A Debt Worth Repaying

We live in a time and place where we continually hear our leaders talking of the need to reduce the national deficit; how we must learn to live within our means, and make the tough choices now to ensure future generations don’t inherit mountains of debt that strip them of their ability to invest in the social and economic systems and structures they deem valuable to themselves.

Yet today, August 13th, is Earth Overshoot Day; the day when we have collectively exhausted the Earth’s entire ecological budget for the year. From here until the end of the year, we’re supporting our lifestyles at the expense of our children and grandchildren’s ability to have clean air and water, ample food, scenic retreats, sufficient energy, and the resources necessary to provide for shelter, clothing, and medical care, along with life’s little pleasures.  Not to mention, the needs of the thousands of other species that call our planet home.

Graph of Trend of Earth Overshoot Days (credit: Royal Saskatchewan Museum Blog http://www.royalsaskmuseum.ca/blog/how-are-you-going-to-mark-overshoot-day)
Trend of Earth Overshoot Days (credit: Royal Saskatchewan Museum Blog http://www.royalsaskmuseum.ca/blog/how-are-you-going-to-mark-overshoot-day)

Despite this harsh reality, we rarely hear from our leaders on such issues.  Do the same conservative principles and concern for future generations not apply when it comes to providing for their most basic necessities?  I’m inclined to believe that all the riches, or mountains of debt, will likely mean little to my daughter, when at the age of 71, she will witness Earth Overshoot Day on January 1st if we continue our current trajectory.

While the lack of leadership on these issues may be appalling, ultimately, it is up to us to demand a response from our leaders, to develop the solutions to shift the trend, to re-examine our contribution, and to implement the changes needed at all levels – personal, local, national, and global, to advert the potentially tragic consequences of the increasingly earlier arrival of this day.

Lest we get overwhelmed by the grandness of the challenge, we must remember that when it comes to ensuring the ability of future generations to not only survive, but thrive, no action can be deemed too small; for it’s the little decisions, when taken together, that add up to amazing and powerful things.  With the power of technology, we can quickly find stories that serve as great examples of this phenomenon, offering us hope for what may come.  Around the world, an increasing number of individuals and groups of people have taken it upon themselves to do what they can, where they can, to lessen their burden, shift and restore systems, and hold themselves and our leaders accountable for our impact on these vital natural systems.

As for me on this day, I think I’ll not only shed a tear or two for my daughter and the billions of others who will call this ailing planet home long after I’m gone, but also renew my commitment to owning up to my responsibility to make the needed changes, at home, at work, and in my community.  That, and perhaps an after-dinner walk with the family to marvel in the wonders of our planet, those which I hope we will work together to preserve.

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