Today, August 1st, has been announced as 2018 Earth Overshoot Day; by the Global Footprint Network (GFT). This is the day when yearly global human consumption of natural resources passes the point that can be regenerated naturally. Earth Overshoot Day has been identified by comparing our global ecological footprint, or how fast we consume resources and create waste, to global biocapacity, or how fast nature can absorb waste and generate new resources. This marks the earliest occurrence of the day since ecological overshoot became a reality in 1970 (that year the day fell on the 29th December), according to GFT, and demonstrates that we are now consuming resources at a faster rate than ever before. As of this moment we are now operating at a net loss to our global natural resources for the remainder of the year (Source).
This can have a profound impact on the lived experience of many communities that are vulnerable to climate change, which is exacerbated by the depletion of natural resources. In many instances it is the communities that contribute least to humanity’s ecological footprint that are likely to feel its greatest effects. With the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reporting that 18 million people were displaced by weather-related natural disasters in 2017 alone and the knowledge that ecological degradation increases the likelihood of more frequent and severe weather patterns globally it is imperative that issues of sustainability and resilience become a focus of humanitarian relief and recovery operations.
There are many initiatives aimed at promoting and facilitating sustainable approaches to humanitarian relief, but despite this it is often unavoidable that such action will necessitate further use of natural resources in order to replace what was lost. Similarly, as the above-mentioned IDMC report demonstrates, whilst reconstruction occurs many millions of people are displaced and in need of even further resources to support them before they can return home. In many places around the world natural disasters such as hurricanes, flash floods, and landslides are annual events, forcing displacements and reconstruction on a regular basis. It is important to ensure that moving forward communities in these vulnerable areas are equipped with shelter that is sustainably built and resilient to future disasters.
Whilst many reconstruction projects do attempt to address these issues, it can often be difficult in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters to tackle various challenges related to meeting basic needs, sustainability issues, and future resilience all at once. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies initially approached BRE to create a tool that could help aid agencies, local governments, and other actors involved in the reconstruction process to consider all these issues holistically. The output – QSAND – provides a guidance framework for the early stages of disaster recovery into the reconstruction process and can also be used to inform pre-disaster planning. This helps to ensure that reconstruction processes are completed in a way that is sustainable and aids community resilience in the long-term, hopefully mitigating the need for further construction, renovation, and redevelopment further down the line. The increasing severity of disasters may well make it impossible to prevent them from destroying people’s homes and disrupting livelihoods and communities but we can work with vulnerable populations to support them through the issues that may come their way, and that the recovery process is as sustainable as possible.
Much more needs to be done to ensure that we move back the date of Earth Overshoot Day, but at QSAND we are trying to do our bit to help communities to be prepared for the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters that they may endure, and to ensure that we do not unnecessarily add to the climate crisis whilst responding to those in need. To find out more about what you can do to move the date of Earth Overshoot Day, view some suggested actions here. To find out more about QSAND, visit our website.