A Radical Rethink Of Our Lifestyles Is Required To Save The Planet
The latest assessment by the UN of the state of the world’s environment paints the worst picture of the health of the planet yet according to an article in The Independent. Since the last report, published in 1987, almost every index used to assess the planet’s well-being has worsened. The three worst problems are a growing human population, climate change and the mass extinction of animals and plants.
Even to the unscientific amongst us, the visible results of the planet’s illness is fairly obvious. The raging fires in California and Greece have been immensely destructive. There have been serious hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes. Add to that floods in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and severe drought in other regions. The list of obvious natural disasters goes on.
Nothing new here really, except for the severity of the problem perhaps. What did catch my eye though, and gave me one of those ‘aha’ moments, was the mention of the fact that the personal wealth in the richest countries has grown by a third. Of course this fact is also not a mind blowing discovery. However, put the two together. Excessive wealth on the one hand and depletion of natural resources on the other hand and the equation makes sense.
The problem is that self-serving wealth collectors are not going to back down when it comes to healing the patient, i.e. the environment. And there is no point in blaming big corporations either. Large companies are run by the will of the shareholders who want high returns for their investment. There is no concern for the environment, let the next generation sort it out.
Besides supporters of big individual greed, the developed world’s per capita has also risen substantially during this last twenty year period from an average of $ 6 000 to just over $ 8 000 per annum. This has come at a cost to the environment. Water scarcity, collapsed fish stocks, over farmed land, pollution and excessive energy consumption to mention just a few of the resultant ills.
Again, nothing of all of this is anything novel. However, what made me think that little ‘aha’ was realising the real problem here. The fundamental difficulty the world will face, will be to re-educate – if that is the correct word – people to step back into a life much more in touch with the available resources. What does that mean to the individual?
It means, no more air travel to go on holiday, using a bicycle rather than a car, having a wardrobe with only a few pairs of shoes and sending your kids to the local school that they can walk to. These are just a few examples. With other words, recycling that bottle and newspaper or buying a few carbon off-sets, is just not going to be enough.
And that is where the whole discussion breaks down. How would one be able to move the mindset of millions of people who have bought into the consumer society. How would one be able to move the mindset of the shareholders of companies that make their money from the spending of the consumer.
Of course the economists would come with further stats on impending gloom and doom if the consumers in the developed world were to reduce their living standards to a level that the world’s resources could actually afford. Financial systems would fall apart, governments would go broke – oh wait the USA is already there – the economy as we know it would collapse.
What a no-win situation to be in. Either way, it’s a huge problem. In order to keep the world economy thriving, the world’s resources have to be continuously over exploited. But more than that, realistically, the main problem will be to persuade the ordinary folk like you and me living with all mod cons in the developed world, to radically re-assess our lifestyles and go back to very very basic living. Can you see that happening?
Anja Merret lives in Brighton, UK, having moved across from South Africa just over a year ago.
She now looks after the business interests of her daughter who is a Flash Developer and Accessibility expert. She started a blog at the beginning of the year under the heading of chatting to my generation. Although she is chatting to the baby boomer generation, she sometimes feels that all generations have the same issues to face, they just don’t have hearing aids or walking sticks!
One of her pet peeves is the war in Iraq and in fact anything that causes innocent people to get hurt. But she also loves tech stuff, although only as an amateur. She considers herself a Silver Surfer Gadget Geek. She is even considering queuing for an iPhone in the UK later on in the year. But her daughter has offered, so she will only be taking hot food to the Brighton Geeks waiting in line.
Her musings may be found on http://www.anjamerret.com Her observations on personal power and self-development may be found on http://www.pinkblocks.com