Environment

Andrew Simms: The Ideator of Earth Overshoot Day

Andrew Simms has been warning the world about climate change for a long time, but it feels like people are just starting to take notice

29.07.2019 | by Kezia Parkins
Photo taken from The European Commission
Photo taken from The European Commission

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. 

Humanity is maintaining this deficit by liquidating stocks of ecological resources and accumulating waste, primarily carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

This comes from the irresponsible amount of oil and gas we use to generate electricity, the number of cars on the roads, the number of aeroplanes in the skies, the number of animals on our farms and the tonnes of waste we burn daily.

The day is hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that provides decision-makers with tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.

The concept of Earth Overshoot Day was first conceived by Andrew Simms, Fellow of the UK think tank New Economics Foundation, which partnered with Global Footprint Network in 2006 to launch the first global Earth Overshoot Day campaign. At that time Earth Overshoot Day fell in October. 

Today you will see thousands of tweets using the hashtag #EarthOvershootDay, aiming to warn the world that resources are running out.

Every year, the day is falling earlier and earlier with today [29th July 2019] marking the day that we have used up our allowance. 

The dates of past Earth Overshoot Days, as calculated with the National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts 2019 Edition

According to the New Economic Foundation, we are using nature’s resources 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate.

They use the calculation: (Planet’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day.

Thus, you may also see the hashtag #MoveTheDate which aims to enlighten people on what they can do to push back Earth Overshoot Day.

Back in 2013, Simms made a case for ‘living within our means’ in a Guardian article, popularizing the term ‘ecological debt:’

“The Earth’s ecosystems can be more or less productive depending on how well we care for them, but they are ultimately finite. So, we have chosen to ignore the idea of living within our means in the one arena, the ecological, where it is critical for our survival. Conversely, politicians obsess about the idea of living within our means in the economic arena, where it is debilitating to society in practical terms, and theoretically flawed. Obliviousness to ecological debt is characteristic of an economic system in which the interests of finance come first and which fails to recognise the environmental foundations of prosperity.”

He had already written a book about it entitled Ecological Debt: The Health of the Planet and the Wealth of Nations. 

The book aimed to educate readers on the small but significant changes they could make to help stop the landslide effect of global warming to ensure the planet for future generations. 

The political economist and environmentalist has a long history with the New Economics Foundation. Before becoming a fellow, he served as Policy Director for ten years, Communications Director, and established the Climate Change Programme for the foundation.

He also co-authored The Green New Deal and co-founded the Green New Deal Group in 2008, the climate campaign onehundredmonths.org and cooperative think tank the New Weather Institute.

Simms was a principal speaker of the Green Party and also coined the term ‘clone towns’ — to describe the economic and homogenising effects of chain retailers on town centres.

Today Simms expressed his concerns that “the date has moved horribly in the wrong direction.”

 

But, he also stated that he was happy that it was finally “getting noticed” and that younger generations were making the state of our climate an unavoidable political issue, retweeting the planet’s hope for survival in the form of 16-year-old activist, Greta Thunberg

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