Malcolm Radio Show

The beginnings of something great…

Earth Overshoot Day

Posted by Malcolm on August 24, 2013

For the first episode of the Malcolm Radio Show, the Green Rant was dedicated to the sustainability initiative at MIIS. I know that this topic will come up time and time again, but what I really wanted to rant about was Earth Overshoot Day. On August 20th, humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year, but this is nothing to celebrate. From this point forward, we are borrowing resources from future generations, essentially putting humanity in debt to itself, with no means to ever repay (unless you count mass exodus or cultural collapse as payment). But how exactly did we get the idea of Overshot Day?

What I always heard growing up was that the amount of resources we consume on a yearly basis requires about 1.5 Earths. I’m not sure this is the precise number, but the idea is fairly straight forward. Garrett Hardin used the lifeboat metaphor, similar to the Spaceship Earth model but with the lack of a captain. Essentially, there is a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with 50 people with enough provisions for an additional 10 people. around the boat are people, hundreds if you consider projected populations. If 20 more people got in, the resources would deplete before you get saved. Another way to put it, either you enjoy a hearty amount of provisions at the cost of hundreds of lives, you tough through a rationing of resources to benefit a greater number of people, OR you use up all your resources before everyone has a chance to get in the lifeboat.

Every year, Earth Overshoot Day has occurred earlier and earlier in the year and before long it will happen in June and we really will be using 1.5 Earths a year. So who’s to blame? Everyone! Well, those nations that have economies fueled by overconsumption. I mean, who doesn’t need 20 pairs of shoes, 50 shirts, and literally tons of food waste each year? It’s hard to deny the fact that we are raised from a young age to always want more, it is ingrained in every aspect of our culture. In Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, the gorilla describes two cultures: the takers and the leavers. We live in a taker culture. Fisheries are collapsing, carbon emissions are skyrocketing, and there are still people starving all over the world. We can’t change the culture we live in, but we can change our own actions in response to it.

The first step is to open your eyes to the ecological footprint you have. Knowing where you have room to improve is essential. Writing out ways you can reduce your footprint and sticking to them is the next step. If you make one small improvement a day, before long you will be a crazy environmentalist like myself. There are tips and tricks galore to decrease your impact, from taking shorter showers to buying in bulk. Then you need to start spreading the word. If everyone knew their impact and how they can reduce it, it is more likely they will. Lastly, don’t just follow mainstream culture of taking and consumption. It is perfectly alright to indulge occasionally, but do you really need that 3rd iPad? You can get much more happiness from going to the beach, sitting under a tree, or hanging out with friends and family. So happy Earth Overshoot Day, go save the world.