Seven years ago, earthquakes in Blackpool led the coalition government to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in UK rock formations. Drilling resumed late last year. Opposition has always been resolute and well organised, especially in Lancashire and Yorkshire. In a court hearing last autumn, the fracking company Cuadrilla announced that each day of delay at its Preston New Road operation saw it incur losses of £94,000. The figure was meant to cajole the courts, but may have had the unintended consequence of motivating protesters. By barricading roads, climbing aboard delivery trucks and taking legal action, campaigners have harried Cuadrilla and other firms every step of the way, shutting down fracking sites for days at a time.
Last year we used up one year’s worth of the earth’s resources by 13 August. This year we’ve done it five days earlier: today is earth overshoot day. (We passed Europe’s fish dependence day on 13 July. This marks the point at which Europe’s fish consumption exceeds what it can catch in its own waters.)
Every year the Global Footprint Network calculates when we have collectively used a year's worth of the earth's resources. Last year we reached it one day sooner than in 2013. This year we've brought the date forward by six days, to 13 August. Of the countries with a biocapacity deficit, the UK is 12th (one place lower than the United States; the worst performer is the United Arab Emirates).
We’re behaving as if we had 1.5 earths available to us, and our behaviour is getting worse. Every year the Global Footprint Network calculates the date on which people use up one year’s worth of the planet’s biocapacity. In 2013 we achieved this on 20 August. This year we’ve done it a day earlier. In the 1960s there was no overshoot; we were only using around three-quarters of the earth’s capacity. Britain uses the biocapacity of a land area more than three times its size, making it worse than the United States, which behaves as if it were merely twice as big.
Today we overshoot ourselves. We've used up in less than eight months the resources that the earth provides in a year. In 2012 it took us until 22 August. Only ten years ago we were able to make do for an extra month. We already treat the earth as if it were 50 per cent bigger than it is. And if everyone lived as we do in Britain, the planet would need to be 3.5 times its present size.