“We’ve been taught that we were put here to rule our earth. But the truth is that we need the environment more than the environment needs us.” Jhikolabwino Manyika, Bagamoyo Dialogue “If we still want to have balance in nature, and if we really want to stop global warming in the coming years, if we want to stop the Himalayan glaciers from melting down; we better start re-looking at our lifestyles. We better begin our way of responding to the whole notion of development.” Mamata Dash, Delhi Dialogue II
Earth gives us more than we need • Its time to look into our lifestyles • All of us leave traces wherever we go - everyone leaves an ecological footprint during their time on Earth: some are large, others are small • Our ecological footprints depend on our lifestyles • they depend on how much water and energy we use and whether or not we acquire large quantities of unnecessary things • For example, if we consume a lot of styrofoam and plastic things, we leave a larger footprint than someone who consumes things made of paper or cloth. This is because making things out of plastic and styrofoam requires a lot more energy, and they have a much slower decomposition rate.
The Earth Charter refers to this theme in the following excerpts: Preamble: We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. • What are our basic needs? • What does “being” more mean compared to “having” more?
Principle 7f: Adopt lifestyles that emphasize the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world. • What does “quality of life” mean? • What is your lifestyle?
In order to be happy, we need to enjoy a good quality of life • Quality of life is the satisfaction level of basic needs and not the quantity of goods one possesses • This means that if a person or family has sufficient food, shelter, clothes, access to education and medical care, and time to rest and do other things, this person has “quality of life” • Quality of life is misunderstood when it is related to the quantity of goods possessed by someone (big house, new car, brand name clothes or unnecessary things) • Advertising has instilled in the public the idea that “the more goods someone possesses, the more important or happier he or she will be”
Ecological Footprint • provides a global assessment of the environmental burden put on the Earth • a measure of human demand on the Earth • based on consumption and pollution • compares human demand with planet Earth's ecological capacity to regenerate • measures the amount of biologically productive land and sea area a human activity requires to produce the resources it consumes and absorb the waste it generates, and compares this measurement to how much land and sea area is available • Using this assessment, it is possible to estimate how many planet Earths it would take to support humanity if everybody lived a given lifestyle
“[The] Ecological Footprint is not about ‘how bad things are.’ It is about humanity’s continuing dependence on nature and what we can do to secure Earth’s capacity to support a human existence for all in the future.” Mathis Wackernagel and William E. Rees, Our Ecological Footprint
A metric that allows us to calculate human pressure on the planet and come up with facts, such as: If everyone lived the lifestyle of the average American we would need 5 planets • Since the 1970s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year • It now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year • Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the 2030s, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us
ecological overshoot: turning resources into waste faster than waste can be turned back into resources • The result is collapsing fisheries, diminishing forest cover, depletion of fresh water systems, and the build up of carbon dioxide emissions, which creates problems like global climate change • Overshoot also contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine, disease and other human tragedies—and tends to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else • Overshoot is a vastly underestimated threat to human well-being and the health of the planet, and one that is not adequately addressed
Ending Overshoot • The Earth provides all that we need to live and thrive. What will it take for humanity to live within the means of one planet? • Individuals and institutions worldwide must begin to recognize ecological limits • We must begin to make ecological limits central to our decision-making and use human ingenuity to find new ways to live, within the Earth’s bounds • This means investing in technology and infrastructure that will allow us to operate in a resource-constrained world: • It means taking individual action, and creating the public demand for businesses and policy makers to participate • Knowing how much nature we have, how much we use, and who uses what is the first step, and will allow us to track our progress as we work toward our goal of sustainable, one-planet living
the world is currently divided: • A large proportion of the world’s people lives well below the levels of consumption needed for tolerable living conditions • At the same time, another large group of people binge on consumption of the world’s resources with massive harm to ecosystems and other people • what we have come to define as “The South” and “The North” continue to exist: not so much as groups of countries, but as groups of people withinall countries • the number of over-consumers in China already equals the number in the United States
The concept of “Class” is back! • But it is not the same “Class” that sparked countless debates and clashes in the 20th Century • three global classes in terms of how people use the world’s resources and meet their basic needs
