Are we overshooting the earth?
If you are like me, you may have just missed something big. Have you heard of the earth overshoot day? Overshoot day marks the date in each year when humanity's demand for resources and services exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. That means that each year we get to pause on a different day when someone clever makes a calculation that the earth can no longer give back what we have taken from it.
The project is hosted each year by the Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within Earth’s ecological limits.
What stunned me was that back in 1970 when the stats began, overshoot day was December 30th. This means that by the end of that year, we had used roughly what could be put back. But only 4 decades later our date for 2021 was July 29th. Collectively, humanity has already used up what the earth can redeem and by the time we have had Christmas this year we will be on track to have used up at least 1.7 'earths'. If this info is true then it looks as though it will only take us another few decades to extract double from the earth than what it can give back.
One of the hopeful things about the graph above is the sudden spike we had last year. If you look at the section for 2020, overshoot day jumps back up to late August where we were around twenty years ago. It would seem that for all the chaos and hurt of a global pandemic, it meant the earth was able to take a breather from our relentless consumption. Production lines were stumped, supply was disrupted, shops closed, waiting lists were increased
and we all. slowed. down.
Slowing down, and pausing for breath has got to be a good thing right? I know that livelihoods are on the line because of the pandemic. If not from Covid itself then from the economic impact that is due to us soon. But one of the things we have been given in the haze and slime of it all is a ceiling for our dreams and ambition.
It's a good thing to wait for something you want. It's a good thing to not let production out prioritize your family or your health... or the earth. Last year was a call from the sidelines that when we are able to slow down, the earth gets a chance to breathe.
As a Christian one of the earliest things we were told about in childhood was the very first job that God gives humanity which was to 'steward the earth'. Name the animals. Look after the place. Help each other. Stay connected. That was our first job and look what we did with it. It is a privilege to look after the earth and a personal responsibility too. Whatever you believe, the good news is that millions of us are taking action to help reduce our personal footprints.
At home my wife Mim has replaced all our cleaning stuff with refillables. We use bamboo toothbrushes. Our energy comes from Ovo. We're big fans of Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. Our savings account only invests in good stuff for the earth. We aren't perfect though. We have the luxury of solar panels which have needed fixing for months. I regularly put stuff in the wrong bin. I guess where I'm going with all this is that the big overshoot day should remind you and I that we all have a little overshoot day too. A little day when you and I and our families can pause for breath and wonder whether we are taking more than the earth can give back to us and what easy simple things we might be able to do to move the date back again each year.
By the way, the global footprint network have just started releasing a story every day to showcase the remarkable and inspirational work that businesses, charities, community projects and governments are doing to find new ways to displace old practices we can no longer afford.
You knew where this was heading. One of the ways in which we can make a massive change in the way things are is simply to share. The Watersports library is all about sharing equipment, knowledge and skill so that as many people can experience the joy of the water as possible. The water is amazing and it's only by falling in love with something that we will want to look after it.
Sharing is the simplest way to maximise the use of what we collectively own. While recycling is making a huge difference to waste, reproduction of new goods is still a costly process. Sharing means less products need to be made in the first place.
Plus, its easy. Not just with watersports equipment. Why shouldent there be more sharing of toys, kitchen equipment, camping stuff, workspaces, cars and bikes? Have a look at the butterfly chart above and then have a look around your own garage and spare room. I wonder what might lurk there that might inspire you to share so that someone else won't have to go out and buy something you dont use that much.
I'd love for overshoot day to start creeping back towards December and while it is up to the big decision makers to make choices, I reckon there are plenty of fun and creative ways we can begin to help out too.