Yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day 2015 – the day on which we exceed our annual budget for ecological resources.
For years now, we’ve known that we use more resources than we should. Humanity is brilliant at exploiting nature and the planet’s natural resources – deforestation for timber or croplands, mass fisheries for consumption, fossil fuels for energy. And despite knowing this, and having scientific consensus that we’re having a negative impact on the planet and our environment, our behaviours and exploitations show no sign of changing.
Earth Overshoot Day is based on a comparison of humanity’s demands – carbon emissions, cropland, fish stocks, and forest use – with the planet’s ability to regenerate such resources and naturally absorb the carbon emitted. Each year, it’s a different day depending on how quickly we have used and demanded too much from the planet. You’d hope that the more we know about our impact on the planet, the more we’d change and the less we’d exploit it – but the graph below shows that this isn’t the case. The graph (courtesy of National Geographic) shows that Earth Overshoot Day is taking place earlier in the year each year…
Seeing this graph, and knowing that there has been no improvement in our use of the planets resources, made me ask myself the big question… why? Why aren’t we changing our behaviours? Why do we continue to cut down trees so we can grow our food? Why do we still have these mass fisheries and consume millions of fish daily, disrupting food chains and bringing species near to extinction? Is it that important that we have a timber house, or fish and chips for dinner?
Thinking about this, I was interested to calculate my carbon footprint and see how many Earth’s we’d need if everyone lived my lifestyle – how much do I exploit and damage the planet? I’ve always known I’m not the most eco-friendly I could be – I commute daily from Bedford to London on the train, I have a big TV, I buy a lot of clothes, I eat meat, I don’t always buy local or organic food – but I was really surprised / disappointed with my carbon footprint. If someone who cares about the environment as much as I do can have such a big footprint, then what hope is there for other people?
Yes, there are things I could do and lifestyle choices I know I could make to limit my impact. I could be vegetarian – I already have Meat Free Mondays each week so it wouldn’t be that hard. Or maybe I could find a job more local; and cycle/walk to work rather than commute each day. I could spend less money on clothes, and more on organic local produce… so why don’t I? It’s not that I don’t care, and it’s not that I don’t know – so what is it?
Perhaps it’s fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown. Or maybe it’s selfishness. Truth be told, I really enjoy my life. I like my daily commute to London, my rewarding job and exciting hustle and bustle of the city. I like buying new handbags or going on holiday to sunny Mallorca or glacial Iceland (if you haven’t already you should read my blog on sustainable travel). And I really really like steak (there, I’ve admitted it).
So is the rest of humanity like me? Scared and selfish? Or are we just greedy? Look at what’s going on in the world right now and ask yourself, does this look like a society that is trying to change?
- Shell are drilling for oil in the Arctic... because evidently all the oil they’ve already burnt, and carbon they’ve emitted, isn’t enough.
- The UK Government are pushing forward with fracking... because it makes so much more sense to spend money on finding more climate-damaging fossil fuels than invest in renewable energies.
- Animals are facing extinction as we destroy their habitats for agriculture... because their homes and lives are far less important than having palm oil for our shampoo or ice cream.
When will we see the error of our ways and change? How many species will need to go extinct before we stop cutting down trees? How many glaciers will have to melt? How much will sea level have to rise before we realise we need to stop?
Earth isn’t just our home. It’s a home to millions of animals and plants. We need to stop being selfish and stop telling ourselves that we don’t need to change. We need to stop using and abusing the planet and start treating it with the love and respect it deserves.
So, seeing as it’s just been Earth Overshoot Day, which you could say was the end of our ecological resource year (I’m grasping at straws here) – I’m going to set myself a New-ecological resource-Years Resolution. Less money on clothes and handbags and material items, and more on local, organic, environmentally friendly produce. And Meat Free Mondays and Tuesdays.