Al Jazeera – Earth Overshoot Day marks unprecedented environmental damages – 2 Aug 17

 

 

Al Jazeera: I am joined now by Tom Burke, he is chairman of the environmental think tank E3G, and has advised a number of senior British politicians, thanks so much for being with us.

How surprising is it that we have reached this overshoot day as early as August this year?

Tom Burke: I don’t think that it’s a surprise, when I was born there were two and a half  billion people on the planet now there are close to eight billion, and we are all doing a lot more so we are putting increased pressure on the natural resource base of the economy, and what this is telling us is that in a sense we have run out our current account and we are starting to run up an overdraft, on maintaining the productivity of that natural resource base.

Al Jazeera: Why is that happening?

Tom Burke:  Just because there are so many of us making more demands. To have a decent life people need to have food security, water security, and energy security in particular, and the pressure of trying to provide that for so many people is squeezing the natural resource base of our economy. So, this is not only a problem for the environment this is now increasingly a problem for the economy, because most of our economy that is not provided by fossil fuels and fossil minerals is provided by those ecological systems

Al Jazeera: So what can we do about it, can we go into reverse gear and have or overshoot day take even longer to reach per year?

Tom Burke: It depends on which bit you are looking at, if you are looking at energy, I think we really could really do something pretty optimistic. We now have the technology we need to make use of the abundant energy from the sun. It’s a question of deploying the technology that we already have, and doing that fast enough, and that means we can maintain energy security for everybody. Water security is more difficult, because the world has got a lot of water, but a lot of it isn’t where the people are. What we have got to do is become much more efficient at using water, and much more interested in complicated solutions involving people, rather that simplistic engineering solution that simply shift the problem around. I think we can address the problem we have with water if we get cleverer with the way we use the knowledge that we already have. I think that there is a big problem, that is going to get bigger as the climate changes, is maintaining food security for everybody. And I think, for instance, agriculture is one of the reasons that we have a problem with water. We have to get much cleverer and invest much more in restoring the fertility of soils, we lose billions and billions of tones of soil every year, declining the productive base of or agriculture, because we don’t use the smarts systems that we actually know how to use, a lot of which are things that human being have been doing for years, just not doing them of a large enough scale, and making use of local knowledge about how to maintain the productivity of soils, which is the foundation for food security.

Al Jazeera: I feel a little less depressed than I did at the start. Tom Burke, thanks for that reassuring interview.

 

 

About tomburke

Tom Burke is the Chairman of E3G, Third Generation Environmentalism, and an Environmental Policy Adviser (part time) to Rio Tinto plc. He is a Visiting Professor at both Imperial and University Colleges, London. He is a member of the External Review Committee of Shell and the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board of Unilever and a Trustee of the Black-E Community Arts Project, Liverpool.
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