Never mind the economic deficit. What about the environmental one?
Today is Earth Overshoot Day [19th Aug], when we’ve consumed more natural resources than our biosphere can replace over a year
Two contradictory ideas shape UK politics. First, the argument for austerity, that the nation cannot and should not live beyond its financial means. Second, the notion that we can and must, in effect, live beyond our environmental means. That is why any increase in our spending and consumption is hailed as economic success.
Today, the world goes into ecological debt, or “overshoot” – an estimate of the moment in the year when humanity has consumed more natural resources and created more waste than our biosphere can replace and safely absorb over a 12-month period.
Since the 1970s we’ve been living beyond our means, going into ecological deficit before the end of each year. And, the day when we hit “overshoot” has been creeping ever earlier. This year it falls two days earlier than in 2012. It now takes about 18 months for the biosphere to compensate for a year’s worth of human consumption and waste. Conservatively, here in the UK we’re using the equivalent of three and a half times the natural resources we have as a nation. For a country like Japan the figure is seven times. Many low-consuming countries in Africa are ecological creditors. Indonesia has been a creditor, but rising consumption and deforestation are running down its natural assets and pushing it over the brink.
For how long we can get away with not balancing the ecological books is a question that exercises many scientific minds, if unfortunately few political and economic ones. It’s a bit like Jenga, the game with the tower of wooden blocks; you can keep taking them away for a while until, with a suspenseful amount of uncertainty, the whole thing collapses.
The monied are oblivious to the tremors. They are blind and cannot/will not see the wobbles that are about to bring doom to us as a race.
We have a choice, spend more and save the economy, or spend less and save the environment.
The equation is simple.