Three global cultural classes of sustainable culture • The over-consuming class meets its human needs but not the criteria for sustainability, since it exceeds its environmental space • In between these two is the sustainable class that both meets basic human needs and maintains an ecological balance • At the other end, there is the struggling class that lives within its environmental space, but does not meet its human needs and suffers from malnutrition and other symptoms of powerlessness Roughly one-third of humanity belongs to each of these three classes
Over-consuming class • The justification for this label comes from the idea of climate justice, whereby each person should take equal responsibility for keeping the climate system and other natural processes in balance • no one should exceed a given amount of resource use or pollution
Struggling class • although poor people hardly contribute to industrial greenhouse gas emissions, the hardships in their lives reduce their human dignity in such ways that the cultures are not considered sustainable. -> people living in extreme poverty
Sustainable class • They have their basic needs met by livelihoods that do not cause excessive industrial greenhouse gas emissions; and they lead ways of life that do not consume excessive amounts of energy or non-renewable resources • This class of people is large, yet it receives very little attention in the debates about environmental sustainability • If one-third of humanity has made it into this class, it should be very much possible also for the rest! • In reality, this class faces constant challenges, with the appeal of the ‘consumer paradise’ on the one hand and the precarious existence of people in the lower rungs of the power structures on the other
An important fact to note here is that there are sizeable over-consuming classes in populous industrialising countries such as China and IndiaOn the global scale, nearly an equal number of over-consumers are located in the developed and developing groups of countries! • Therefore the problem of over-consumption is not limited to the ‘old’ industrial countries
Two features of all modern industrial cultures as the root causes for unsustainability: • the growth imperative • the idea of ever-increasing economic growth, using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as its indicator, is shown to have been a dominant objective of modern cultures and societies • The imperative to increase GDP is dysfunctional in terms of the environment, welfare and poverty reduction. As an alternative to the growth imperative, achieving a sustainable economy is proposed as a replacement. A sustainable economy rests on understanding and taking into account the complete economy, including the informal economy, and is built on the principles of last-person-first and environmental sustainability. • hierarchic structures • domination through power hierarchies leads to environmental unsustainability and lack of human dignity. This is because the elite at the top of the hierarchy have become detached from and ignore the basic rules of nature and humanity, including interdependence and inter-connectedness. • it is considered necessary that human relationships in all these areas should be balanced and equal, since together they create a coherent structure and foundation for human cultures and society
there is the ethical difference of causing emissions for survival needs compared to emissions caused for luxury consumption • Give examples of survival needs and luxury consumption
food, shelter and clothing are universal survival needs, whereas excessive meat eating, large air-conditioned houses, and sizeable wardrobes, fall into the category of luxury Is change possible?
Cultural Transformation Is Possible • Making the required changes for this transformation can be compared to a revolution, a religious awakening, or the collapse of the Soviet Union • Cultural changes can be slow and gradual, but they may also be rapid and transformative • Such things do happen, and can also take place in the context of environmental sustainability
Recommendations for civil society movements 1. Demand radical democratisation of the society Through true democracy, it will be possible to have non-violent change of the balance of power in favour of the marginalised majorities belonging to the struggling and sustainable classes. The systems of governance can become more democratic only when there is strong popular demand for such change. Therefore, all participants in the global justice and solidarity movements everywhere should put democratisation at the top of their agendas, both within the movements themselves and within the society at large. The best ideas and practices of democratic conduct and governance should grow and spread from the movements to a force that will democratise the whole society, starting from equality within families and moving all the way up to national governments and international organisations.
2. Seek, through dialogue, mutual support, joint action, and convergence among the many, diverse movements that are all aiming at an equal society free of violence, exploitation and oppression, be it on the basis of economic class, gender, ethnic traits, species or knowledge Past decades have been a golden age for single-issue movements. In many cases, their campaigns have been effective, but they have still not been able to change the foundations of the society and remove the root causes of the problems. Therefore, it is vital to start connecting the issues and actors of the movements so that they may combine to become a transformative force that can grow and eventually rebuild a more just, equitable, and sustainable society. Democratisation and transformation must be done as a joint creative effort of many movements combined since monolithic ideologies and authoritarian leadership are unlikely to satisfy the democratic urges of the people. Organic networking and unity in diversity are natural principles for organising today’s popular movements.
More sustainable lifestyle? The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being undermined. The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering. An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological and social systems.
