EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY WITH WENDY MARSH
By Kiara Serantes, Gonzaga University, Journalism Candidate
Our own Director of Donor Communications and Stewardship, Wendy Marsh, discussed her thoughts about Earth Overshoot Day, and why its date is incredibly significant.
Wendy: Earth Overshoot Day is a barometer of the state of the earth which affects The Conservancy’s work (we have to work faster and bigger) and my quality of life (heath, safety, prosperity). My most compelling reason for my interest in this cause is part of the report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems, such as civil wars, poverty, strife between nations and refugees. Fights over resources, like water and energy, hunger and extreme weather will all go into the mix to destabilize the world.”
I don’t think people realize the domino effect and how wide-spread the repercussions are.
It is my understanding that Earth Overshoot Day happens each year, can you please describe what this is and why it’s significant for every person?
Wendy: That’s the day we bust our ecological budget. From that day forward, the planet will be operating under an ecological deficit, using more resources than the planet can produce and emitting more carbon dioxide than the planet can filter out. Basically, it’s like living on credit cards until the next payday – which isn’t until January1, 2015.
Ecological Debt Day is calculated by dividing the world’s biocapacity (the amount of natural resources generated by Earth that year), by the world Ecological Footprint (humanity’s consumption of Earth’s natural resources such as food, fish, fiber, energy –for that year), and multiplying by 365.
How significant is the date?
Wendy: The date is an unsettling reminder that we are closing in on the point of no return. We’ve been living beyond our means since the 1970s. Earth Overshoot Day has moved ahead by an average of 3 days per year since 2011 indicating we are not making progress (except this year it is on August 20th – the same as last year)
Gonzaga University is currently undergoing a lot of construction installing new facilities, of which are likely to bare LEED Certification (green building). Do you feel that constructing new facilities to be more “green” is enough to help lead to a more sustainable future on campuses (and beyond), or is more palpable change necessary?
Wendy: LEED certified buildings are a good step. There’s a lot more colleges can do, however, especially since they are grooming our next generation of leaders who need to have an understanding of the interdependencies between environmental, social, and economic forces.
There are a lot of little examples such as retrofitting the current buildings to be energy efficient, banning plastic bottles from the campus (something a number of institutions are already doing), to low impact dining, and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. Check out the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. There’s a lot campuses can do!
What is the most important factor when it comes to solving the resource problem, on a local and community level?
Wendy: The two most important factors are awareness and changes in our behavior. We need the political will to cause change. The political denial of climate change is unacceptable. The media needs to be challenged to start covering these issues. Businesses and government need to step up and set policies that are good for all of us. It’s up to us to cause this change because they listen to consumers and constituents. And we all must consume better, wiser, and more conservatively.