26 September 2009

71 Days - Houston, We're in Overshoot

Yesterday was officially Earth Overshoot Day. Every year about this time, we start eating into our planetary capital. According to the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE), it's "the day when humanity begins using more ecological resources than the Earth can regenerate during the course of the year. It's the day that our collective ecological footprint oversteps its bounds. After Overshoot Day, we are taking on ecological debt by depleting stocks of natural capital and accumulating wastes in the environment, such as CO2 in the atmosphere."

Apparently it was a couple of days later this year due to the "recession," but we've still got one quarter of the year to go where we'll be living beyond our ecological means. From now until the end of the year, our ecological needs will be met by going into "debt" — depleting resources.
"Ecological overshoot is a weighty topic. Confronting such a difficult problem is daunting, but confront it we must! Dealing with overshoot should be the #1 issue for society. We could stop climate change, halt the ongoing loss of habitat and biodiversity, and reverse the trend of deteriorating ecosystems." — CASSE
Most of us don't realize how vital ecosystem services are. Without them, we couldn't survive or thrive. Ecosystem services (or Nature's gifts, as I call them, especially when talking about them with children) are the benefits we get from ecosystems. These include:
  • provisioning services
  • regulating services
  • cultural services
  • supporting services
Here is the list of gifts we receive from the natural world, free to us but worth at least $33 trillion every year (and certainly more as they rarer or more degraded).

  • land protection (storm protection, flood control, drought recovery)
  • biodiversity (genetic resources)
  • nutrient cycling
  • air production
  • stratospheric ozone production
  • climate control
  • freshwater supply and purification
  • making soil
  • erosion control
  • habitat
  • pollination
  • population regulation (think mosquitoes)
  • waste cleansing and recycling
  • food production
  • raw materials
  • culture (aesthetic, artistic, educational, spiritual, and/or scientific values of ecosystems)
  • recreation
Try to picture living on this planet with just one of those services compromised. Going into overshoot means we just don't understand the interconnectedness of all life, and the risks we take by not allowing ecosystem services to replenish and regenerate.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely bang on Julie. Thanks for this info. Our account is overdue.



I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?