Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Earth Overshoot Day

Sadly, today is Earth Overshoot Day. This is based on the measure of the Global Footprint Network, that today humanity has consumed all of the new resources that nature will produce this year. From here until the end of the year, we'll no longer be "living off the interest" and instead will be "eating into our capital." A basic understanding of finances let's us know that this is not good for us - and especially not good for our children and grandchildren, who will be left with that much less, a world that produces less, and as a result a system that is far less resilient.

Often people make the mistake of thinking that sustainability is all about limits, having less stuff, being restricted in terms of what we can do. In fact, it is the opposite. By recklessly pursuing physical growth in a "take-make-waste" economy - thinking we're getting more - we're actually getting less - now and in the future.

As the Footprint Network points out, the financial collapse happening around us right now is a stark reminder of what can happen when debt and spending are allowed to grow out of control, with no responsibility and no acknowledgment of the natural limits that every system is subject to - whether it's the laws of thermodynamics on the planetary scale, or the rules of accounting for a business. You can only cheat the system for so long, and we've been cheating the system for too long. We continue to see examples of organizations, communities, cities, and now entire economies hitting the funnel walls - Enron, New Orleans, Houston/Galveston, Lehman/Bear/Freddie/Fannie/AIG.

Of course the good news is, that to avoid this collapse, all we need to do is be respectful of those limits. And these limits will not limit us. Constraints breed creativity - the rules of music enable artists to create beautiful songs as opposed to jumbles of noise, the rules of soccer make a fun game as opposed to an aimless group of people chasing a ball, tough engineering challenges with unusual constraints spur innovation, the list goes on. And accepting the challenge of operating all of our institutions, organizations, businesses and within the constraints of the sustainability principles will help us come together and engage in the most gratifying work imaginable - creating better lives for ourselves, our families, our communities, those around the world while contributing to the health and well-being of all other life. So we can move-on from this myth that acknowledging the reality of the limits that the laws of nature represent will cause problems for us - it only opens up opportunities and is our way forward for improving our quality of life.

To learn more about ecological footprinting, the Footprint Network, and Overshoot Day, check out: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/

Stay going...

2 comments:

Matthew Tripp said...

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