August 13th was Earth Overshoot Day. The correct date, if calculated precisely, would come earlier and earlier each year, the current choice is just an approximation.
This year, the year 2015, by sometime around August 13th, humanity had consumed as much of what we require from the lands and seas as our planet can sustainabley provide in an entire year. That is another way of expressing the fact that at current consumption rates, humanity requires 1.6 planet earth’s worth of fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood and other organic materials. It is a remarkable annual deficit, and if it is not reduced to zero, we will simply run out of things vital to our survival. That is the simple arithmetic of “unsustainable”.
But what does “unsustainable” look like?
One of the (very few) perks of blogging is the occasional free book offer that comes to my inbox. I don’t often take advantage of them mostly just because of personal disinterest in whatever specific topic is at hand. Out of those offers that are interesting to me, I have to be realistic about what I am going to have time to read. An offer came to me a while ago that finally ticked those boxes. It was about an interesting, if bleak, subject: the mark humans have made on this planet through overpopulation and over consumption, and it was promising to be readable without a large time commitment since it was primarily a book of photography. I’m talking about the extraordinary book, Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshootby Tom Butler, William Ryerson, et al published by Goff Books, March 2015.
Because of this promotional book, I can show you, in the most graphic manner you might want, the answer to my rhetorical question above: what does unsustainable look like? The book is filled with high quality images from around the world. Images “framed with essays by renowned womenâs rights, population and conservation experts,” images that illuminate “the depth of the damage that human numbers and behavior have caused to the Earth â and which threaten humanityâs future prosperity.”* Some of these images are awe-inspiring, some rather horrifying, but almost all of them are disturbingly compelling. Below are some examples reproduced here with permission of the publisher. I recommend buying the book and seeing them all.
Images are linked to higher resolution versions, please click.
To give a better sense of what you are looking at just above, right below is a full resolution enlargement of a small section from the center of this image:
As with the image of Florida, below is a full-resolution enlargement of a small section from the center-bottom portion of the New Delhi image above:
* Quotes borrowed from some of the promotional materials that came with the book offer.