What do you want
I firmly embrace “one-planet prosperity”. Because the only alternative is “one-planet misery”. Currently we are at “one point seven planets prosperity for some” which is both ecologically and socially fragile. Here is what I mean with “one point seven planets”: humanity’s demand on the planet now exceeds by more than 70 percent what the planet can renew, see here.
This is why Global Footprint Network marks “Earth Overshoot Day” which fell on August 1 in 2018. This is the day in the year, by which humanity has used as much planetary budget, as Earth’s ecosystems can renew in the entire year. This year, the day will be even earlier.
If you want to understand our long-term prospect, it is useful to know about the date. But even more significantly, we need to learn how to #MoveTheDate. If we moved Earth Overshoot Day 5 days into the future every year, we will be back to one planet before 2050. Possibly this is too soft of a goal because it would not even be a good idea to use the entire planet: other wild species on this planet need space as well.
Demanding more than “one-planet” is not a long-term option. So the only choice is how well all want to live, given the one-planet context. How many planets does it take if everybody lives like you? Easy to find out – just visit our calculator.
While our planet is finite, human possibilities are not. The transformation will succeed by applying people’s greatest strengths: foresight and innovation. Given that 80% of the world population will live in cities, supporting urban transformation is particularly crucial. And we can rebuild our energy systems, and make them renewable and one-planet compatible. We also can address our food system – already today, the food we consume occupies half of the planet’s renewable capacity. And then it matters how many we are. If we are double as many, there will only be half as much planet per person. Therefore, investing in smaller families is also crucial, with vast social short term benefits for the next generation (better education and health), and dramatic ecological benefits in the longer run, as the slow but steady increases in population eat up much potential for progress.
The rapid transformation called for in order to comply with the Paris Agreement requires moving out of fossil fuel use way before 2050. Given that, who are the most important people to engage with? To us it is clear: those born after 1985. The ones born in after 1985 will be under 65 years old in 2050. They will be the ones that will still be in the workforce. And they will be the captains of Spaceship Earth in 2050.
Those born after 1985 will be the ones who have to figure out how we can cease the use of fossil fuel, find ways to absorb more carbon, and secure high productivity of our biosphere, which requires limiting global warming to less than 2°C above the preindustrial level, or even less.
The question to those born after 1985 is simple: what do YOU want, given we live on this one, overstretched planet? What do you want so your generation can continue to be successful? Forget about what “we should do”. That’s not going to move anything. The only thing that matters, and that has transformational power, is what you really want.
Tell us what you want, invite us to help you, and tell those who are not willing to build a successful future with you on our one and only planet to get out of the way.
Mathis Wackernagel, Ph.D.
Founder and President
Global Footprint Network