What do we need? (HLD 154)

23 Aug 2020

I heard today that yesterday was a significant day – beyond a footy win for my purple team, that is.

It was Earth Overshoot Day.

I had never heard to Earth Overshoot Day, but I will be a little more interested from here on in.

To quote from my favourite research tool, Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. For the rest of the year, we are maintaining our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Basically we SHOULD be operating on a theory of only using in a year what the earth can supply in a year, but for a long time now, we’ve been churning through the earth’s resources quicker than the earth can provide. Please be aware that this is the laymen’s interpretation, and the scientists who have determined this information are the ones you should be listening to.

Please research the overshoot information for yourself. I will be doing a lot more reading. Our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thank you.

But, in the meantime, it brings sustainability into my head for a topic to discuss.

When the pandemic was in early stages and places were shut down, photos emerged of places that were regenerating with the absence of humans. The canals in Venice, the pollution clouds, the animals suddenly appearing in places where it had been too dangerous beforehand… there was a lot of information available talking about how in this time of humans socially distancing themselves, the earth was also having a little breather. Literally.

Our lives as we had been happily living them, are wonderful lives. We had the ability to jump on a plane and travel anywhere. We could eat anything we liked at a click of a button or a phone call. Supermarkets were judged on the variety of food options – and the freshness – they had available for us to buy. We all learned that single use plastics were a bad thing and tried our very best to eliminate this scourge as much as possible.

Of course – single use plastics were the ideal thing to use to dispose of the leftover food we haven’t eaten, or the food we purchased and stocked our fridges with, only to dispose of it when we didn’t use it all. Or we changed our minds and got takeaway fish and chips instead.

Every now and then you see stories of people who are really very very good at the old recycle, reuse, reduce, repurpose principal. I saw one of someone whose ANNUAL rubbish collection was sufficient to fit in a small jar. (Obviously just for show, because that jar could be recycled). Those people really did not leave a large footprint on the earth.

When I think of what we put into our rubbish bins each week I sometimes cringe. Just this morning I put an empty Vegemite jar in the bin. I know it should be cleaned and put in the recycling bin, but I decided at the time that I couldn’t be bothered washing the jar out, because let’s face it – Vegemite is a pain to wash out of a jar. I have a large collection of jars waiting to go into the recycling bin – I save them hoping that someone in our local area could use them for jams or sauce or something, but no one wanted my collection. The vegemite jar, with some cleaning, could have joined that group.

And I used to have three rubbish bins in my house – one for rubbish, one for regular council recycling, and one for soft plastic recycling. Food scraps USED to go into a small compost bin in the back yard until my toddler grandson became far too interested in it, so the compost bin now sits silently out of view, silently getting smellier. The soft plastic bin also went by the wayside as disposal of the soft plastics involved me taking them (in another single use plastic bag) to a special bin at the supermarket. This became something I, for some reason, found too difficult to manage. I still have my regular rubbish and my recycling bins, of course, because I’m not an animal.

We all know people who are very very good at the sustainability issue. The rest of us do as well as we can. We pat ourselves on the back for ‘doing our bit’.

But are we consuming more in a year than we should? If we were to work out what we are taking out of the earth in a calendar year, do we come up in the positive for the impact we have on the earth? Can we sit back on our laurels confident that we are doing much better than some countries, some large corporations, someone else?

Or should we be getting the damned Vegemite jar out of the bin and washing it out?

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