Happy Earth Overshoot Day

By Angelika Schanda
Located in Nijmegen, Netherlands
European Master in System Dynamics, Class 2013-2015


I started this blog out of a passion for connecting and inspiring people and for becoming a better modeler myself. This passion is not an end in itself, despite the joy coming from such social and intellectual activities. Becoming an effective modeler is hardly a childhood’s dream. What did stir me up from as long as I can remember is human struggle – with nature and with each other. Why do some people have to starve when others have so much that they throw it away? Why do we destroy and meddle with nature when the earth is so beautiful? Today is a moment to bring up these questions once more. Today seems just like any other day. Yet something is different. It is Earth Overshoot Day, the day of the year where humanity has consumed more than the planet can produce in one year.

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We can’t stand hearing about it anymore. But that we don’t want to deal with it certainly does not make it go away. So before running away from this, consider the implications of Earth Overshot Day once more. We are living over our budget big time. For a third (!) of the year we don’t have any resources left, because they will be needed in the coming years. Imagine that from today on, you are out of cash. You have to borrow money each and every single day to come until New Year’s Day comes. Sure, we all sometimes take up a credit to invest into the future. But living over ecological and social limits is more difficult to repay.

On a planetary scale, you are not lending that money from a bank. From the ones who have money to lend. You are taking it from the have-nots (even if you do not consider yourself wealthy, reading this means you likely have your own computer and you likely consume more than one year’s planetary budget). Every resource that you consume too much is something that someone else does not get. Something not available for your (future) children or your friends’ children. For keeping up natural cycles that are relevant for every species. For species that we depend on, reducing our future resources even more.

The interest that you will pay for this is not going to be some more paper bills. It’s gonna be credit. Credit as derived from latin ‘credere’, to believe. The trust that one person has into another. And when you keep taking that credit from others, they are literally going to stop trusting you. Taking too much credit from the others is what has happened in all of human history, and as resources have been unequally distributed and some have too little for too long, there have always been violent fights over resources. You don’t even need to consider that World War II is less than 100 years ago. You only need to consider today’s newspaper to comprehend the magnitude and daily reality of this impact of overconsumption.

The interest that you will pay is gonna be loss of natural resources, biodiversity and a change in natural cycles. You may not live where there are thunderstorms, floods, fires or violent clashes on the street. The rain clouds pass by and the sun comes out for another beautiful summer day. But it doesn’t shine a light on the challenges that humanity faces. You cannot see climate change. You can only perceive the weather. You cannot see biodiversity loss, and you may think losing the bees only means losing honey. But that you can’t see things does not mean that they are not there.

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Certainly many of you are aware of this. Especially the youngest generations grow up learning that much built in the last decades is falling apart again. But a lot of people are not even yet convinced this is a problem. Overconsumption. Climate change. Environmental destruction. The economic and political mechanisms of producing and distributing wealth. Now, if people do not even agree on a problem, it is even more difficult to agree on possible solutions. That is why we need tools like models, which capture complexity and which help us to build a mutual understanding of what is going on around us. Today is just like any other day. But it is a day to remind us of the challenges ahead. So it is this day that I start a blog to connect a young generation of modelers and system thinkers. People of a generation who will face such complex problems with increasing urgency throughout their lifetime.

We are on the fast lane to several tipping points and to where we see exponential growth trends take off towards overshooting social and environmental carrying capacities. So whether you live north, south or west, whether you consider yourself right or left wing or beyond these twentieth century categories, whether you are gonna protest at fences or build protective walls of wealth and ignorance around yourself – in this interconnected world you will be concerned by what is happening to others one way or another. Whether we like it or not. We are all in this together (in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine!)

Let’s at least start talking about it some more.
Let’s start building some mutual understanding and modeling paths into a more sustainable future.

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Do you know how much land is needed to sustain your life or how many earths it would take if everyone lived like you? Find out more with the Footprint Calculator and share your thoughts here. What are you doing to decrease your consumption? What do you think about the concept of Earth Overshoot Day as a modeler and systems thinker? Start a conversation, if not here, then in your personal environment!

Passionate about systems thinking, traveling and social change initiatives. Learn more at angelikaschanda.net

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