So you sort of sense there are some issues looming, but it is quite confusing, seems still controversial and certainly helpless… Here are some basic elements and inspiration to help you assemble the puzzle.
The links and organizations mentioned in this article (in maroon) have credentials, are reputable and are important sources for further information. I recommend you read the whole article first and then click and explore the links.
There is proven human induced climate change. In its latest Climate Change Report dated 2007, the IPCC states that temperatures had already increased by an average of 1 degree in the 20th century, and will continue to increase by 2 to 4 degrees by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed. Climate changes also include an increase of extremes, draughts, winds, floods, colds and heatwaves. Some places will become colder. The next report is in progress but intermediary announcements have underlined that the projections and scenarios are lower than what is actually happening. People who cast doubt about it have either an interest in keeping business-as-usual or are looking for excuses, being unable to consider change yet.
Human activity and settlement is creating irreversible damage on world biodiversity, jeopardizing its capacity to regenerate itself. It is not only sad that many species disappear but it is also hugely harmful to human society as biodiversity provides us with a wide range of services, free and taken for granted. Here is the summary of the very official Convention of the Global Diversity.
Resources are running out, whether it is water, oil, or minerals… Clean air too! Some, like phosphorus, are not directly essential for us but their rarity would have dire consequences… The nitrogen cycle change is another example of the human activities tremendous impact.
There is a global economic and social crisis -just watch TV!- and despite rebounds, we all know that doing more of the same thing is not going to improve anything.
Well, the reality is that our earth has boundaries and we have been in ecological overshoot for many decades.
I have a “Drivers of Change” set with 175 cards each detailing different aspects of energy, waste, climate change, water, demographics, urbanisation, poverty. One group game consists in picking up one card each and meeting every other participant and discussing the links between the two seemingly totally distinct subjects. An amazing eye-opening experience.
Everything is connected. For example, the practices of modern agriculture, combined with the world demographics, creates a catch-22 to feed the everyone when productive land is being depleted or constructed for human expansion, resulting in rocketing food prices, worsening the social crisis and the state of the environment… “Whatever befalls the Earth – befalls the sons of the Earth. (…) Whatever Man does to the web, he does to himself.” Says Chief Seattle in his famous 1854 speech.
Flight or Fight!
Too much!! Panic!!!
You may prefer to ignore or escape in consumerism, in drugs, in hopes that we will go on Mars…
Or read on…
There are solutions! Lots! And we need lots of people to make them happen. It is a team work. Everyone’s little action at his level contributes.
30 years ago, we were wacky… or pioneers. And yes some of us are extremist! Many people like me worked to identify, analyse and communicate the issues; many people have been experimenting and finding solutions. It may be new to you, but it not new and many solutions have been tested and approved.
Today, we are innovators and there are many early adopters. Be part of them!
It has been demonstrated that when 13.5% of the population has embraced a change, then the majority engages. No need to spend energy to convince people, they will come on board. Just Change yourself, what you can, when you can. That is your part of the Global Change.
Change is not easy and everyone is not venturesome. Around us, many people act to make change easier, for example creating cycle lanes to enable people to cycle to work safely. So while more and more people embark on the boat- bike!- , more and more change is possible in a virtuous spiral. Listen to Elizabeth Sahtouris inspirational talk.
Change for what?
Here I introduce the sustainability principles as guidelines for change, from the Natural Step (explained in 2mn, or for kids)
- Is a choice/ an action taking always more resources from the earth crust?
- Is it creating things that the earth cannot digest and therefore persist and accumulate in our ecosystems or atmosphere?
- Is it somehow destroying part of the biosphere, undermining its regenerative capacity?
- Is it preventing other people from having a decent life?
If an answer is Yes, then try and change it. If all answers are No, then your choice / action is sustainable. Simple, no?
