With many fingers pointing towards a future in dire straits, and blame being laid on the shoulders of the 190-odd representatives of each nation at the Copenhagen climate summit (a weight of considerably heavier load for certain individuals), it would be easy to ignore the point – amidst the almost childish and self-righteous fighting – of what needs to be achieved in order to assure our planet’s long-term sustainability.
The earth is not an infinite resource, and at current rates of growth and consumption (the two major driving factors of neo-classical economic systems – that must be seen to be failing humanity now?) nor can it replenish what we use, damage and destroy, fast enough for it to be available to us down the track. In the year of 2004 for example, we consumed what it will take the earth until March 2005, to replenish. In other words, we used 16 months worth of the earth’s ability to regenerate, in just 12.
It’s no secret that streets full of cars, factories billowing smoke, forests being cleared of trees, rivers filling with pollution and land being filled all contribute (amongst myriad other things) to our earth’s dramatically changing climate, but it all comes down to one thing: consumption.
The more we consume, the more smoke billows from the factories, the more forests need clearing, the more transport we need on our roads, the more pollution there is filling our rivers, streams, lakes and land. Making current technology “greener” and more sustainable is one thing, curbing consumption – in an economic system that dictates that we consume, and is stimulated by growth – is another.
We may be powerless to change our current economic paradigms, (and world leaders should surely be starting to realise that massive, systematic change is needed) but there are many things we can all do to drive consumption down, and effectively reduce the costs that our mother earth is bearing. And now is the time – despite Copenhagen’s shortcomings – for all of our involvement.
Installing more efficient appliances in our homes – from energy saving light bulbs and washing machines, to water saving shower heads – is a simple way our carbon footprint can be reduced. In addition to this, rainwater tanks and solar hot water systems are becoming more readily available at cheaper prices – and such an investment can also reap financial rewards into the future. – So can simply turning your appliances off at the wall when they’re not in use. It’s simple, and though it might cause inconvenience for you (in our lives of ever increasing, over-convenience) wouldn’t our world reaching the point of no return be far more inconvenient?
We need to ask ourselves whether our actions are respecting the environment – whether it is necessary to use non-biodegradable products; whether the way we drive is efficient, or whether it is necessary at all. We need to question whether or not we are recycling as much as we can; whether we are saving as much water as is possible; whether we are minimising our use of paper, and limiting the amount of packaging we purchase and use. So on and so forth.
– And when the financial costs of thinking with an environmental conscience seem to prohibit us from investing in these decisions, we need to consider the future cost on the earth, and generations to come. – This is something that simply just isn’t factored into our current economic model – an externality of a GDP based system (a system based on the calculation of all final goods and services, narrow-mindedly linked by economists and their un-real mathematical formulas, to a country’s standard of living).
As sustainability is the key, and limiting consumption is the aim, we need to look towards promoting individual production and sharing of those goods and services we need to survive – rather than relying on industry, and endlessly driving mass production. – Grow a vegetable garden, a herb garden, plant fruit trees, keep egg-laying chickens, eat what you grow, share it with your friends. Don’t take three cars, when you could take one.
For too long have we lived our lives in a system where these kind of considerations are irrelevant and relatively unimportant, in comparison to the bottom lines or profit margins of capitalist, corporate CEO’s, and all manner of company owner’s – who seemingly exploit our home, without consideration for the consequences that will be borne by generations in the future – who’s bulging bank accounts depend on our spending and consumption, mindless of the earth’s own resources and irreplaceable capital.
In the past 10,000 years, the world’s carbon dioxide levels have barely changed – remaining somewhere around 10 percent. In only the past 200 years however, (since the boom of industrial development) carbon emissions have increased by 30 percent. Yes population increases have contributed to this alarming ascent, but there is simply now no doubt that massive, profound change is in order. Copenhagen aside (and here’s hoping that the world’s leaders will continue to move towards a plan to rescue our planet) we all have a role to play in ensuring our planet’s health for the future, and generations to come. And your time starts now.
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