Yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day. As of today, we are spending down the planet’s natural capital without any chance of making up for the depreciation.
The seven billion people of us use up 1.35 times as much land as the planet has to offer. That’s true despite the fact that most use far fewer resources than the average American, and at least a billion live barely above subsistence level. In short, things don’t look all that good.
The big question is where the gauge is heading: will things get worse, or is there hope on the horizon?
It’s a high-stakes race with an uncertain outcome. There’s always the minute chance of a major technological breakthrough, which dematerializes human progress and saves the day. Trusting that it will happen any day now is like playing the lottery. Chance is it won’t pay off, but hey, nothing lost in giving it a try.
Sadly, the cards are stacked against this breakthrough approach. If the playing field isn’t level, if oil, coal, and gas get subsidized to the tune of billions of dollars a year, and if spewing gunk into the atmosphere without monetary repercussions for the offenders is the status quo, innovation will necessarily be skewed.
That’s the worst of all worlds: We can’t even trust that breakthroughs will go into the right direction. My money is on hitting overshoot day even earlier next year, although I’d gladly be proven wrong, and soon.