earthswitchWe are approaching election season with the imminent Presidential election ratcheting up the tension in the USA and a Bermuda national election due before the end of the year. The topics hitting headlines are who is telling lies about what, the financial situation, and at the moment, the impending (as I write) land-fall of Hurricane Sandy. A discussion of our interaction with the planet is noticeably absent from the US election debate, and I suspect will be just as minimal in our election debate here.

What is important to us? What should we be discussing? There is constant, and appropriate, concern for how we use our financial resources and how to support people who are affected by the economic downturn, but how can we have a political discussion of things that matter to Bermuda without any debate about our non-financial resource use?

Earth Overshoot Day image22 Aug 2012 was Earth Overshoot Day; the day that Humanity surpassed nature's budget for the year, and is now operating in overdraft - Global Footprint NetworkAccording to the Global Footprint Network, August 22nd 2012 was Earth Overshoot Day: "the day that Humanity surpassed nature's budget for the year, and is now operating in overdraft". The Global Footprint Network attempts to quantify our demand for natural resources and ecological services in much the same way that national economists quantify our GDP and budget deficit. The last time we managed to balance our ecological budget – consuming the same amount of resources that the planet can renew each year – was 1970. It now requires the equivalent of 1.5 planets each year to support our lifestyles.

This resource recklessness has an impact on our daily lives – the cost of petrol, electricity, consumer goods made from increasingly depleted resources, waste disposal etc keeps rising. We talk about the markets, we bemoan the symptoms, but we don't discuss the cause: that we are trying to squeeze more out of the earth than it can produce. Even more seriously, after August 22nd this year, we are borrowing from our children and we have been doing this for 40 years. This needs to be a topic of debate in our election this year.

Frankenstorm imageImage shows massive flooding caused by Sandy in subway at Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan.Of course our impact on the planet is not just measured in terms of resource use. As I write, the East Coast of the US is preparing for the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Despite the language that we have been hearing on the news recently (not just about Hurricane Sandy, but about one climate disaster after another); language like "unprecedented and bizarre" (Weather Channel), "we are breaking new ground here" (National Weather Service), "a meteorologically mind-boggling combination of ingredients coming together" (Stu Ostro, Weather Channel, former climate change skeptic) we hear virtually no discussion from politicians of our contribution to climate change.

In 2008, Dr Anne Glasspool estimated the effect on Bermuda of predicted sea level rise. The conservative prediction by the IPCC is that sea level rise in Bermuda is likely to be at least 0.59m, which would put 3.5.% of Bermuda underwater, including the airport; while a possible rise of 2m (the upper limit) would result in 819.3 ha of inundated land, or 15% of the island. According to the report, climate change and sea-level rise will result in catastrophic impact to our airport, ports and telecommunications, and "increased storm intensity will cause material fatigue, flooding, wind damage to telecommunications' infrastructure and disruption to services"

So our pattern of resource use is forcing up the cost of living and exposing our children to unprecedented levels of non-financial debt. Without change in behaviour climate change will cause dire changes to our island infrastructure. This needs to be part of the debate in our daily lives and in the upcoming elections; make sure you ask the questions and make it clear that these issues are important.


The Story of Change

Can shopping save the world? The Story of Change — a video (6 mins 29 secs) from the same team that brought you The Story of Stuff — urges viewers to put down their credit cards and start exercising their citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just and fulfilling world.


This article was written by Greenrock President Judith Landsberg and featured in The Royal Gazette on 1st November 2012.

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