I just finished the book The Good Ancestor- A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking by Roman Krznaric, a philosopher who writes about the power of ideas to change the world. In this excellent review of the book, published in The Guardian in July 2020, the journalist Andrew Anthony makes salient the point that I too latched onto in Krznaric’s book: the colonization of our future. Anthony starts his review of the book with the following paragraphs:
There is much talk these days about decolonising – statues, buildings, curricula. All of that has to do with legacies of the past, but there is also a growing discussion among environmentalists about decolonising the future.
The idea is that colonised people are those who are denied representation and, as future generations have no say in the decisions taken today that will later affect them, they are effectively colonised by our present actions.
Krznaric argues that we have colonized our future since we treat it as if there is nobody there. He coins the term tempus nullius to talk about our future as compared to terra nullius, a Latin term meaning land belonging to no-one. (British colonization and subsequent Australian land laws were established on the claim that Australia was terra nullius, justifying acquisition by British occupation without treaty or payment). In the same fashion, he argues, we are stealing the future from the next generations. This is well illustrated in the Country Overshoot Day graphics. When I published the Country Overshoot Days data from overshootday.org in 2020, the Earth Overshoot Day, i.e. the day that marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year, was August 22, accounting for the drop of resource use in the first half of the year because of pandemic inflicted lock-downs. In 2021, it was July 19. For the United States, the Country Overshoot Day has been March 13 in 2022 and March 14 in 2021 and 2020. That means that if every one on this planet lived like Americans, we would need 5.13 Earths. I find this number terrifying. For a comparison of the last three years, click below.