Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Big Day Tomorrow - It's Earth Overshoot Day - August 13, 2015.

Tomorrow is Earth Overshoot Day, the date on which mankind has gobbled up a full year's worth of renewable resources - biomass, water and such.

The date falls a couple of days earlier every year as we increase our consumption levels beyond our planet's carrying capacity.  Each year brings us ever closer to our ecological breaking point, the point of civilizational collapse.

It's sort of like spending $150 for every $100 you earn. You can get away with it for a while but not forever. Eventually the bills come in and there's no money left to go out.

As I've written many times before, the evidence of Overshoot is all around us. It's tangible, palpable even visible to the naked eye. It appears in the form of ecological degradation. From the International Space Station crew members can gaze down and see glaciers retreating, dried up lakes, rivers that no longer reach the sea. They can see dust clouds that rise over China and cross the Pacific to North America. They can see algae blooms, oceanic dead zones, that show up along our coasts.  NASA's Grace satellites record the surface subsidence caused by the rapid draining of our aquifers for irrigation.  We see it on our docks in the collapse of global fisheries made good only by "fishing down the food chain." It is manifested in the accumulation of pollution in excess of nature's cleansing capacity.

From tomorrow, August 13, until December 31 we're left with eating our seed corn. For more than a third of the year we'll go into ecological deficit, consuming nature's ever dwindling resource reserves. Those reserves are dwindling, some of them faster than we imagine if we think about such things at all.

Here's the thing. It's not just that we're consuming more resources than Earth can supply. It's that we're dependent on that. We're on a path that, for a good portion of mankind, must be terminal.  Too many mouths at the table and all of them wanting a second helping of the apple pie.

You don't have to be brilliant to understand this. You just have to be sane.  The trick is to understand this and remain sane. That's too much for a lot of people so they take the default option and just try to forget about it.  Psychologists call that a "defence mechanism" only in this case it's just the opposite.


Anonymous said...

The best case scenario could a virus* which would wipe out ~90% of humans...
*perhaps natural, but I bet that other "scenari" are also under consideration in few places around the globe.
The picture is really telling, is this Rio?

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, A..non. Some sort of superbug epidemic is always a possibility. Some, like Gwynne Dyer, believe it won't be natural causes that take us. He's convinced we'll be going for our guns long before we come to that.

I was corresponding with an environmental geographer the other day, a woman in her mid-40s. We agreed that people her age and under have no reason to believe they'll live what, for their parents and grandparents, was a long life and then die of natural causes.

As for the photo, it's from a photo-essay that recently appeared in The Guardian. As I recall it's a picture of some suburb of Mexico City. I'm sure, however, that it resembles some of the barrios in Rio.

The Mound of Sound said...

I was right, it is Mexico City. If you have a strong constitution you can do a Google search of images of "Mexico City urban sprawl."