Earth Overshoot Day Image

According to the Global Footprint Network, August 22, 2012, was Earth Overshoot Day, the day when the global population used up the natural resources that the earth is capable of producing in one year. In 1992, Earth Overshoot Day was in October. What is ecological overshoot? View the video. Humanity not only is using more natural resources than the earth provides, but also is doing so at a faster rate each year. We are now using about 1.5 earths per year.

It would take over 4 earths for everyone on earth to live as people in the United States live. India is an example of a large country whose current lifestyle, adopted worldwide, could be supported by our 1 earth.

Rural India
People in Urban India

If current populaton growth and resource use trends continue, then humanity will begin to run out of resources such as metals, fossil fuels, farmland, coral reefs, and rain forests. View the informative chart provided by BBC. As these resources are depleted, carbon dioxide will build up in the atmosphere, increasing the global temperature, and more plant and animal species will become extinct due to pollution and loss of habitat. Children of today will experience these effects as they are reaching middle age, unless we act now to reverse these trends.

What can we do? Reduce the rate of population growth and the per capita use of natural resources. Can this be done in time? Yes, working together, we can demand policy changes from our governments that would make contraceptives universally available, implement large scale and widely distributed renewable energy systems, reduce food waste and improve food distribution, conserve water and energy, and reduce pollution.

The frustrating question for me is this: Why are we not demanding these changes to ensure a sustainable future for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? This should be a bipartisan issue—we all depend on the earth for our survival. It was disheartening to hear the derision from the attendees at the recent Republican National Convention when Mr. Romney mentioned that President Obama had spoken of healing our planet. I don’t think the destruction of our planet is funny. Do you?

Perhaps this tendency can be attributed to what Freud described as one of our driving instinctual forces: self-destruction. I like to think that we can resist this urge and that we can focus our collective energies on creating a sustainable future. What if love of life were a central organizing principle in one’s life? At each decision point, whenever possible, one would choose the option that uses the fewest natural resources and creates the least pollution. It is possible to change direction, from our path of destroying the planet to a path of creating a sustainable future for all our relations. What will you choose?

About the Author

Sandy Olliges

Sandy Olliges, M.A., teaches academic writing at San Jose State University. She is a former Environmental Manager for the NASA Ames Research Center.

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