Earth Overshoot Day

How much strain does our global economy put on the Earth’s biocapacity?

Today is Earth Overshoot Day, the day on which humans have used up nature’s budget for the entire year. As of today, August 13th, we go into debt with nature for the year. In 2000, Earth Overshoot Day happened in early October. According to the Global Footprint Network,who “tracks humanity’s demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) against nature’s ability to provide for this demand (biocapacity),” carbon sequestration now makes up more than half of the demands we put on more-than-human nature. We are stripping the biosphere of its capacities to regenerate, driving us toward the edge of the world.

Can we build a bridge a bridge at the edge of the world? Someday, many of us will have no choice but to do it. Maybe we are building it right now. But it’s not as many people as I’d hope for.

In the face of these obvious challenges, many people are covering their eyes and singing la-la-la, insisting that acting on issues ranging from detoxifying our lives and waterways of toxins to sprawl to climate change will tank the economy. Those people are simply wrong. We are guaranteed to tank our descendants’ livelihoods if we keep hitting the accelerator as we drive toward that edge. It’s not speed we need. We’ve had too much of that. It’s wisdom and care.

As Pope Francis’s “Prayer for our earth” states at the end of Laudato Si, we must be called “to protect all life, to prepare for a better future.” That message is so like E.O. Wilson’s in The Creation: We have “the earthborn, yet transcendental, obligation” to protect the creation. So today, please reflect on how we can do this together.

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