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Damn, It’s Earth Overshoot Day Already! (podcast episode 49)

If we were on a spaceship, the end really would be near – August 22. That is Earth Overshoot Day for 2020. We all know we can’t graze 100 head of cattle for long on a one-acre patch of land. We’d have a barren wasteland and a bunch of dead cattle in no time. It’s a little more challenging for us to make this calculation about meeting the needs of 7.8 billion people on a larger patch of land – the entire planet. But the laws of physics equally apply.

Analysts at Global Footprint Network do an impressive job of performing this worldwide calculation. Since 2003, they’ve been analyzing UN data and satellite imagery to estimate the planet’s capacity to meet our needs (biocapacity), and humankind’s footprint – or demand (ecological footprint) – on that capacity. Their analysis suggests we have been in overshoot since about 1970. 

If you have too many people, consuming resources faster than the planet can regenerate them, and generating waste faster than the planet can convert that waste, you are in overshoot. This bonus episode of GrowthBusters features the Conversation Earth special, Welcome to Overshoot: Have a Nice Day. This is a 2020 update of the special we shared a year ago. Welcome to Overshoot explores overshoot’s causes, effects, and possible solutions, as well as some of the barriers to solving the problem. It features a who’s who of environmental and economic experts:

William Catton, author of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

Brian Czech, author of Supply Shock: Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution, and executive director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

Herman Daly, author of Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development

Paul Ehrlich, Stanford Biologist, author of The Population Bomb

Kerryn Higgs, author of Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet

Ian Johnson, former World Bank vice president, former secretary general of Club of Rome

Bill McKibben, environmental journalist, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, co-founder of

Dennis Meadows, lead scientist, The Limits to Growth

Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist

William Rees, co-originator of ecological footprint analysis

Bill Ryerson, President of Population Media Center and Chair of Population Institute

Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology at Boston University and author of True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans Are Creating a Time-Rich, Ecologically Light, Small-Scale, High-Satisfaction Economy

John Seager, CEO of Population Connection

Gus Speth, former chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Co-Chair of the Next System Project

Mathis Wackernagel, founder of Global Footprint Network and co-author of Ecological Footprint: Managing Our Biocapacity Budget

Rex Weyler, environmental journalist


Earth Overshoot Day

The Limits to Growth

Conversation Earth podcasts

Ecological Footprint: Managing Our Biocapacity Budget by Mathis Wackernagel and Bert Beyers

Footprint Calculator

Move the Date
Solutions to accelerate the shift to one-planet living

Past Earth Overshoot Days


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