Happy Earth Overshoot Day
Today, August 13th, is Earth Overshoot Day 2015. That means that in the past 225 days we've consumed as much natural resources as the Earth produces in an entire year. From here on out—a full 140 days—we're on borrowed time.
It's also the earliest Earth Overshoot Day since the Global Footprint Network started keeping track in 1970. Back then we started running a global deficit on December 23rd. Ever since the break even point has crept earlier and earlier in the year, running our balance higher and higher.
We don't live in a limitless world. Everything we use—the resources we depend on—come from this planet. Whether our well-designed urban lives hide it or not, we're part of an ecosystem that has been in balance for millennia. If we tip the balance too far in one direction, the bill will come due one day.
Right now, that bill is so high that it's no longer enough that here in the U.S. and the rest of the Western world we've begun to reduce our environmental impact. By 2100 the U.N. predicts, the global population will reach 11 billion, 4 billion more than live on the Earth today. 75% of that growth will be in Africa alone. What happens when all those developing countries want suburban homes and cars and flat screens and iPhones? There won't be a planet left to look out for.
It's our obligation, as the culture with the greatest wealth and the greatest responsibility for the status quo, to devise a new way forward. We need to blaze a trail for the next 4 billion to live happy lives without paving over what's left of the world or turning it into a feed lot.
So tomorrow as you go through your daily routine, don't just think about how you can lessen your impact on the environment, think of ways we can begin to pay back our planetary deficit. What will it look like for a population of 11 billion to use less natural resources than what gets produced in a year?
Until we figure that out, we better hope the payments on our growing balance aren't enough to put us under water.
Graphic via National Geographic