Today is Earth Overshoot Day (#earthovershootday).
I am suspecting you may not have known that, as it seems fairly unreported outside of a small group of activists and campaign groups (which admittedly if you are reading this, you may be a part of, so may actually be aware of it!).
In case not, Earth Overshoot Day is a measurement of the planet’s ecological footprint. Based on that concept, today – 8th August 2016 – is the day we will have used as much from nature as our planet can renew in the whole year. Every year the day gets earlier as our ability to live within our planetary means gets stretched. There is a simple video explaining the concepts here.
It seems ironic in these times where there is so much focus on the Paris Climate deal, or where the United Nations is pouring resources to make the Sustainable Development Goals so well known, that there seems to be less action taking place. Perhaps it needs more time for the message to sink in, or the urgency of the issues to be recognised. Maybe it is just that generally rising population numbers and consumption create a perfect storm it is difficult to contain.
Earth Overshoot Day seems relevant to the London Mining Network (LMN) for two reasons. The first is that as a UK-based organisation we should promote awareness that the UK is one of the countries in the world which collectively consumes more of its resources than it produces. The UK currently requires 3.8 times more than the UK’s ecosystems can renew, and we would need 2.9 Earths if everyone in the world lived at our levels.
Particularly worrying is that the UK’s forest land only covers 3% of UK residents’ demand for forest products and carbon emissions sequestration. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel use make up 63% of the UK’s overall demand for nature. LMN has supported the work of Coal Action Network exploring the impacts of our importing of coal from countries including Colombia, Russia and the USA.
The UK’s overconsumption seems especially worrying at a time when a narrow majority voted for “Brexit”. That vote seems to have been at least partly a call to detach the UK from Europe. It seems that the UK just couldn’t survive at its current levels without some interdependence on its neighbours for their resources.
The second reason is our focus on mining. Despite the industry’s attempts to sell the concept of “sustainable mining”, digging up and processing the Earth’s finite resources is essentially an extractive one. LMN is part of the EU-funded Stop Mad Mining project, which has a focus on our impact as consumers through our use of metals and mined products.
The project has most recently campaigned around EU legislation on conflict minerals, which although important still tackles only one aspect of how our consumption affects local communities, as well as the environment. We need to ensure that our decision-making around minerals considers the impacts of mining on affected communities and the environment. That should mean consuming less (especially in terms of purchasing electronic upgrades), and re-using and recycling where we can. LMN member the Gaia Foundation’s research Opening Pandora’s Box is a good place to start researching the ideas around this.
Will you consider a pledge around your minerals consumption?