On May 13, Switzerland spent all its resources

Passers-by shop on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse: the Swiss live on too big a foot.

Passers-by shop on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse: the Swiss live on too big a foot.Image: KEYSTONE

Swiss Overshoot Day falls on May 13 this year. “In relation to the problem, it is going too slowly backwards,” says the founder of “Global Footprint Network”, Mathis Wackernagel. His organization shows solutions how the date can be postponed further.

Corsin Manser
Corsin Manser


Swiss Overshoot Day has been pushed back a bit. Three years ago fell on May 7, now it is May 13. In other words: if everyone on earth lived like the Swiss, all resources for the current year would have been used up today. With the Swiss lifestyle, we would need 2.8 soils. This puts us well above the global average of 1.75 Earths.

The fact that Swiss Overshoot Day has been postponed is not really a reason why Mathis Wackernagel is happy. “It’s going way too slowly backwards in relation to the problem,” says the founder of Global Footprint Network, which calculates Overshoot Day. Switzerland has made a small effort, but it is not enough. “We are not prepared for the resource problems that come our way.”

The people of Qatar and Luxembourg are even more wasteful. Overshoot Day was reached there in February. Not surprisingly, the people of the United States are also walking on oversized feet. If all people lived like in the United States, it would take 5.1 Earths.

While the excess day is already in the first half of the year in European countries, there are countries that do not reach it this year. For example, India. If everyone lived like an Indian woman, it would only take 0.8 Lands.

Wackernagel grew up in Basel but lives in Oakland, California. He emphasizes that many things are going better in Switzerland than in his adoptive country. “Public transportation in Switzerland is great. You can live without a car. Quite the opposite of the United States.” According to the 60-year-old, the quality of construction in Switzerland is also very high. “The houses are thermally well built.”

Resource problems will increase

Nevertheless, Wackernagel accuses Switzerland of “resource blindness”. The struggle for resources will become increasingly brutal in the coming years and will further increase global inequalities. This also increases the migratory pressure on Switzerland. Now they are discussing how to protect the borders, but it is only to “fight the symptoms”. “If we Swiss still need three earths a year, we will continue to heat the pressure cooker. What we are doing now is sticking more and more glue on the steam hole. We should reduce the heat.”

Mathis Wackernagel from Basel lives in Oakland, California.

Mathis Wackernagel from Basel lives in Oakland, California.image: zvg

Migration is not the only problem facing Switzerland. Wackernagel also questions food security and doubts whether our cities can function at all with rising climate change and scarcity of resources. Urban resource dependence is at a very high level and is hardly declining. “The great thing about the climate debate is that everyone always thinks that they must take action for others. In order for the Maldives not to go under e.g. We also have the hole in our own boat. “

According to Wackernagel, with very simple examples it can be shown that Switzerland and Europe do not take the resource problem seriously. A flight within Europe is often still cheaper than a train journey. “It’s a political failure,” he says. “It shows that politicians are not really taking their own resource security seriously.”

It is now a matter of investing in resource security, according to Basler. “In other areas, we also manage to plan long-term. For example, we already seem to know exactly what fighter jets we need for the next few decades and are spending billions of francs on it. “

So you could move the date back

However, Wackernagel and his team not only point out the problems, but also offer solutions on how the expiration date can be pushed back. Under the motto “The current trend is not our destiny”, the website overshootday.org presents five core areas where decisive steps can be taken.

One of them is our diet. If we reduce global meat consumption by 50 percent, Global Overshoot Day would be pushed back 17 days. If the “food waste” was then also reduced by half, Surplus Day would take place again 13 days later.

How is the day of overrun calculated?

This is how Wackernagel explains it: Any high school student can do this math. How much wheat, potatoes, energy, etc. do we consume? How much space does it require? So for everything: food, fiber, uptake of CO2 from fossil fuels, space for our streets and houses? This is our footprint. We can compare this to biocapacity: the productive area available to us. If everyone in the world had a footprint like the Swiss on average, then humanity would have spent the annual nature budget up on May 13th.

So much food waste is produced by Swiss households every year

Video: srf / Roberto Krone

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