It’s somewhat strange that I only wrote about Earth Overshoot Day once, back in 2016. Not that it’s a particularly important event in itself, and in fact it continues to make the situation appear less desperate than it actually is, the project’s authors remaining guilty of quite an optimism bias and the results being far less frightening than they should actually be because many factors that would further increase humanity’s footprint and decrease what the Earth can actually sustain aren’t included in the calculation, but converting the actual result, which is a percentage, into a date does make it something that tends to be covered quite well on the news.
Admittedly, this was more important in the past, when far more, if they “believed” in it at all, saw climate change as an abstract matter, with effects in a more or less distant future, while now the current, drastic effects of the climate crisis are important news stories on a regular basis, so nobody needs any more such reminders of the terrible state of the environment unless they somehow continue to close their eyes and their minds to it on purpose, in which case such a publicity stunt, since that’s just what picking a date for this event is, definitely won’t change their position, and in fact can even make them feel that it validates it. However, interestingly, this turns the reason why such an event remains relevant completely around, because it can now serve as a reminder of the big picture, of the cause behind the effects that are becoming all too visible, when otherwise people might tend to focus on individual disasters and perhaps even try to tackle them separately.
To return to this year’s Overshoot Day, it’s the earliest one yet, which is no surprise. It does at the moment match the updated one for 2018, if you check the list, but at the time that was considered to have been August 1, and in fact that’s still what’s listed at the moment on the page explaining why past dates keep changing. So it’s likely that this one will also change, most likely moving even earlier, when they’ll get around to improving their calculation a little bit more, but what’s even more likely is that future dates will be earlier still. After all, while some individuals do, we as a species and as a society aren’t learning any lessons, and most definitely continue to insist on being this world’s masters, entitled to exploit it and each other as we see fit, regardless of the consequences, refusing to accept our role as stewards and our duty to care for each other and for the world and all the species we share, or should be sharing, it with.