Promising the Earth and more (overshoot)…
Just two days to go before the UK’s General Election and I feel no great enthusiasm for putting my mark anywhere on the ballot paper. It’s not that there aren’t some clear choices between candidates or parties – and so boxes that the stubby little pencil on a string won’t hover over for even a moment.
But for all their increasingly desperate attempts to differentiate themselves and blame recent tragic events on current or previous administrations’ budget cuts or policy-failings, politicians all share one common trait: Promising more than they can possibly deliver.
This is about more than just the familiar hucksters’ cries cast out into the marketplace to lure punters to their stall: ‘More spending on the NHS!’, ‘An extra £4 billion for schools!’, ‘4-day working week!’, ‘Basic universal income for everyone’; ‘ No tuition fees!’ etc. – with each party or the media then dissecting and dismissing the other’s figures, aided by incompetent or (to be kinder) exhausted spokespeople parroting the latest pig in a poke offer.
None of the parties or candidates appear to have a clue or a care that not only are they promising more than our basic economy can pay for, but are promising more than our national and global natural resources can provide – at least over any sustained period of time or equitable distribution.
The Global Footprint Network has today (6th June, 2017) announced the date for this year’s ‘Earth Overshoot Day’. According to GFN, August 2nd will mark the point in the year when our demand as a species upon our planet’s natural resources will overtake and exceed what the Earth can regenerate in a year. Thereafter, we are eating into, depleting and eroding the natural capital and ecosystems that make this planet habitable for us and all other species. An overshoot caused by human demand, disproportionately to date (but not only) by those of us in the developed world; as borne out by the fact that global populations of most of the other creatures with which we ‘share’ this planet – birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles – have declined by nearly 60% since the 1970s (The period when it is estimated we first began to go into ‘ecological overshoot’).
Not enough to go round
Rounded up to a nice big easy number, the ones politicians normally like to quote, humanity on average is requiring 1.6 Earth’s worth of resources to sustain itself currently. In common with those often cited by politicians, that figure doesn’t make sense, we only have one planet. But, of course, some of us are grabbing more than our fair share. If everyone on the planet sought to live like the average UK citizen that would require nearly 3 planet’s worth of resources. For us to live as we do – and are promised we can continue to and more – the UK sucks in resources from elsewhere equivalent to 3 additional UKs. With the UK’s population projected to grow by a further 10 million people by the middle of this century and the global population by at least 3 billion, it would seem obvious that this can’t be sustained indefinitely – but you won’t hear any politician over the next couple of days admitting that or urging voters of the need to face some hard facts and inconvenient truths. If they did, I’d vote for them…
Global Footprint Network
Living Planet Report
Office of National Statistics https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationproject