OPINION: Earth Overshoot Day shows how we’re heading for trouble in 2020
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Norfolk writer Kate Wolstenholme says we can all make changes this year that will stand us in stead for a better future
Not long ago I classed 25 degrees as a hot day, now anything below 30 degrees seems lukewarm. In the last few weeks, we have had all the possible extreme weathers bar snow and ice (but the ‘Antarctic blob’ in Australia ticked that box, being recorded as a rare weather event). Did it make you feel uneasy? It certainly freaked me out.
2020 has really packed in the punches. I am by no means the first to say it, and certainly won’t be the last. On top of all we have experienced so far this year, in the midst of weeks of ridiculous weather, on August 22 we marked Earth Overshoot Day.
Earth Overshoot Day is classified as ‘the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.’ From this point on, we are eating into the earth’s resources in a way which is unsustainable and detrimental to the future of our planet. We’ve overshot.
Sometimes things do not hit home hard enough until they are directly affecting our lives. Greenpeace have stated that the more forest we destroy for meat consumption, the greater our risk of more pandemics as wildlife is brought closer to people – where three-quarters of new diseases come from. Climate change is now well and truly on our doorstep.
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The coronavirus pandemic has given the earth mixed emotions. In lockdown, while we were flying less, driving less and just doing less in general, the earth was showing signs of happiness. Oil lost value, the canals in Venice were clear, greenhouse gas emissions reduced vastly in parts of the world, and the list goes on...
In no way would I wish for this pandemic to have happened, it is truly awful, but we must search for the good.
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Instead of being the year we never want to return to or maybe never even speak of again, let’s make it the year we change. Whether this be removing things in your life which are mentally degrading for you, changing massive things within society, or healing our planet.
No-one is perfect and no-one can do it all. No, not even you. So, let’s start by picking one thing to concentrate on in order to live more sustainably. Whether this is increasing the percentage of your diet which is plant-based, driving less, stopping using single-use plastics, boycotting fast-fashion (Oxfam’s Second-Hand September is a great place to start here), or shopping locally from independent makers and farmers, we can all try.
Not everyone can do it all, or do it to perfect extremes. For example, you do not have to be vegan or a thrift shop shopping professional to reduce the carbon footprints of those industries, as it may not suit your body. Adapting and reducing are achievable for all and key to the future of our planet.
Here are a few thoughts for the road:
Oxfam quote that it would take one person 13 years to drink the water needed to make one pair of jeans and a T-shirt and that the clothes chucked into a landfill each year weigh the same as the Empire State building. Not to mention the fossil fuels taken to make a lot of man-made fabrics, or the poor way a lot of garment workers are treated.
Greenpeace state how 3.2kg of crops are needed to produce 1kg of chicken meat. A quarter of the world’s land is used for growing food, but if we ate a plant-based diet, we would need 75% less land and less people would be malnourished. They also state that to “prevent climate breakdown”, by 2030 we need to be eating 70% less meat and dairy in the UK.
In Blue Planet 2, Sir David Attenborough stated “we dump eight million tonnes of plastic into the sea every year”.
I could go on, but I know you all have places to be. Let’s not return to the ‘normal’ we had in 2019, let’s make a new, more loving, sustainable, wholesome and healthy normal. The pandemic has shown to us just what happens when we work together and work to protect one another. So, let us continue in that way and #MoveTheDate of Overshoot Day.