August 1, 2018 marked Earth Overshoot Day.
In the middle of a pretty-much-global heat wave, new temperature records, deaths from heat and deaths from wildfires, we humans have already, collectively, used up the resources that Earth would regenerate in a year.
We have been living a way like this for a long time. It is what has contributed immensely to the progress that Hans Rosling and, more recently, Steven Pinker have pointed to.
There is only, obviously, a slight problem with that progress: It may have reached more people than ever before, it may have been good – but it will not, indeed cannot, continue as long as it is based on our current trends in resource use.
If it were only a resource use.
But it is a use of fossil fuels which will not regenerate, which puts carbon into the atmosphere and oceans that had not been there for millions of years.
It is a drawdown of natural, potentially regenerating resources – life – that is a sink for that carbon (especially in the shape of forests and soil carbon). A simplification of biodiversity. A reduction in ecosystem services that we depend on.
We continue to live as if Earth were just our stage, “nature” not an actor in its own right that we needed to work with.
Creativity and innovation, which we like to claim we are in the middle of, is limited to new ways of extracting value. Either from nature and life processes. Or even from us and our attentions.
Distraction or Engagement!
We quarrel over which side is right, how exactly something should be labeled. Distract ourselves with social media fun and lifestyles that are aspirational only as long as one does not count their impact on the world – and often enough, even on the people who are living them.
We could also, however, look at the world and our lives with and in it, see the synergies, and get creative about that.
Earth Overshoot does not – at least, if we are truly creative – mean that we have to go back to times without good sanitation and hygiene, without global communication and opportunities of learning from each other.
Saying it like that already shows that we have quite some work cut out for us.
Work to actually use the possibilities we have for doing better – for the world and for our own lives.
We can continue as we have, consuming ever more in a search for fun and distraction. Increasingly, while the world literally burns.
We can also get creative in the truest meaning of the word.
Regenerating, restoring, and establishing new ways of doing things. Better ways.
Why these are better, how they can be better, what we can do?
To these questions, I want to contribute a few thoughts. And actions.