It is important to note that from the beginning of history until 1900, world population only reached 1.5 billion inhabitants. However, by 2000 this figure had drastically increased to 6 billion. • In addition to the population increase over the past fifty years, global production and consumption have also excessively increased. Due to Earth’s limited capacity, this has drastically impacted our ecosystems. • Therefore, we should be responsible and change our lifestyles
Latest official current world population estimate, for mid-year 2010, is estimated at 6,852,472,823. • The greater the population of our planet becomes, the more products are required to fulfill our needs. This means that more resources need to be extracted. • Furthermore, with the consumeristic lifestyles common to our society, the consequences also include an increase in solid waste.
The choice is ours: form a global society to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. Preamble of the Earth Charter • In order to have a sustainable future and for all life forms to live well, human beings need to change their attitudes
Even though we cannot always control or change our life circumstances, we can still at least make changes in ourselves and in our attitudes • Changing our attitudes means modifying the way we think and the way we see and perceive things • This is achieved through increasing knowledge and raising awareness • Developing values implies practicing ethical actions which improve the relationship between and amongst individuals and their environment Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth's regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being. Principle 7
We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. Preamble
"Every time we pull out our walled to buy something, we are casting a vote for the kind of society and economy we want. Whether we fully realize it or not, we vote with our dollars every single day, either for or against sustainability, for or against our health, for or against justice,“ Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association in Little Marais, Minnesota
Waste Reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems, and ensure that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems. Principle 7a
people have created one of the Earth’s most serious problems: TRASH • Acquiring unnecessary things, buying items with excessive packaging or of very poor quality, and many other activities produce tons of trash each day, and this is causing irreversible damage to our world • The trash we produce as human beings contains various materials; some are biodegradable (plants and animals), and others are not biodegradable, such as the plastics, aluminum, batteries, glass, cans, styrofoam… These materials make up solid waste • We don’t have a true solution for the trash! Trash is simply used nature that has lost its dignity. Mario Pezzotti
Trash = products we throw away after using them • if we separate these products we can reuse them, and our problem of trash can be turned into a source of work and money • Trash is one of humanity’s biggest problems • Much of it comes from buying products we do not need, or from excessive packaging (bags, boxes, etc.) that generate unnecessary trash that does not easily decompose • It is very important to reduce the amount of trash we make!
The problems around solid waste include two aspects: the large amount of waste we produce and our poor handling of waste • The amount of trash we produce is increasing each day, because people are acquiring more, often unnecessary, items and equipment • We continue to place our trash in the ground, which causes the release of gaseous vapors with damaging consequences • People continue dirtying public and private areas with trash that could be recycled or reused The solution to this problem begins with becoming conscious of the 4 R’s and incorporating them into our daily activities: Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle
Refuse This means not accepting products, because of the material they are made of, their packaging, or the contamination they create when thrown away (like batteries, disposable dishware or plastic packaging).
Reduce Only buy things which we absolutely need. We should also reduce the amount of energy and water we use. • Reduce waste • Immediate Choice: Buy less packing • Tougher Choice: Recycle • Change Choice: Buy goods that can be repaired
Reuse Use packaging which is returnable or reusable. Donate clothes, games and kitchenware you no longer use, as well as books and magazines.
Recycle When solid waste is sorted, its value increases. Therefore, if we separate our trash and send it to a collection center, it can then be sold to businesses that recycle cans, plastic, paper and glass.
What can be reused or recycled? • Newspapers, phonebooks, magazines, printing cartridges, carpet, manuals, books, aluminum cans, glass bottles and plastic…
Recycling • reduces environmental destruction • improves our health • decreases the need for new land for dumps and sanitary landfills • economizes energy by reusing items whose production would imply a high energy cost • eliminates the air and water contamination that would be generated if this item were newly produced • Recycling is dirty business - for the workers that deal with it, the staff contains toxic components, they go back to the consumers, trucks and factories use lots of energy and create more waste… Much of waste is exported overseas!
recycling is not recycling, its down-cycling! • lower-grade material and secondary product • Reduces the need for virgin ingredients – but does not make a replacement for the original item • Environmental benefits are obvious. It keeps materials in use, thus reducing the demand for extracting and producing new materials and avoiding – or delaying – the point at which the materials become waste • It is not that recycling is BAD but overemphasis of it is! Recycling is the last R! Unfortunately recycling is usually seen as a primary environmental duty of an engaged citizen…! • Recycling is easy, it can be done without ever raising questions about the inherent problems with current system of production and consumption, about the long-term sustainability of growth-obsessed economic model or about equitable distribution of the Earth’s resources