Last year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on 2 August, whereas Finland’s Overshoot Day took place much earlier, already on 31 March. Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year on which humanity’s consumption of natural resources exceeds the Earth’s annual biological capacity to regenerate. It is incredibly alarming that Finland, a country of about 5.6 million inhabitants, uses its annual share of Earth’s natural resources in just three months.
It is a well-known fact that overconsumption is a serious problem. Our consumption pattern accelerates climate change and biodiversity loss, which in turn contribute to the destruction of habitats and melting of polar ice caps while also impacting the livelihoods and rights of those in a more vulnerable position. Moreover, the fact that those who are better off continue their reckless consumption and buying of new things at the expense of the environment and those less privileged makes the climate emergency even worse.
Growth-based economy is no more sustainable and must at least discard the culture of disposability. The Earth does not have endless natural resources, and new things cannot be produced forever. For example, circular economy practices can provide valuable and vital solutions to the overconsumption problem that plagues our society, as the circular economy is based on the reuse of materials instead of acquiring new ones.
Society in itself also includes phenomena that are harmful to natural resources. For example, Christmas has become a capitalist holiday and numerous sales are held both before and after it. It is clear that as humanity has evolved, the amount of material and money owned has become the measure of success. However, no one in their right mind can expect the environment to stay intact while groups of well-off people seek to accumulate more and more wealth for themselves.
Throughout its history, the student movement has been acting as a pioneer, driving positive social change in education, welfare and environmental issues. That’s why we here at the Climate Network of the National Union of University Students in Finland want to re-open the discussion on overconsumption and its catastrophic consequences. It is now the year 2024, and in both Finland and the entire world, natural resources are being consumed at what is sure to be a record rate. The transition towards more sustainable consumption and society requires systemic change, which needs to be backed up by decision-makers, legislation and new research. The Climate Network of SYL demands that in 2024, decision-makers seek to promote circular economy practices in a more efficient manner. The culture glorifying consumption and disposability must change. We demand that this cultural change be included in all consumption-related decision-making.