Are you familiar with Earth Overshoot Day? No, it’s not some sort of race between satellites put on by NASA or other global space agencies, it’s actually the day each year that marks when we’ve used up the Earth’s resources for that year. Think of it as the planet’s ecological and environmental budget, tied to the Earth’s ability to regenerate the vital natural resources necessary for our existence. Ideally Overshoot Day would fall on December 31st or even into the following year, or in a hyper-idealized world, not at all. Unfortunately, this year it fell on August 8, and what’s more troubling, it’s occurring sooner with each passing twelve months. Since the dawn of the millennium sixteen years ago, the date has crept back from October 1st to its current place in the dog days of summer. With every passing year, we’re making it harder for the Earth to conduct its basic maintenance while simultaneously writing future generations a series of impossible IOU notes.
So what’s causing all the trouble? As with most environmental issues, the culprit is carbon, whose emissions and footprint are causing up to 60% of the global population’s demand on the Earth’s resources. Though America is typically cited as being the bad-boy poster child for excessive resource consumption, my native Australia actually edges out the U.S. in a current report and takes the top spot. As a recently naturalized American and proud Australian, I apologize twice. Perhaps surprisingly, China places low on the chart. Whereas it would require five-plus planets if everyone lived like an Australian, it would require two if everyone lived like the Chinese, this despite the country’s rapid recent growth and economic development.
Without being too grim about it, if we, especially those of us here in the United States, continue to ignore our responsibility to both the world at-large and its future generations by combatting even the most rudimentary of legislation and treaties aimed at reducing our carbon footprint, we’ll pass a point of no return with dire consequences. While the rest of the planet is busy embracing the Paris Accords and other ambitious renewable energy initiatives, the U.S. unfortunately finds itself riven by a fractious political climate that grows seemingly farther apart each day. In our arrogance, we assume that the planet will always be here for us, and while the Earth will certainly always be here, we as a species, and our privileged way of life, may not.
I don’t say this to be a scold, or to bring you the reader down, rather, I say it to underline how important this issue is and the need for positive, decisive action. As a father, I want to make sure my two daughters and future grandchildren enjoy a world as vibrant as the one I did. Fortunately, as mentioned, governments around the world are taking bold steps to create new paradigms of energy creation and consumption. For instance, Germany recently powered its entire country with 100% renewable resources, albeit for several minutes, with Portugal going even further by powering the country for a few days with totally renewable energy. In addition to efforts such as this, it’s also vitally important that we filter our efforts through the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, which outline a series of ambitious objectives for ensuring the long-term health of people and planet. We have a map and we have the emerging technology, now it’s time to get in motion if we’re going to move Earth Overshoot Day back to where it belongs.
For more information about the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, please visit: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs
Image via Flickr courtesy of user Juan Alberto Garcia Rivera at https://flic.kr/p/fnLdED
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