Crowded beach

Earth Overshoot Day

From Stephanie Feldstein, Population & Sustainability Program Director


Each year the Global Footprint Network calculates the date when humanity's demands on the planet have maxed out Earth's ability to regenerate. It's been 50 years since we made it to the end of the calendar year without exhausting Earth's ecological budget. Every year since then, the date has crept earlier and earlier — until 2020. But this brief reprieve, caused by COVID-19 lockdowns, isn't cause for celebration.

Although the economy and travel have slowed down, life during the pandemic doesn't represent the long-term systemic change that will be needed to permanently push back Earth Overshoot Day. That will require leaders to commit to rebuilding a future that prioritizes public health, resilience and conservation. As Global Footprint Network notes, "True sustainability that allows all to thrive on Earth can only be achieved by design, not disaster."

Read on to learn more about population pressure and how you can help move the date.

Leatherback sea turtle

Coastal development, beachfront lighting and human disturbance are among the threats putting all seven leatherback sea turtle populations at high risk of extinction. If nesting-habitat destruction and fishing-gear entanglement continue, U.S. leatherback sea turtles in the Atlantic will decline by half within 30 years.

Population fact

Crowded Planet Resource Library

New Crowded Planet Resource Library

The Center just launched a first-of-its-kind, online resource library compiling studies, reports and reviews that make the connection between human population growth and the extinction crisis. This searchable database brings together studies from several disciplines, including conservation, psychology, demography and public health that show how human population pressure is driving the extinction crisis, how to address the problem with equity and rights-based solutions, and the challenges of population advocacy.

The goal of this new resource is to demonstrate that even though the runaway-population problem is often treated as taboo — or even met with denial — research is being done on it across many fields. That research not only measures the devastating effects of population pressure on wildlife and wild places, but also supports a way forward that benefits people and the planet alike.

Here's one thing you can do: Check out the Crowded Planet database. The library will continue to grow, so if you have a resource you'd like to see included, send us a message.



Starting Aug. 22, we'll be in overshoot, having used up the resources the Earth can replenish in a year. Pushing Earth Overshoot Day further back in the calendar will require decisionmakers to commit to a just transition to clean energy, transforming our food system, universal access to reproductive health care, gender equity and protecting the wild. As individuals we can take action to reduce our footprints, start important conversations, and shift cultural norms to support the necessary political, market and structural changes.

The Center's Population and Sustainability Program has also launched a #YearOfAction social media campaign to help you learn more, take action, and create change throughout the year.

Here's one thing you can do: Follow the #MoveTheDate hashtag on social media and join our Year of Action campaign on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

World Alliance of Breastfeeding Action

Breastmilk Benefits People and Planet

Earlier this month the Center partnered with the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and La Leche League International to support World Breastfeeding Week to educate people about the deep connections between human health and healthy ecosystems. The World Health Organization estimates that increasing optimal breastfeeding could prevent more than 800,000 child and 20,000 maternal deaths each year and improve the health, social and economic development of individuals and nations.

In addition to health and economic benefits, breastfeeding also brings environmental benefits. Producing formula is expensive: It costs us in greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and packaging pollution. When breastfeeding is possible, it only requires the additional food a parent needs to consume.

Here's one thing you can do: Learn more about the challenges to breastfeeding and how you can help create a warm chain of support for breastfeeding parents.

Empty café

Are We Headed for a Population Bust?

A recently published population forecast predicted that human population would peak within the next 50 years and start declining by the end of the century. This projection was met with sensationalist headlines about a "crash in births" and impending economic doom. Have we solved the population problem only to create a new crisis? Not exactly.

As Sarah Baillie points out at Medium, the population peak is far from certain. If countries like the United States continue to roll back reproductive rights, population will keep growing. But if we are able to achieve conditions where population stabilizes and declines this century, it will create social and economic challenges. We have no choice but to meet those challenges, because the alternative is worse.

Here's one thing you can do: Share Sarah's analysis to help educate others about the truth behind the latest population forecast.


The Myth of Magical Cows

It's trendy for livestock producers and their apologists to claim cattle are a boon for the environment, with the ability to recycle their methane emissions and benefit native wildlife. In a pair of recently published op-eds, Senior Food Campaigner Jennifer Molidor dispels this magical thinking.

Contrary to industry claims, cattle are ecological misfits in the arid West, where they trample habitat and demand irrigation that's sucking rivers dry. And with under 10 years to cut greenhouse gas emission in half, the creative math saying we shouldn't count cattle methane simply doesn't add up.

Here's one thing you can do: Don't buy the hamburger hype. No form of beef production is wildlife-friendly at current levels of consumption. Commit to eating less beef to support a sustainable food system.

Northern mockingbird

Wildlife Spotlight: Northern Mockingbird

Northern mockingbirds get their name from their habit of imitating the songs of other birds. These prolific singers can learn as many as 200 different tunes. They often fool people into thinking there are a dozen species nearby, when it's just one bird showing off. And they recently had their day in court, when the Trump administration's attempt to undermine the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was overturned.

The administration interpreted the law as only applying to intentional killing of birds, letting industries responsible for oil spills, power lines and development — which kill millions of birds each year — off the hook. In her decision in favor of the birds, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni cited the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird: "It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is a crime."

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Photo credits: Crowded beach by Sergio Souza/Pexels; leatherback sea turtle by Florida Fish and Wildlife/Flickr; Crowded Planet homepage courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; #MoveTheDate image courtesy Global Footprint Network; breastfeeding image courtesy World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action; empty café via Pixabay; cows via Pixabay; northern mockingbird by Renee Grayson/Flickr.

Center for Biological Diversity
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