How many earths do you require?

Eco science can boggle the mind, and it’s easy to drown in the data. Unless we can see, smell or feel an environmental threat, we tend to ignore it. So if you want to make a memorable point, dumb it down. Way down.
That’s what and the Global Footprint Network (GFN) have done with respect to natural resource consumption. Here, for example, is an environmental data point anyone can grasp:
If every human consumed natural resources like an American, we’d need five planet earths to support us.
Pretty simple way to represent complex information, isn’t it? The Global Footprint Network chart documents the fact that we, as a country and planet, consume more natural resources than the earth replenishes and generate waste faster than the planet can absorb it. The chart considers energy production, settlement, timber & paper harvest, food & fiber and seafood. It’s backed up by more data than any of us care to examine here.
The bottom line is we have a natural resources deficit. Having considered that, GFN, in another example of dumbing-down genius, declares that…

August 21 is
Earth Overshoot Day.
That’s the day when we humans have used up the planet’s annual supply of resources. If you pretend we get a fresh start every Jan. 1, then August 21 is the day we go into deficit spending of our natural capital. If we were prevented from borrowing against the planet’s future, we’d run out of resources on that day. As consumption soars, Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier every year. Last year, it was Sept. 25.
Now that we know the day, do we know the solution to over-consumption? Well, that’s hard to dumb down. In addition to conventional sustainability measures, blogger Matthew McDermott


recommends “radically reassessing how much stuff we believe is required for our happiness. Rejiggering what we believe to be needs and not just wants.”
He’s not alone. In fact, a minimalist trend is already under way, says the BBC, starting with young American urbanites digitizing their books and music and shedding large swaths of possessions, including homes.
That’s sounds smart.

And so does this personal ecological footprint calculator. Try it, and tell us how many planet earths you need to support your lifestyle. (I’d need 4.6. Ouch!)

Great post, Steve. Had to try the eco calculator & Yiikes is right! Like you I need 4.6 earths to provide enough resources to support my lifestyle. I reduce, reuse and recycle but the numbers don't lie & I need to do more (and use less).
# Posted By Alison | 8/18/10 2:25 PM
Same here, Alison. As frugal as we are, perhaps we see cars, meat, electricity and relatively roomy surroundings as bedrock necessities. I honestly don't know where to cut!
# Posted By Steve McGrath | 8/18/10 4:36 PM
It's such a complicated issue- social vs. ecological when you get down to it. Of course we all need to reduce, reuse and recycle, that's common sense. The problem comes when you factor in what we as Americans have been programed to believe from birth, that more is better. Our countries ideology is based on capitalism (consumption), therefore, before any real change can come about, we'll have to figure out a way to change the way the US funds itself. That can't happen without a MAJOR shift in power (i.e. an actual revolution), and THAT won't happen because it will mean everyday Americans going without their creature comforts. In other words, we're screwed because we're all going to just roll on doing what we're doing. Sure there's a lot of us that really do recycle everything they can, and reduce wherever we can, but at the end of the day, we're statistically insignificant. Mother Earth will finally give us the finger at some point and start fresh, I only hope my kids aren't around to see it happen.
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