Earth Overshoot Day 2015

by Guillermo Kerber Mas last modified 21 August 2015 03:51 PM
Earth Overshoot Day 2015

Advertisement on Times Square, New York City. © Mike DelGaudio/Flickr

13 August 2015

Today, 13 August 2015 is Earth Overshoot Day, meaning that, since January, humanity has already spent as many natural resources as the Earth can renew in a year. And there is still four months and a half to come!

Earth Overshoot Day has to do with consumption. How much energy do we consume, how much meat, fish, water, clothes, etc. In many cases we can easily see that we over-consume.

Being aware of our overconsumption calls us to change. But it is not easy to be aware. And it is not easy either to change. The societies we live in push us to consume more and more. It is not easy to distinguish what we want from what we need.

For some years, every year during Lent (the forty days before Easter in the Christian tradition) I join a group of people who fast for a week. In the weeks before the fast, we gradually stop drinking alcohol, coffee, tea and eating meat, carbohydrates, vegetables, and then for a week we don’t have any solid food. We drink plenty of water and herbal tea. In the evenings we gather to share what we have experienced.

In our sharing, participants go beyond the mere fact of what we eat and what we don’t and reflect on their consumption styles. Most of the participants, for instance, don’t use private cars during this time and opt for public transport, bicycles or walking. Fasting goes beyond not eating, it is a spiritual experience that allows you to look at your life in a different way and to make changes to your daily lives.

I have learnt others have other ways of fasting. Friends in Nordic countries, for instance, have a carbon fasting, when they don’t use fuel for some weeks (some even don’t use heating in cold Nordic winters!). In many places of the world, many have joined the Fast for the Climate as a way to express their concern for the climate crisis and stand in solidarity with the victims of climate change.

If fasting helps me to be aware of my consumption (and overconsumption) it also shows ways to change. But, as I said earlier, it is not easy.

To consume more and more is part of the societies we live in, of a development paradigm which proclaims unlimited growth. We take for granted that the only way to develop is to have economic growth, to produce more, to earn more money and to consume more. The main criterion for looking to a country’s performance continues to be the Gross Domestic Product. Other alternatives like the Human Development, Gross National Happiness, Good living (“Buen vivir”) are still marginal indexes.

When I have the opportunity to participate in seminars, conferences, workshops in different parts of the world I frequently see that the responsibility for natural resources, what Christians call care for creation, is not a central component of people’ behaviour.

However I believe that caring for natural resources should be a critical element in our daily lives. There is always something we can do at the individual level: reduce our electricity or water consumption, change mobility and food habits, etc.

But this is not enough. We are part of a community, maybe we live in a city, we are part of a country. At all these levels, changes need to happen to address the depletion of resources, the loss of biodiversity, the exponential increase of CO2 emissions, the pollution of water, air and soil.

What we do today is not only affecting us and our world. It will also affect generations to come. What world will my grandchildren live in? How do I take care of them today?

The intergenerational dimension is something very important for me when I look at my children and think of their future. And being (at least a little) more responsible with natural resources is something I can and must do.

Disclaimer

The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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