Monday, August 8, 2016

Today is Earth Overshoot Day

Last year  my Earth Overshoot Day post was put up on August 13. I said, "The day marks the estimated calendar date when humanity’s demand on the planet’s ecological services (which produce renewable resources and assimilate wastes) outstrips what the Earth can supply. This means that for the rest of the year, we are taking more than is regenerated, operating in Overshoot." In 2014, Earth Overshoot Day was August 19th. We first went into Overshoot in the late 1970s, and since then the day has crept ever earlier on the calendar. We are now using the ecological resources of just over 1.6 Earths, according to:
I have to add that this is a very conservative and optimistic assessment. Other scientific analyses indicate we are even further in overshoot.

What's wrong? There is one simple and should-be obvious fact that shows how out of touch with reality our entire industrial/technological civilization is: 

One barrel of oil contains an amount of energy that enables us to accomplish in one day what it would take a normally fit human male ten years to do. At 8 hours/day, 40 hours/week, 50 weeks/year. Just at minimum wage, that would come close to 150 thousand dollars. Yet we allow this almost magical but non-renewable replacement for human (and, okay animal) labor to be sold on a commodity market for $40 per barrel. Or $140 per barrel. Whichever, it is insane. 

Want the full story? Go to and watch Nate Hagens' presentation, A Guide to Being Human in the 21st Century. Nate got an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago, had a successful career on Wall Street but quit because money wasn't making him happy, took time out to think about and read up on things, went to the University of Vermont and earned a PhD in natural resources. He now lives on a farm in Wisconsin. But teaches a course at U Minnesota titled "Reality 101." Nate knows what he is talking about. 

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