The production and consumption models that we have been promoting for decades are so unsustainable that, to maintain them, we would need about 1.75 planets. According to the latest report on the Planet Overshoot Day – prepared by the NGO Global Footprint Network – this year, the day came on July 29th.
Sustainability: What is the Earth Overshoot Day?
This date marks when humanity has used all the Earth’s biological resources available for the year. This calculation is based on biocapacity (biological regeneration capacity) and ecological footprint (demand for resources).
The main factors behind the phenomenon are the 6.6% increase in the carbon footprint (compared to last year) and the 0.5% decrease in global forest biocapacity, caused – to a large extent – by the increase in deforestation in the Amazon. In other words, for this year, in just 210 days we depleted the natural capital that we had for 365 days.
According to the Global Footprint Network, This year’s overshoot day marks the highest natural resource deficit since 1970. The truce brought by 2020 with the cessation of economic activities and the limitations on consumption resulting from the pandemic was an only slight relief.
Simply put: our planet is no longer sufficient to meet our consumer demands, and we are far from achieving a truly sustainability-oriented economy. We spend more than we have as a company with overdrawn finances.
What is Chile doing about it?
Despite efforts in environmental policy, electromobility, and the development of the Agtech industry (digital technology applied to agriculture), Chile was the first country in Latin America to deplete its natural resources this year. Moreover, it did so 42 days before the global date mentioned above.
According to Matías Asún, director of Greenpeace in Chile, “if Chileans were the planet’s population, natural resources would have run out on May 17th, and it would take a second and even a third planet to sustain the type of life that we have built“.
The outlook is worrying because the advancement of the country’s ecological overshoot is already a trend: in 2017, it was May 24th, in 2018, it was June 2nd, and in 2019 it was May 19th. The phenomenon responds to the growing consumption of single-use plastics and the amount of water required by the country for its mining, fruits, and salmon exports.
In addition, there is forestry production and coal generation of 40% of the country’s electrical energy.
Ecuador will be the last country in the region to exhaust its resources in 2021 by December 7th. And globally, the first nation affected by this phenomenon in 2021 was Qatar, while the last to do so will be Indonesia.
And what about the United States? One of the main powers at the global level is also one of the least sustainable: if the world’s population lived like North Americans, we would need five planets to survive.
What can we do to solve the problem?
The Global Footprint Network notes that by progressively delaying the Earth overshoot date by 4.5 days, we could be back to living within limits by 2050; this is a complex task if we consider consumption trends, but essential to conserve nature and consolidate more resilient ecosystems. Among the actions with the most significant impact, we find:
Increases biodiversity, helps eliminate carbon dioxide, and acts as a barrier against flooding in coastal areas, being key to promoting the planet’s regeneration.
Specifically speaking of the solution to the Earth Overshoot Day, reforesting an area the size of India – for example – would delay the date by eight days, according to the NGO behind the report.
Energy-saving and electromobility
As we saw earlier, the high carbon footprint is one of the root causes of the problem. Of course, reforestation helps reduce it, but we can optimize it by deploying energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions.
Specifically speaking of electromobility, electric vehicles achieve 95% energy efficiency and emit up to 3 times fewer greenhouse gases than combustion vehicles.
If most of the global fleet were of this type, the impact would be significant. However, consider that only in Chile transport is responsible for 20% of total emissions.
Reduce food waste and optimize production
40% of food grown globally is wasted. This phenomenon is worrying, not only because paradoxically 690 million people in the world suffer from hunger, but also because it contributes to 10% of greenhouse gases and accounts for a significant waste of important resources such as deforestation and water since 70% of the essential liquid extracted on the planet is used in agriculture.
We must start working to minimize this problem throughout the entire supply chain. Farmers, for example, can do a lot in this regard if they manage to increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables so that they reach the warehouses and the consumer’s table in optimal consumption conditions and fruit waste is not created.
A high-impact solution in this area is PolyNatural’s natural coating technology.
These natural coatings are manufactured with 100% organic components of vegetable origin and ensure the best performance of each fruit. Thanks to this solution, the company has saved more than 157,041 cubic meters of water, and in 2020, it avoided the fruit waste of 273.6 tons.
Of course, we must not limit solutions to reducing food waste. We must also make production more efficient.
For example, in the meat sector, we can think of other alternatives for the Agtech industry, such as in-vitro beef, which, according to a report by CE Delft, can reduce the use of land by 95% and the associated water use by 78% compared to livestock activity.
How we exploit, distribute and consume resources is no longer sustainable. Any action to reverse this situation will help us achieve real change and secure a planet for future generations.