It’s up to us to turn around the climate crisis we’re creating
To the editor, We have reached an ominous milestone in our demand for Earth’s natural resources and services. Earth Overshoot Day occurs on July 29 this year — the earliest ever.
Humanity has consumed a year’s worth of Earth’s resources and services in the first seven months, exhausting nature’s budget for the year. The rest of the year, we go into ecological debt, borrowing from the future. But this is a global average. If everyone on the planet lived and consumed like Americans, we would need five planets worth of goods and services and would have exhausted them by the middle of March.
Earth Overshoot Day is a kind of report card that serves as a reminder that we are on an unsustainable path. The planet is finite, while humanity’s appetite for goods and services is infinite.
Our economic system requires constant economic growth. It is thought to be essential for prosperity and a central plot for getting ahead. But this bubble of continuous economic growth depends on an ever-increasing input of resources and generates ever-higher levels of toxic waste. The result is a climate crisis of our own making.
Overshoot can lead to two different outcomes — either an uncontrollable crash or a deliberate turnaround. We start turning this around by putting a price on carbon emissions that reflect their true cost. It will require that we put aside some of our individualism, work cooperatively with our fellow earthlings and write a new story where we are part of and not above nature.