It looks like WE ARE GOING TO DIE as a species. The problem is simple – lack of communication skills. Most important words are short and simple: Love, Life, Death, Food, Pleasure. Easy to remember and use. And then we have sus-tain-a-bil-i-ty.
A 6-syllable word, hard to spell, hard to pronounce, hard to decipher. Not to mention sustainable development and other fancy expressions like permaculture, circular economy, carbon offsetting… What do these even mean…?
We should change the way we talk about sustainability!
The thing about sustainability is quite simple. Either we commit to it, or we are going to get extinct. And we’ll take a big portion of the other living creatures on our way down. So first thing first:
What is sustainability?
There are four kinds of sustainability: human, economic, social, and environmental.
If you are interested in the academic definition check what Wikipedia has to offer for Sustainability. But if you want to get the jist, without all the special terms keep reading…
Things are not going well for the planet because we are using much more resources than we actually can afford. If the planet was a bank, by this time our credit rating would be disastrous. If you want a better illustration on how disastrous actually – you can calculate how many planets we need if everyone lived like you.
According to my test – we need just below 3 planets, and I am trying. What is your score?
As you can imagine this is not sustainable. How many banks will keep giving you credit, while you don’t pay back your debts? And even don’t have the assets to secure it? Any bank will kick you out. Well this is what is going to happen with us, if we don’t take aggressive measures. In simple words sustainability is all the actions we can initiate, to start paying our debts.
How big is the gap?
I listened to Jo Confino at a Green Business Event in Istanbul in 2014. He made a statement in a sense, that the speed of sustainable measures taken is like riding a bike, while climate change and all it’s consequences e.g. desertification, melting of polar caps etc. are flying on a private jet.
I can’t add much to that, except my absolute conviction, that we have to take this issue seriously. Starting small – from our lives and homes and expanding as much as possible.
What are major factors driving the need for sustainability?
Uncontrollable population growth decreases significantly our chances to continue living as we did. The luxury to make mistakes on the account of the planet is too expensive now.
Every little misstep we allow ourselves to multiply by 7 billion people becomes enormous. According to projections in less than 10 years we will have to multiply by 8 billion. It is well illustrated in excellent this set of graphs on population growth.
People move to cities and this trend is unstoppable. 54% of the world population lives in the cities on about 2% of the world surface. This poses dramatic challenges on sustainability of this model. To name a few: clean water and air, healthy quality food, healthy electricity supply, and the list continues.
Growth of middle class
We see encouraging information of the steady growth of the middle class worldwide. And that’s a good thing. Having more and more people out of the poverty trap means possibly a more educated, healthy and self aware society. BUT it also means more excessive consumption.
Yes – I am looking at you! Sitting on your couch, wondering if you can do something to affect the big picture. The more the middle class grows the more our individual behavior will be decisive for winning the battle for sustainability.
We can argue that governments and big corporations should take the lead as the biggest consumers. And they should. But aren’t we the ones working there? Aren’t we able to drive change – everyone in our own domain?
My solution for sustainability
I am sure awareness is the first step. Small, clear, individual, actionable ideas are the second. Complex words and big scales present the problem out of reach for regular people. And there should be another way. I don’t believe that extremities like cooking your own shampoo will work for many.
But cooking your own healthy, responsible and tasty meal or cutting on paper and going for digital solutions will. Take greeting cards for example. You can easily switch to eco-friendly ecards like these and even let multiple people sign online. And in many cases, this doesn’t come at a higher price. Gradual small changes in behaviors multiplied by a vast amount of people can do the trick. We can all contribute in our own unique way.