On Borrowed Time

Making Earth Overshoot Day a Thing of the Past

The bottom of the Rio Negro, a major tributary to the Amazon river, in the city of Manaus, October 26, 2010. Euzivaldo Queiroz / Courtesy Reuters

It’s that time again. Earth Overshoot Day is here and the clock continues to tick. As I described in Foreign Affairs last year, Earth Overshoot Day is the date on which humanity’s demand for natural resources exceeds the earth’s ability to renew them in a year. Last year, we hit that mark on August 20. This year, it comes one day earlier. For the remainder of 2014, in other words, we will be living beyond our planet’s means, spending more than it can afford -- the equivalent of a farmer eating both the crops grown this year and the seeds for next.

Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by scientists and data crunchers at Global Footprint Network, an independent think tank based in the United States, Switzerland, and Belgium. They use two data points: the earth’s current biocapacity (the area of land and water available to produce renewable resources and

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