earliest the date—known as Earth Overshoot Day—has ever come, the Global Footprint Network, which tracks the metric, said in a statement.

"Systemic change isn't radical, it's what we need to survive," said the Sunrise Movement in response to the milestone.

Impacts of the overshoot back up Sunrise's call for sweeping action.

"The costs of this global ecological overspending," says the Global Footprint Network, "are becoming increasingly evident in the form of deforestation, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, or the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

The trend of overspending is clear: last year the day was on Aug. 1; in 2017 it was on Aug. 2; and in 2016 it was on Aug 8. In fact, say the network, Earth Overshoot Day has crept up two months over the past 20 years.

Put another way, says the group, the world is using up resources like fisheries and forests 1.75 times faster than the planet's ecosystems can regenerate them. If everyone lived like U.S. population, we'd need five planets.

"It is an ecological debt, and the interest we are paying on that mounting debt—food shortages, soil erosion, and the build-up of CO₂ in our atmosphere—comes with devastating human and monetary costs," says the Global Footprint Network.

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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg called attention to the milestone on Twitter, writing that for the rest of the year, "we are stealing from future generations and poorer parts of the world."

To help nudge the Earth Overshoot Day further back, the network is encouraging people to take a number of steps.

People can share solutions they are employing on a "move the date" interactive map and are encouraged to commit to taking individual actions such as calling on their local officials to adopt more ecologically-friendly policies, or committing to a more plant-based diet. "If we reduced global meat consumption by 50 percent and used more calories from plants, we would move Overshoot Day 5 days!" says the Global Footprint Network.

People can also calculate their personal overshoot day at the Footprint Calculator.

But the scale of the problem necessitates that those who wield power commit to action. That has some looking towards the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Chile known as COP25.

"With Earth Overshoot Day occurring ever earlier in the year, and a big part of it being the growing amounts of CO2 emissions, the importance of decisive action is becoming ever more evident," said María Carolina Schmidt Zaldívar, who serves as Chile's environment minister and will chair COP25. "For this reason," she said, "we are working with all parties to find effective approaches."

The stakes, as Mathis Wackernagel, co-inventor of Ecological Footprint accounting and founder of Global Footprint Network, said, couldn't be higher.

"We have only got one Earth," he said, "this is the ultimately defining context for human existence."

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