Tuesday, 19 August last was ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ – the date our ‘Ecological Footprint’ exceeded our planet’s annual budget. Ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems.This year it has taken less than eight months for humans to use up nature’s entire budget for the year and go into ecological overshoot, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank. They calculate that it would currently take 1.5 Earths to produce the natural resources now needed to support human requirements.
In 2000 Earth Overshoot Day was not reached until October while back in 1961 it was not reached at all. At that stage we used about three-quarters of the earth’s capacity to produce food, timber, fish and to absorb greenhouse gases and most countries had more resources than they consumed. Most of the world’s population live in countries where the demands made on nature – the nation’s ecological footprint – outstrip what that country’s resources can cope with. Per head of population, we in Ireland are among the countries with the highest ecological footprint in the world and are helping to propel the world into deep ecological debt. The Global Footprint Network says that the costs of our ecological overspending are becoming more evident by the day. They say that the interest we are paying on that mounting ecological debt in the form of deforestation, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the build-up of CO2 in our atmosphere also comes with mounting human and economic costs. They see countries with resource deficits and low incomes as being exceptionally vulnerable.
The message poses challenges for Governments, corporations, communities and us as individuals. Many products and services are used with little or no account taken of the ecological impact of that decision. This can range from decisions by Governments and corporations such as the decision to extract oil from tar sands or by fracking to the decisions we make when buying an item in a shop such as one made from non-certified hardwood from a tropical rainforest.
For more information on the Global Footprint Network and its work in tracking humanity’s demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) against nature’s biocapacity see www.footprintnetwork.org. If you wish to calculate your own carbon footprint see www.foe.ie/justoneearth/carboncalculator.
Having a ‘greener’ back to school
The first day of school of the new school year is upon us and as parents and guardians prepare to send the little (and not so little) ones back to their classrooms, the organisation Voice suggests ways to reduce the impact of ‘back to school’ on the environment and even save money along the way. They say ‘greening’ your school preparations does not only mean buying from sustainable sources and products from recycled material, it also means reusing items that still have good life in them. Suggestions include sourcing used uniforms and school books, covering school books, having nutritious lunches minus throwaway packaging and walking/cycling to school. See www.voiceireland.org for more details.
Save money on your energy bill this winter and into the future
The ‘Better Energy Homes Scheme’ provides grants to homeowners to upgrade their homes with energy efficiency measures which can include such works as roof insulation, wall insulation, boiler and heating control upgrades and installation of solar panels. These will not just reduce your energy use and costs, they also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For details, see http://www.seai.ie/grants.
Certain social welfare recipients may avail of free home insulation. CAMCAS (Cavan & Monaghan Community Area Services), work with Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to carry out the’ Warmer Home Scheme’, providing Attic and Cavity Wall Insulation. For further information and to see if you are eligible, contact the CAMCAS office on 049 9527384
Monaghan project in national display of young people’s eco action projects
A showcase of young people’s environmental action projects from around Ireland including a winning project from the Teach na nDaoine Family Resource Centre, Monaghan is running until Friday, 12 September in the European Union House on Dawson Street in Dublin. The Teach na nDaoine project was entitled ‘Class Trash’ and was a winner in the Junior Waste/ECO Art & Design category. The exhibition displays over 20 projects from young people island-wide who participated in ECO-UNESCO’s Young Environmentalist Awards 2014 programme. There were 75 finalists at the Young Environmental Awards Showcase and Ceremony in May 2014 and the exhibition displays a number of the winning projects along with some highly commended groups.