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A day to mark and ponder

Yesterday was NZ Earth Overshoot Day – a sobering day for those who take climate change seriously.

It was an opportunity – not yet widely observed – to make a commitment to sustainability – as individuals and by the country as a whole.

It is a time to commit to changing wasteful habits, seek out innovative solutions and campaign for a much greater emphasis on sustainability. Earth Overshoot Day, first established in 2006 by the Global Footprint Network, is also an opportunity to deepen our awareness and understanding of our planet’s resources.

Overshoot Day is the estimated date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate over that same year. As more scientists agree, this is leading inexorably to earth’s sixth mass extinction. And not caused, as previous extinctions were, by space rocks or lava-belching volcanoes – but by us.

Different countries have their Overshoot Day at different times, but one date is established each year for the world to show how quickly we are burning through the planet’s living things [plants, animals, organisms] and the lack of balance with climate, water, etc.

Beside the growing, almost daily, news of the ravages of climate change, the annual Overshoot calculation shows dramatically how quickly we are using resources much more quickly than our planet’s ability to regenerate them.

Since 2006 the date has moved steadily earlier in the year. It was December 19 in 2006, and August 2 in 2023.

Technological advances during the last 50 years have moved even faster than our worryingly ever-increasing ecological deficit. It was in 1963 that Yuri Gagarin made the first very short flight into space; today we’re plotting for people to land on Mars. Some of the advances in technology can be used to blunt the worst effects of climate change. But it can never be the whole answer.

First, there has to be the political will in New Zealand and worldwide to change the most fundamental aspects of government policy. Here, for the most powerful political parties to both the right and left, virtually all their thinking is based on the unshakeable belief that continual growth is the key answer to economic challenges, and it has become the cornerstone of both electioneering and decision-making. Yet this mantra, and the grandiose projects that spring from the unwavering certainty that accompanies it, will inevitably worsen the situation.

Yet, there is another way and the covid-19 pandemic showed this dramatically. In 2020, the Overshoot Day actually retreated for the first time since 2006. There was a significant move back from the 2019 date of 29 July to 22 August, as the world briefly paused its helter-skelter pursuit of growth.

That’s why Earth Overshoot Day, which is again creeping earlier every year, is important to mark and ponder. In Wairarapa, the recently initiated TakeTheJump programme shows how individuals can make a difference. It emphasises: keeping electronic devices for at least seven years; walking or biking, carpooling and using public transport; eating more locally produced, plant-based food; second-hand shopping; and local holidays.


  1. No more saving the world by NEW ZEALAND. We make 0.0001 percent of the earth 🌎 population just a tiny fraction. We import from countries that Population means NOTHING so wearing? Driving vehicles? And other products from them must make you A????.

    • By your same logic fire fighters should stop saving lives, only 0.002 percent of NZ are firefighters.
      Lighting a fire doesn’t make you a A????
      Just like purchasing things and driving a car doesn’t make you a A????

      But being reckless and not considering the impact we make on others does.
      Every little bit will help, and fostering an attitude of contributing that little bit by everyone will make a positive impact

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