Date: 29 Jul 2019
Author: The Vegan Society Aotearoa

Earth Overshoot Day

Every year Earth Overshoot Day gets closer, when we need it to be getting further away. This year it is 29th July, the earliest to date!

What is it? The date of Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by comparing humanity’s total yearly consumption (Ecological Footprint) with Earth’s capacity to regenerate renewable natural resources in that year (biocapacity). … Even a few percentage points change can shift the date of Earth Overshoot Day by a good number of days. In 1997, when the first one was calculated, the date was late September, so it is extremely worrying that in these times of greater knowledge and accountability, it seems that not enough is being done to push the date back again.

But 29th July is only a global average. Where do you think New Zealand lies for it’s own Overshoot Day? Would you be shocked if I told you it was 6th May! With Qatar sitting on 11th February, we are by no means the worst, yet Indonesia has an Overshoot Day of 18th December! The figures for New Zealand over time, make interesting reading. Data collection starts in 1961, when the biocapacity per person was quite high, at 18.6 gHa, (global hectares) with a population of 2.42 million. Since then our biocapacity has had a steady downward trend, to where we are now at only 9.4 gHa, with a population of 4.66 million in 2016. However our ecological foot print has remained fairly stable, hovering around 4.8 gHa, thus our biocapacity has decreased as our population and GDP per person has increased. It is clear this has been at considerable cost to our environment.

What does this all mean? Back in 1961, we only needed 1.5 Earths to live like Kiwis, we reached an all time of high of needing 3.64 Earths in 2003, we have lowered our resource use to a smaller amount, in 2016 we needed 2.91 Earths. Clearly, this is still too many, as we only have the one! Thus the absolute dire need to act as if our next generations depend on us. We each need to take some responsibility for how we live, the choices we make. Governments too have to play their part, by requiring New Zealand and internationally based industries to be held fully accountable for the choices they make. Why has the government decided to treat methane as a special case in it’s Zero Carbon Bill? We have only 11 years to get our resource usage under control, to make the difficult choices that will result in lower greenhouse gas emissions, such as reducing our dairy herd.

Like most Western countries New Zealand’s Overshoot Day is not even in the second half of the year. This needs to change if we want to leave a world for our children to inherit.

So how can any one individual reduce their ecological footprint? It is clear we cannot continue to live in the manner that we are. New Zealand has a very early Overshoot Day and it is surely no coincidence that our greenhouse gas emissions per capita are disproportionately high. We are living in planetary debt and the Bank of Gaia is about to go bankrupt! The single biggest thing you can control on a daily basis is what you eat. Each bite can help put humanity back in credit or keep us in debt.

Over the last year there have been huge numbers of reports and research clearly showing that we need to massively decrease our animal intake. The planet cannot take the burden. We have destroyed 60% of the wildlife population since 1970, just to feed our greed for meat and dairy. The land and water resources squandered globally to keep the inefficient animal agriculture machine going could be reduced to just 1/6th if humans adopted a plant-based diet. The greenhouse gas emissions would tumble, and not a moment too soon, as there is only 11 years left to take meaningful action. The rainforests are being devastated across the tropics in order to create land to grow feed for yet more beef cattle. We are removing our most vital hope for the future: our oxygen supply: trees! As renewable energy becomes cheaper to run than fossil fuels, plant-based alternatives are becoming cheaper than their resource-rich animal-based foods, a trend that is set to continue.

Worldwide beef and dairy farmers are losing income as demand plummets. The smart farmers are already diversifying into plants such as hemp, nuts, berries, seeds and grains. Even our own dairy giant Fonterra is investing in plant milks, which surely tells you where the future lies. Don’t wait until it is too late, act now! Try an award winning vegan pie or sausage! You might be surprised by how tasty it is! You might also ask yourself the question, are my taste buds worth more than my children’s future?