Okay, stop consuming now – until January

Posted August 22nd, 2010 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Okay, stop consuming now – until January

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

In a culture hypnotized by the myth of economic growth – that there will always be more forever and our standard of living will always increase for all eternity – it is hard to come crashing into the wall of limits.

This is our most fundamental theme – not global warming and climate change, not peak oil, not pollution and contamination of everything we need to live. It is all of these, but more. Our most fundamental theme is that we live on a round, finite planet.  And we are using up all it has to support the beings that live on it.

Ecological Overshoot gauge 2008 - Human Footprint Network

We write often here of ecological overshoot, or, putting it another way, living beyond our means, living beyond the means of the planet to support us. Because beyond global warming and oil spills, THIS is the real limit of our planetary life, THIS the limit beyond which we cannot go – and the continued race to do so spells disaster in the not-too-distant future.

So, friends, we passed a big marker this weekend, one that took me by surprise, I admit. On August 21, we reached Ecological Overshoot Day.  What is that? That’s the day that we reach our annual biocapacity limit.

Earth Overshoot Day… marks the day when demand on ecological services begins to exceed the renewable supply.”

In other words, this is the day after which, for the rest of the year, we begin to extract more from the earth than it can replenish, the day when we have put more waste into the earth than it can absorb.

When I was writing my book, Living Beyond the End of the World: A Spirituality of Hope, back in 2006-2007, I cited the 2006 ecological overshoot day, which that year was October 9. By 2008, the year the book was published, we reached overshoot day on September 23.  This was shocking.  The pace at which we were using up more than the earth had to give was clearly accelerating.

But this, my friends, is stunning – that 2 years later we reached that date on August 21August 21.  Yup, it happened over the weekend.

Ecological Overshoot Gauge 2010 - Human Footprint Network

You see, friends, no matter what else we do, no matter how many wind turbines we build or plug-in hybrids, no matter how much we bemoan the fact that we have shipped so much production off-shore, no matter how much we wish we could start buying houses again, or invent, develop, and consume more hi-tech gadgets, the reality is…

we are running out out of, overshooting, everything we need for life – water, good soil, wetlands, air to breathe, minerals and metals, energy – EVERYTHING – because we continue to believe that the earth is some endless source of what we need for our creature comforts, for our expectations of increasing standards of living, our human expansions, our economics of growth and profits, and that we can keep what we have while billions around the world aspire to the same levels of consumption.

Ecological Overshoot Day compels our attention to this fact, that, um, well, no, folks, this is actually not possible. This is the day that tells us we are headed towards some critical juncture, a point of no return, a cataclysm, unless we figure out another way to live on this planet.

So I leave the images of these two graphs, one from 2008 and the other from 2010, for us to ponder in the coming days. This is the reality that forces our attention to this business of creating a new way of life on the planet, not in the distant future, not as a plan for some next generation, but right now – because the crisis is right now.


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