August 19, 2014 was Earth Overshoot Day, the date when all people living on planet Earth exhausted nature’s budget for the year. In less than eight months, we have depleted the natural resources that our planet is able to renew in twelve months. For the rest of the year, we are running on red, stealing from the future. The Global Footprint Network (the creators of the Earth Overshoot model) estimates our demand for renewable ecological resources and the services they provide is now equivalent to that of more than 1.5 earths. We’re using more, there are more of us, and we’re decreasing the natural resources. As a result, Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier every year. In the year 2000, it was on October 1.
Coincidentally, August 19 is also World Humanitarian Day, a day to commemorate all people who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the world. When I noticed this, I tweeted about this being such an odd coincidence, as these days could be seen as being quite disconnected. But of course, they are not disconnected at all. Access to natural resources has always been a cause of tension and struggle and with ever declining natural capital available to an ever-increasing global population, this will only get worse.
August 19 also was the day when the brutal murder on American journalist James Foley. Brave journalists like him are needed to create a sense of urgency, to create human angles and stories that overcome indifference in people around the world. The media can also play a key role in highlighting solutions and celebrating successes in resolving conflict and finding solutions to living within the boundaries of one planet.
This August 19, the war stories dominated the media, overshouting the stories about the environmental overshoot. We need coalitions and heroes of many kinds to make sure that somewhere in the near future, Earth Overshoot Day comes after World Humanitarian Day – or better yet, that we no longer need such days to shout out the brutal truths through the media.
Who are your favorite heroes in driving this change and which coalitions do you think can really make a difference?