We are lucky today. The Earth Overshoot Day has come almost a week earlier this year compared to 2016. We have beaten our own record again, as the 2016 Earth Overshoot Day was on the 8th of August, and this year it’s today, on the 2nd. We are getting better at this. In case I’m being too fine with the irony, I’m going to tell you what the hell is the Earth Overshoot Day, why should we worry about it, and what’s more important, how to reduce our ecological footprint.
The Earth Overshoot Day marks the date of each year when the demand for ecological resources of the humanity has exceeded the amount of resources that the Earth can generate in the entire year. This day has been occurring earlier and earlier each year for more than half a century. In 2017 it’s today, on the 2nd of August. This means that to cover all our resource consumption in a sustainable way, we would require 1.7 planets. I guess I don’t have to remind you that we only have ONE, and that the conquer of Mars is still a wild dream and it would cost us an unbelievable amount of resources, too (sorry, Elon). In short: we are living on the resources of the future.
Terrifying, but ¿how is this date calculated? There is a seemingly simple formula for that:
(Biocapacity of the Earth/Ecological footprint of the humanity) x 365 = Earth Overshoot day
The hardest parts to assess are the ecological footprint, which is the ecological assets used by the population to produce the natural resources that it consumes and assimilate the waste generated during the process, and the biocapacity, which are the ecological assets of an area and its capability to assimilate waste. To put it in a simpler way, on one hand we have the ecological footprint spending resources and generating crap and on the other hand there’s the biocapacity producing resources and absorbing some of the crap. When the ecological footprint exceeds the biocapacity, we have the current situation.
But not all nations are in debt with the future, as you can see in this pretty graphic. In general, the more economically developed and/or more densely populated countries have the largest debt. This puts us, the inhabitants of the first world, the ones with electricity, internet, wheeled transportation, an overflowing closet and who wipe their asses with drinking water, in an uncomfortable position. In my opinion, there isn’t much we can change with our individual actions. Big policies and global paradigm shifts would be required. However, it’s always better to do something, even a little something, than do absolutely nothing. In fact, if we pay attention to Europe in the graph, countries with comparable population densities, such as Italy and Germany or Spain and France, have very different ecological debts. This is obviously influenced by other factors (biocapacity of the country) aside from the population eco-friendliness, but I insist: it’s always better to do something and behave ethically, than do nothing.
And what can we do to stop this madness? Simple: consume less, and consume responsibly. Why do we need to consume less? Because everything we use, absolutely everything (food, clothing, transportation, houses, energy…) produces an ecological footprint. And the sad part is that as little as we consume, given our “western”, “economically developed” lifestyle, is going to still be a lot. Here is a quick brainstorm I’ve made of ways to reduce our ecological footprint (there are more, of course):
- Consume food without packaging. Go to farmers’ markets.
- Or start a veg garden and grow your own food, if you want to go all bananas.
- Buy less clothes. Invest in quality and repair it when possible. Buy pieces you really like, not because they are trendy (remember how silly we look today with shoulder pads or bell-bottom pants). Ah, and nobody needs that many shoes.
- Or again, if you want to go all bananas, inform yourself about the capsule wardrobe concept.
- Walk or ride a bicycle instead of burning petrol.
- Consume products that have been manufactured or grown as near as possible.
- Don’t waste, even if you can afford it.
- Eat fruit and vegetables in season.
- Eat less meat and fish.
- Buy new electronics when they stop working. What’s this f*cking madness of buying a new iPhone each year?
- Donate or give away what you don’t need. This way, other people won’t have to buy it, and it won’t be manufactured again.
- Consume second hand goods. Furniture, kitchenware, clothes…
- If you live in the first world, you definitely don’t need to drink bottled water.
And last, but not least, inform people. Talk, write, inspire! : )