Intergovernmental and governments decide on rules and laws
I do not expect much from them as they are very lobbied. However we can influence these:
- with online activism following Avaaz, Choice and many others ;
- write submissions and get involved politically;
- or for the bravest, stand as a candidate for the Local Government elections
Business and industry profit more when saving the planet
Business is driven by profit, which derives from the difference between the selling price and the cost to produce a good or service. Therefore, for many MANY years, business has tried to get the cheapest resources, get more work done by workers paid minimally and externalizing costs. Today resources are increasingly expensive. Delocalisation for cheap labor reaches its limits, polluting is getting to visible, laws and consumers are more demanding…
Paul Hawken demonstrated way back in 1994, that business and industry can be restorative of the environment. Because it is more profitable, more and more businesses, like InterfaceFlor, are redesigning the way of producing. Sustainable and socially responsible business is the way of the future.
Community level can be very effective
Be part of or create associations that promote energy descent, nature restoration, social justice… The Transition Town movement is getting momentum and induces a lot of change. In New Zealand, Transition Town Aotearoa networks and support communities, responding to the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil.
Also locally, write submissions and get involved politically. It may be worthwhile participating in Community Associations to bend them in a sustainable direction.
There are many global-change-friendly communities in the world, even some large ones like Whistler in Canada, Curitiba in Brazil or Nelson in New Zealand.
Individual level is the most reachable
How you spend your money is a powerful tool with which you can really make a difference. For example, you choose to support an industrial farmer using pesticides, polluting water, harming his animals etc when buying his produce at the supermarket OR you support the living of a friend at the local farmers market. Do you see how strong your choice is?
Changing requires a mind shift, a change in yourself. It requires you realize that you are a human, part of the society, itself part of the environment. Economy is not an aim nor the ruler of all life, but the mere tool for societies to function.
It requires that you realize that you ARE either contributing to the problem or you ARE part of the solution, from “what can I do anyway-I’d better keep going as usual” to “Wherever I am on this track, it is worthwhile for me, for the planet and for future generations, and I am going there”. And just start.
Think on how you eat (best is organic, local, vegetarian food), how you move (prefer bike or collective transports), how you heat your dwelling (reduce your energy consumption). And sieve them through the 4 questions above. Here is a Sustainability at home comprehensive Checklist, courtesy of The Natural Step Canada.
We are all at a different stage on the path, and depending on circumstances one may have to go backwards. No judgement. It is not an excuse not to “keep aiming at” sustainability.
I hope that by now, terror and oblivion has been replaced hope and determination. The only problem left is “Are we early enough?” but better late than never...
Lots of actions and initiatives have already contributed to mitigate the issues, giving nature and beings more time to adapt to change. For example, the ozone layer depletion has started to reduce since 2009, thanks to the 1987 Montreal protocol.
Remember, you are not alone, we need many hands to go faster and also”the more the merrier“!
Here are some resources to give you information in specific domains and a lot of inspiration. Have a wonderful voyage!
More main resources
For positive news: Happyzine in NZ ; Guardian Green Living blog (Yes UK but quite worldwide) ; Tree Hugger with humour ; Celsias NZ, solid source but not always fun…
For news about New Zealand nature : Forest and Bird
Check out the resources from the Centre for Alternative Technologies in Wales and Terre Vivante in French
Here are Sustainable Initiatives and projects in NZ, mainly by the Centre for Sustainable Practice students.
Here is the American Earth Policy Institute Action plan B.
Lots of cool stuff on RSA Animate and TED talks
Agriculture, gardening, food and health
Organic New Zealand and Permaculture New Zealand
Information about Pesticides, in New Zealand and internationally, also What’s wrong with Pesticides?
Energy, transport, building
Rocky Mountain Institute, US based but lots of positive information about energy, transport and housing. See Amory Lovins inspiring TED talk here.
Renewable Energy World blog
The Future From black oil to a green future
Living Economy website in New Zealand
New Economics Foundation, Economics as if people and the planet mattered
Here a New Zealand online guide to eco-accommodation, organic cafes, food supplies, Māori cultural tourism, and environmental tourism activities.
Sustainable business network in New Zealand
Here are many more interesting links . It is also worthwhile “Liking” some organisations of your interest on Facebook and exploring their “Likes”. Focus on the good news and practical how-to aspects.
Please leave a comment if you find inaccuracies or to suggest too-good-to-miss links.