Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius

2006/10/09

Overshoot Day, or How to Ruin Thanksgiving

Recovering from the Thanksgiving bloat? Feeling a little drowsy, perhaps, from all that turkey? Somewhat ironically, as we Canadians gorge ourselves today on pumpkin pie, stuffing, squash and the inevitably dessicated bird, 9/10/06 also marks World Overshoot Day. Today is the day when the human population of the Earth has used up all the biological capacity that can be produced in one year, and begins to to run an "ecological deficit". It's like having income from a trust account, using up the interest before the end of the year, and having to dip into your capital to support yourself. Inevitably you go bankrupt. To put it another way, humanity consumes the biological capacity of 1.3 Earths every year.

Cheerful thought. Even more cheerful is the fact that Overshoot Day creeps up a few more days in the calendar every year. Only nineteen years ago, Overshoot Day was 19/12/87.

It's really about the arrival of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, flying on wings of global warming, resource scarcity, environmental degradation and habitat loss, all nicely calculated and documented. And sunny optimism and personal empowerment tapes ain't going to save you.

I suppose --- I know --- there will be those shilling for various corporate and government interests who will deny all of this as environmentalist propaganda. They will propose that denuding the planet is actually good for us, and back it up by fakery and pseudoscience, or else point to the God of Technology as our saviour.

They will, sadly, be believed by a population in the First World all to ready to defend its impossibly high standard of living, and to salve its conscience by tossing cardboard into the recycling bin. Political will is needed urgently to address this and all environmental issues --- but none is to be found, having rolled off the table and into a pit of greed and deceit, covered by a smokescreen of more pressing matters, like the unending war on terror.

Cynical? Pessimistic? I wonder. But I have a question, one that keeps me up at night and fuels my nightmares: Do we as a species have the knowledge or wisdom to look beyond narrow and selfish short-term interest for the long-term good of all of us?

Thus far the answer is not reassuring.

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