This year, Global Earth Overshoot Day fell on 22 August. This is not a fixed anniversary, but the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that calendar year. When records began, exactly fifty years ago in 1970, Global Earth Overshoot Day was December 29. It has been moving forward – i.e. in the wrong direction – ever since: in 2018 and 2019, GEOD landed on 29 July, and it would almost certainly have fallen on an even earlier July date this year were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to international lockdowns and the resultant reduction in pollutants, this year’s GEOD August date represents a rare jump towards a more sustainable direction, offering a glimpse of hope. However, this year’s date will simply remain a “blip” in the records unless real change is brought about – and fast.
Of course, many of us already know that meeting this environmental challenge should be our most pressing concern, at the forefront of everything we do every single day of our lives. This week is officially Climate Week and includes World Car Free Day and Fridays For Future, the post-pandemic protest action to highlight the climate crisis organised by young activist Greta Thunberg. Yet most of the time, mainstream media, politicians and corporations continue to either ignore or aggravate the growing catastrophe. Obsessed with unfettered economic growth and investment in fossil fuels, our institutions are still hastening our descent into climate and ecological breakdown. Clearly, we need to transform the socio-economic and political system that is destroying our very life support systems. But how?
One fundamental way is to change the narrative, which is not only toxic, but false. The dominant story in the media, that has been sold to us again and again, is that all human beings are inherently competitive, individualistic and self-interested. This is not only wrong, but dangerous – destructive to our environment, and to our own wellbeing. It has taken a tiny new virus to bring out a more accurate – and far more positive – picture of our true selves, revealing our innate compassion and sense of community.
Our species has survived for 200,000 years because we have evolved and cooperated together towards common goals. Now, we need new goals that focus on our collective needs rather than our individual desires, on protecting nature rather than exploiting it, and on preventing climate collapse instead of accelerating it.
These goals require a seismic shift in our common beliefs and our values. We need a new story to mobilise and galvanise eight billion people to take personal responsibility for each other, for all other species, and for our living planet. We need a positive vision for humanity so we can work towards a fairer, kinder and more sustainable world, thus bringing about the behavioural change necessary to prevent climate breakdown and ecological collapse.
Your Better Nature is a new initiative formed by four committed Sussex-based environmentalists: Dr Tony Whitbread, ecologist and President of the Sussex Wildlife Trust; psychologist and author Paul Hannam; BBC journalist and presenter Jane Mote; and myself, Viviane Doussy, a retired research pharmacist (and Tony’s wife). We seek to rewrite our human story, and to encourage, support and develop that part in all of us that is kind, loving and connected to nature.
Using live webinars, Your Better Nature aims to create a global interactive channel through which to explore transformative strategies around the central theme that humans and nature can flourish together. At the heart of our message is that, by engaging with each other, we can all effect change and help to build a more equitable and sustainable society.
With all this in mind, we designed a free online discussion programme to run throughout September (every Wednesday from 7-8pm BST) connecting ecosystems, socio-economic organisations, communities, families and individuals, and examining some of the principles that must underpin a new human narrative:
- Webinar 1 (2 September): Our story needs rewriting
- Webinar 2 (9 September): We are part of nature, not separate
- Webinar 3 (16 September): We are citizens, not consumers
Still to come:
- Webinar 4 (23 September): We need regeneration, not exploitation
- Webinar 5 (30 September): Changing our human story
To learn more about Your Better Nature and how to get involved, please contact Viviane on [email protected]