Overshooting Again: A personal reflection

Last month, specifically 29 July, marked World Overshoot Day - the date when we have finished this year's natural resource ration. Here, an individual looks at his own impact on that.

Overshooting Again: A personal reflection

29th July 2019 marked “Global Overshoot” when we have used up a year’s worth of resource since Jan 1st. For the UK we actually passed it in May – and me personally in April; despite the fact I am a sustainability professional! Analysis of my personal footprint is revealing of where we are all going wrong perhaps.

1)     I eat meat. Despite my daughter’s good example, I’m still an omnivore and eat meat on a regular basis, I will try to cut down. Generating protein by feeding edible grain to animals never made total sense as much more resource was used that way than if humans ate the grain. I’m however not going to go out with a bow and arrow (bullets aren’t sustainable) to hunt my own meat.

2)     I eat processed food – my wife, my daughter and I have fulltime jobs (and I have two volunteer posts that demand my time) and my son tries to write webcomics while looking after my granddaughter (the hardest task!). If we didn’t eat convenience foods we’d starve! But it again adds to our carbon emissions.

3)     I eat too much – no further comment needed.

4)     I drive a diesel car (no booing please) bought because I regularly do long journeys and the range and comfort make a difference. It returns at least  50+ (normally 60+) miles per gallon – rather better than the corporate hybrids but I tend to avoid urban driving and have a gentle right foot (and my licence is clean again!) so that might explain that.

5)     I avoid driving in towns – I’m very aware of the pollutants my car produces and will CHOOSE to use public transport when I can – and if they hadn’t closed South Shields Metro station to improve it, I’d be using that system to come to work. (reopens soon and I’ll be back on it saving a parking space). A trip to London or the centre of other cities is done by train by choice.

6)     I/We consume too much “stuff” from China and Korea – effectively exporting our Carbon Emissions there.

Now the plus side

1)     I recycle.

2)     I practice practical energy management (I turn things off or down).

3)     I have made one return flight this Millenium -Newcastle to Belfast (so short-haul) (I couldn’t work out how to go there without losing 3 days if I didn’t fly) and have no intention of flying in the future (Sorry AEE I won’t make any of your American Conferences – I may compromise and go to Dublin for the one there).

4)     Much of my driving around is on business and aimed at helping our customers reduce their energy consumption by using better technologies and techniques (or even the “off” switch!). Something I’ve been doing for 40 years – so I may have built some credit there against my withdrawals from our mutual account at the Planet Earth Bank perhaps?

5)     My Volunteer work (with the Energy Institute and the UK Association of Energy Engineers) is focused on improving knowledge of how to use energy more efficiently and thereby reduce consumption by improving the ability of energy professionals to manage consumption.

6)     I’m also embracing technologies like Skype, Videoconferencing and webcasts to communicate without travelling. I’m finding Google a great tool for getting an initial look at a site without actually leaving my desk (however there is nothing like visiting somewhere to understand it).

7)     Increasing use and availability of renewable energy is helping reduce the extraction of stored resource from Mother Earth – and I’m helping in its implementation. However I’m also very aware that those generation technologies rely on the use of minerals which are in limited supply globally – we used up our global ration VERY early in the year. One thing that we need to implement is the recycling or reuse of the components in such systems to build that part of the Circular Economy but that is a whole other blog!

As a final thought according to the experts World Overshoot day in 1970 was 29th December so very nearly a world in balance. It is now 5 months earlier less than 50 years later- when will we get back into balance?

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