For our first Happy Hour of 2021, we welcomed Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, cofounder of the Ecological Footprint and President of the Global Footprint Network. He explained different ways to view how humans have impacted the planet and we discussed how we can all tread more lightly on our planet.
As we add up all the demands we make on our planet, Mathis and his colleagues estimate that we are using more than the earth can renew. In fact, we are using about 1.56 earths when we should actually use half an earth in order to maintain a stable climate and biodiversity. Since we only have one earth, we need to decide if we will live in a sustainable future we actively design or a future determined by disaster. “The question is, do you want one planet ‘prosperity’ or do you want one planet ‘misery’?” explained Mathis.
Mathis also talked about the concept of Earth Overshoot Day, the day when humans have exhausted all the ecological resources that can be regenerated naturally in a year. That means that, for the rest of the year, we are in an “ecological deficit,” drawing down on our local resources and accumulating CO2 in the atmosphere. Ideally, Earth Overshoot Day should be December 31, but in 2020, that day was August 22. If everyone in the world lived like Californians, we would use a year’s worth of ecological resources by February 12. Yikes! Through individual and collective actions, including policy changes and industry agreements and standards, we can #MoveTheDate. We don’t need a pandemic to show us it can be done!
In small groups, we discussed what we can do individually, as a community, as a county and as a state to tread lighter on the planet. We talked about issues from how to save water washing dishes to how important it is to emphasize and engage deeply with our communities. And we were shocked to see how many earths we would need if everyone on the planet lived like us – you can calculate your ecological footprint at www.footprintcalculator.org.
Moving forward, we need to realize that everyone has skin in the game as it relates to sustainability. No one is on the sidelines. Our goal is to get to a point when building sustainability is just like brushing your teeth: We do it every day, without thinking, to invest in our health and future.
By Megan King