There is no such thing as a free lunch, but when we actually get something for free, like sunshine, we take it for granted in so many ways. Please spare a second thought for the planet on World Shopping Day on November 11th. There’s hope, but we must act now.
What is sustainability?
In the broadest possible sense, sustainability refers to the ability of something to maintain/sustain itself over time, which is dependent on environmental, economic and social constraints. In government policy and business contexts, limits to sustainability are determined by physical and natural resources, environmental degradation, and social resources. We currently need 2.5 planet’s worth of resources to sustain us and Earth Overshoot Day is getting sooner and sooner every year (August 22nd, 2020 and July 29th, 2021), even with the global Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, which slightly slowed the destruction by capitalism. We’ve been unsustainably using resources since around 1970, and by definition, capitalism is a pretty good example of a pyramid scheme, where cash is funnelled to the top in an elaborate scam. Borrowing against our future is indeed a very bad idea, because there is no Planet B. Our home, planet Earth, can provide us with everything we need, but there is certainly not enough for everyone’s greed.
What is sustainable (and what is not)?
Indigenous people all over the world seemed to be doing fairly well until “crapitalism” came along. Of course, I hear you say, “But what about all the good things capitalism had a role to play in?” Scientific advances promoted by capitalism have brought enormous benefits to the masses, including extended life expectancy, mass transportation, toilet paper, computers & internet, and obviously, I still realize the irony of writing “Save the trees” on a piece of paper, and then protesting the destruction of rainforests, but then again, the world is full of hypocrisy. I might be considered a hypocrite myself because I occasionally eat meat, but still tell others to reduce their meat consumption by switching to a more plant-based diet, to help save the planet. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…
Goods and Services
The plentiful availability of Goods and Services in the Western world leads many to never question where things come from and what that means to the rest of the world, but if you’ve got money, the world is your oyster. Let’s talk about debt later, but how can it be possible that just 5 billionaires have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population? Overconsumption of resources, especially by the wealthiest, means poverty for many, which reminds me of Don Quixote’s famous idiom: the haves and have-nots. Anyway, I digress. A huge amount of expired food, medicines, defective products, and other things are thrown away every day creating a huge demand on the environment, and very often nowadays what isn’t sold within a certain time period also suffers a similar fate. We have to rotate stock continually to avoid passing the shelf life, while Food wastage accounts for up to 40% of produce being thrown in the rubbish. Fortunately, various supermarkets have started campaigns like “too good to go”, where produce is donated to poor people and charities rather than ending up in the bin, but many charities lack the means to collect it and many retailers are reluctant to transport it to them because of the extra cost. The Food industry and Drink industry should become more sustainable by eliminating its abuse of plastics, selling locally grown produce, recycling better, etc.
Stocks and shares
As well as selling shares in companies, the stock market also sells virtually every commodity, including things you would not even imagine, like coffee, cotton and computer chips. Curiously, all of the world’s computer chips are produced by one company, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSM), and we are currently experiencing shortages, which makes me wonder whether it is wise to put all that demand on only one company. These are the types of things that are overly affected by inflation, which is also currently out of control worldwide, due to uncertainty over war, fossil fuel dependency, etc. Short term profitability versus long term loss…
Mining and extraction practices
With every new product, idea or building project, there comes a need for raw materials to make it a reality, like even the first synthetic plastic, called “Bakelite”, which was first produced in 1907. While we’re on the subject of plastic, annual production of plastics reached its peak at 381 million tonnes in 2015, and in 2020, had fallen a little to 270 million tonnes. For context, this is roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world’s population. Of that, at least 8 million tonnes, roughly 3% of global annual plastic waste, enters the ocean. We cannot be entirely sure how much plastic is in the sea, but we do know that it has been found at the bottom of the ocean in the Mariana Trench and also in huge swirling garbage patches in every ocean, like the “not-so” Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometres, Mongolia, basically. Barely 1% of marine plastics are found floating at or near the ocean surface, with an estimated 70 kilograms of plastic covering each square kilometre of seafloor, so good luck to those mining companies planning to mine the sea…
The Construction Industry is one of the most unsustainable and polluting industries on the planet. Environmentally speaking, concrete is the most destructive material on Earth. Cement production is the third largest source of industrial air pollution (sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO)). Painting and decorating causes water contamination with dissolvents and microplastics entering the seas. On the city block where I live, people throw out enough junk furniture to refurbish an entire house every week. Although some of it is collected and recycled, this is still only one block of billions around the world, and that is quite frankly unsustainable. I don’t suppose I need to mention the harm affordable but worthless junk furniture does. It is being replaced as often as underwear. Without saying its name, a large Swedish multinational furniture design corporations should really do better. The whole genre really needs to do build back better.
Greenwashing is where a company tells us it is doing something positive for the environment, knowing that the whole truth is far from the reality. Public Relations (PR) exist to give a positive image of their company or client. However, most economic sectors with the biggest obvious culprits being fossil fuel companies. For example, their photos always show beautiful sunsets in idyllic locations, or they claim to be offsetting their emissions with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), or they invest in Renewable energy, but then cynically roll them out slowly to maximise profit from their polluting. The Meat industry is no stranger to greenwashing, where advertising campaigns suggest animals are living their happiest lives in green pastures eating the best food, when in reality it could not be further from the truth. Greenwashing is rife in the Fashion industry, where companies might say they use organic cotton (what does that even mean?) but typically use slave labour in sweatshops and then transport the products 42,000 kilometres… Make it make sense!
How does humanity benefit from sustainability?
As things stand, there just aren’t enough raw materials on the planet to satisfy capitalism’s greed. If we wish to continue our existence on Earth then we will have to live within the means of the planet and plan for degrowth, or face extinction. It’s that simple. Capitalism chooses extinction. How about you?
How to Save Our Sustainability?
Individually: We have a choice how to spend our time and money, so choose to do whatever you can to make the world a better place than when you arrived. The world does not need more people in suits, but it does need artists and lovers. Sounds like the hippies were right, so I guess I owe my mum and dad an apology for not taking their warnings as seriously as I should have.
Collectively, including Governments: We have to hold those accountable for crimes against humanity, such as the Fossil fuel industry, which has known as long as we have that what they were doing was going to lead us to this point in time, where we face our own extinction. We must demand our rights for protection from corporate interests that do not have our best interests at heart.
Unpopular opinion: We have given governments too much rope and they’re hanging us out to dry with it, so protecting ourselves from further environmental disasters and cleaning up our mess must be top priorities.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to check the veracity of the information contained within, certain limitations could result in not all data being current or completely accurate. Please feel free to contact us if you feel something needs updating.
Save Our Sustainability Test
Here are 10 questions...
How it started
How it's going
SOSquiz Glossary of Terms (with links to Wikipedia)
6th mass extinction (Holocene Extinction)
AEEA (Asociación Española de Educación Ambiental)
ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Coronavirus (Covid-19 or SARS Cov-2)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Human impact on the environment
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Internal combustion engine (ICE)
Internet service providers (ISP)
National Security Agency (NSA)
Particulate Matter (PM 10, 2.5 & UFP)
Psychological impact of climate change
Quality of life (QOL)
Ultrafine particles (UFP)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
World Health Organization (WHO)
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
World Wide Web (www)