Building the World

ENERGY: August 22 – Earth Overshoot Day 2020

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August 22: Earth Overshoot Day 2020. Image: wikimedia commons.

World time zones came to us via the Canadian Pacific Railway, and clocks are as old as the hourglass or the water clock famously given to Caliph al-Mansur, founder of Baghdad, by a visiting Byzantine emperor. But now there is a new way of reckoning time.

Earth Overshoot Day, calculated by the Global Footprint Network and the National Footprint & Biocapacity Accounts (NFA) with data from 2016 forward from the United Nations (15,000 data points per country, per year), is that day each year when humans have used up all the resources Earth can renew, that year. From Earth Overshoot Day on, the rest of the year racks up an “environmental deficit.

Climate change is hard to grasp, because it is gradual. How can we “tell climate time?” The Doomsday Clock (maintained since 1947 by atomic scientists) is one way; it started as a nuclear threat measurement but now includes climate change. Earth Overshoot Day may help us to learn how to reset that clock. In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day was three weeks earlier: in other words, 2020’s pandemic and resultant decrease in resource-consumption and energy emissions reduced our carbon footprint and bought us some time. No one would wish to repeat the pandemic, but considering planned ways for Earth to take a Sabbath might help us apply lessons learned in 2020 to rebuild back better.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. “The Doomsday Clock.” https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/past-statements/

“Energy: A Sabbath for Earth?” 22 March 2020, Building the World Blog, University of Massachusetts Boston. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2020/03/22/energy-a-sabbath-for-earth/

Global Footprint Network. “Earth Overshoot Day is August 22, 20202: more than three weeks later than last year.” https://www.footprintnetwork.org/2020/06/05/press-release-june-2020-earth-overshoot-day/.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

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