July 19th, 2017
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s consumption exceeds the environment’s renewal capacity. According to Global Footprint Network (GFN), the international research organization responsible for the Earth Overshoot Day initiative, this year it falls on August 2nd, making it the earliest date since the world first went into overshoot in the 1970s.
GFN estimates that humanity is currently using nature 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate, and that this is akin to using 1.7 Earths.
It isn’t hard to see the cost of global ecological overspending everywhere: in the form of deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
But GFN is optimistic the trend can be reversed; it calculates that if we moved the day back 4.5 days each year, we would return to using the resources of oneplanet by 2050. Unfortunately, while the GFN discusses the impact of climate change, it does not mention the impact of population growth: one billion additional people approximately every 13 years, with almost all of this increase occurring in developing countries that understandably want to increase their per capita consumption.
Meanwhile, World Population Day, an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme, was marked on July 11th. This year’s emphasis was on the role of family planning in empowering people—especially women—and developing nations, and it coincided with the Family Planning Summit, the second meeting of the Family Planning 2020 initiative in London, which aims to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women by 2020.
According to the latest findings from the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and globally, some 214 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities. Many of those with an unmet demand for contraceptives live in the poorest countries on earth.
Access to safe, voluntary family planning is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and is a key factor in reducing poverty. Investments in making family planning available will also yield economic benefits and other gains that can propel development forward.
There are many actions the individual can take to help realize the goals of preserving biodiversity and resources on the one hand while ensuring the health, development and empowerment of women and girls on the other, but central to them all is ensuring a conversation about the importance of small families in achieving them, and making sure we give women everywhere access to safe, modern and effective contraception.
Contact: Madeline Weld, PhD.
President, Population Institute Canada