Every year, a little earlier. The Global Footprint Network reminds us of Earth Overshoot Day. The day when we, as a global community, have used up all the resources our planet can reproduce in a year.
Earth Overshoot Day not only marks another year of inefficient resource management and overly dovish climate policies, but also continues to reignite the discussion of whether we need to reduce global resource consumption, when we need to reduce it, and to what extent.
50 years of Limits to Growth – what happened?
The question of whether our resource consumption can continue as usual is an old one. As early as 1972, the Club of Rome published the report “Limits to Growth” in which it clearly emerged that infinite growth is not possible on a planet with limited resources. That was exactly 50 years ago. A year in which Earth Overshoot Day fell on December 10. As is readily apparent, the tide has not turned in our favor since then: Global resource consumption has more than tripled since then , extreme weather events have increased fivefold , and our greenhouse gas emissions have more than doubled [3,4], one million animal species are threatened with extinction , the list is long. The political response to these figures is often innovative spirit and technological optimism, business-as-usual only by other means – electric cars or biofuels are just two examples.
“Everything from Wood” – An appeal for sustainable extraction of wood raw materials.
Wood as a renewable all-rounder is another. WWF’s recent report, “Everything from Wood,”  asks a valid question: Can our forests, under sustainable management, provide enough wood to provide material for our houses, energy for our homes, fiber for our clothing, and substitutes for our plastic products? Currently, the earth is covered with about four billion hectares of forest, which corresponds to about 31% of the earth’s surface . These forests fulfill so-called ecosystem services. They extract CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in wood and soil, regulate our climate, form nutrient and water cycles, are hotspots of biodiversity, offer us a place of retreat and recreation, and of course, they also provide us humans with resources, i.e. wood. But: our forests are under enormous pressure. Intensive management and the climate crisis are putting increasing pressure on global forest areas. Deforestation of our forests has increased by 60% in the last 60 years, drought and aridity are causing crown thinning, soil sealing, and insect infestation. Not all forests perform ecosystem services to the same extent. Old-growth and natural forests, the report says, are more effective carbon sinks and have higher biodiversity than plantations or industrial forests. “Maintaining old-growth, primary and close-to-nature secondary forest areas is at the heart of both biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation,” WWF said. The report, which runs to just under 160 pages, can be summarized in one conclusion: To reduce pressure on our forests, industrialized countries must not continue to adapt the use of forests to their needs, but conversely adapt their needs to the natural capacity of global forests. Sustainable use of global forest areas, but also conservation of forest areas to fulfill all ecosystem services, are necessary measures.
Forests and the Earth Overshoot Day
Every year, Earth Overshoot Day reminds us that we are living far beyond our means. This applies not only to the extraction and processing of wood but basically to every area of life in our western world. Sustainable resource management can only work if we simultaneously reduce our demand. This is not business-as-usual, because it requires us to reinvent consumption and production rather than replacing individual components. Our forests and the extraction of wood raw materials are not only a good example of this – they will also determine in the future how resilient we will be with regard to the climate crisis and its impact on people and the environment.
More information (in German) here https://www.footprint.at/2022/07/27/overshoot-day-2022/.
Post by Olivia Leth, 28. July 2022.
1. BMK (n.d.): Trends in global resource use – UN Report. At: https://www.bmk.gv.at. URL: https://www.bmk.gv.at/themen/klima_umwelt/nachhaltigkeit/ressourceneffizienz/un_report.html (perm. accessed: 27.07.2022).
2 World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (31.08.2021): Weather-related disasters increase over past 50 years, causing more damage but fewer deaths. At: https://www.public.wmo.int, URL: https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/weather-related-disasters-increase-over-past-50-years-causing-more-damage-fewer (accessed 27.07.2022).
3. Statistia Research Department (07/09/2021): CO2 emissions worldwide 1960 to 2019. At: www.statista.com, URL: https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/37187/umfrage/der-weltweite-co2-ausstoss-seit-1751/ (accessed 07/27/2022).
4. Global Carbon Budget – Global Carbon Project (2020): Annual production-based emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), measured in tonnes. At: https://www.ourworldindata.org. URL: https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions (access date: 27.07.2022).
5. United Nations (UN) (06/05/2019): UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’. At: https://www.un.org, URL: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/ (accessed July 27, 2022).
6. Beck-O’Brien, M. et al. (2022): Everything from Wood. The Resource of the future or the next crisis? WWF Germany, Reinhardstraße 18, D-10117 Berlin. S. 5-10
7. Statista Research Department (21.02.2022): Forest area and forest condition worldwide. At: www.statista.com. URL: https://de.statista.com/themen/7066/waelder/#topicHeader__wrapper