For most of us, yesterday was probably a pretty normal day.
We woke up, showered and had breakfast. We hopped into a car and headed to work. We did whatever it is we usually do all day, then returned home for supper. We taxied kids, relaxed for a bit and then went to bed at the usual time. All in all, just another normal day in a normal life.
But is our "normal" really normal? Here are three more happenings from yesterday that might challenge that notion.
Yesterday, 88 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted globally from the burning of fossil fuels to power industries, homes and businesses, and transport people and goods. That's about 1,000 tonnes every single second of the day.
Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are growing rapidly, but our collective hunger for energy is growing even faster, so emissions are at record high levels. Canadians are among the highest emitters on the planet.
Because of climate change and increasing per capita water consumption, the UN estimates that almost half the world's population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030. The situation would be even more sobering if everyone lived like a Canadian, because our per capita consumption is among the highest in the world.
Yesterday, we added another day to our global eco-debt.
Here's what that means. Several decades ago, a pair of researchers at the University of British Columbia began measuring humanity's "ecological footprint." They analyzed the annual production capacity of our planet and compared that to what was actually being consumed by humanity each year.
The researchers discovered that, until 1970, the planet was producing more than humans consumed each year. Soon after, however, our collective appetite equalled and then exceeded the planet's production capacity. 'Earth Overshoot Day' was established to commemorate the calendar day when our consumption eclipsed the planet's production capacity each year. The first Earth Overshoot Day was Dec. 24, 1971. By 1995, it was October 7.
This year, it was August 8 -- meaning that every day since, we've been living on eco-credit: essentially, drawing down the planet's principal rather than living off its annual interest. Sadly, Canadians play a significant role in this because we buy more stuff, waste more food and generate more trash than most.
Opening his latest exhibit of ravaged Earth images, famed Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky recently said, "We're at a critical moment in history where we're starting to hit the thresholds of human expansion and the limits of what this planet can sustain. We're reaching peak oil, peak fish, peak beef -- and the evidence is all there to see in the landscape."
If, like me, you feel gutted by all of this, perhaps it's time for us to confront an uncomfortable reality: maybe the lifestyle we've come to know as "normal" really isn't normal -- or sustainable -- after all. It may feel normal because it's all we've known, but, examined rationally in a larger context, it seems more like the fast lane to resource depletion and environmental ruin.
So what about tomorrow? Perhaps it will be just another normal day of waking, showering, eating, driving, working, consuming and wasting.
Or maybe it will be the day we decide to redefine our normal, and start taking the small steps that will lead us to more sustainable living, and a much better, happier future. Small steps like driving less, consuming less, wasting less and living more lightly on the planet -- which, if done by many, will create the change we need.
Whichever it will be, the choice is ours.
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The impacts of climate warming in Alaska are already occurring, experts have warned. Over the past 50 years, temperatures across Alaska increased by an average of 3.4°F. Winter warming was even greater, rising by an average of 6.3°F jeopardising its famous glaciers and frozen tundra.
The most fragile of Italian cities has been sinking for centuries. Long famous for being the city that is partially under water, sea level rise associated with global warming would have an enormous impact on Venice and the surrounding region. The Italian government has begun constructing steel gates at the entrances to the Venetian lagoon, designed to block tidal surges from flooding the city. However, these barriers may not be enough to cope with global warming.
The West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming areas on Earth, with only some areas of the Arctic Circle experiencing faster rising temperatures. Over the past 50 years, temperatures in parts of the continent have jumped between 5 and 6 degrees F— a rate five times faster than the global average. A 2008 report commissioned by WWF warned that if global temperatures rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial averages, sea ice in the Southern Ocean could shrink by 10 to 15 percent.
The rapid decline of the world's coral reefs appears to be accelerating, threatening to destroy huge swathes of marine life unless dramatic action is swiftly taken, leading ocean scientists have warned. About half of the world's coral reefs have already been destroyed over the past 30 years, as climate change warms the sea and rising carbon emissions make it more acidic.
The world's highest mountain range contains the planet's largest non-polar ice mass, with over 46,000 glaciers. The mammoth glaciers cross eight countries and are the source of drinking water, irrigation and hydroelectric power for roughly 1.5 billion people. And just like in Antarctica, the ice is melting.
An expected 2°C rise in the world’s average temperatures in the next decades will impact island economies such as the Maldives with extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels.
Over the last century, global warming has caused all Alpine glaciers to recede. Scientists predict that most of the glaciers in the Alps could be gone by 2050. Global warming will also bring about changes in rain and snowfall patterns and an increase in the frequency of extreme meteorological events, such as floods and avalanches, experts have warned.
The Arctic is ground zero for climate change, warming at a rate of almost twice the global average. The sea ice that is a critical component of Arctic marine ecosystems is projected to disappear in the summer within a generation.
Called the "epicenter of the current global extinction," by Conservation International, this smattering of more than 4,000 South Pacific islands is at risk from both local human activity and global climate change.
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