Pondering sustainability: whose responsibility?

what did you do to stop climate change
When I started as an intern at The DoNation last October I was beyond excited. It was my first job in London and my first job working within the area of my new found passion. Having just spent a year doing a Masters in International Relations and writing my dissertation on behaviour change, I was more than ready to get into work.

The DoNation has accelerated me into a world I hardly knew existed. A world where sustainability is cool, where people not only fully understand, but live by the values that I hold so dear – don’t buy too much, don’t use too much, recycle everything and don’t throw anything away. Ok, so that might not sound cool, but when you are standing in a room full of industry leaders and they are all listening to Hermione speak about The DoNation, you have to admit we have hit on something.

And I believe that something is behaviour change. The powers that be are finally tapping into the idea that something has to change – we cannot continue to consume, to exploit in the way we do. For us, that change begins at home. Politics make it such that climate change policies never get the attention needed (see the recent COP19 climate change talks), thus leaving solutions in the hands of businesses and individuals.

I think some businesses are taking the step in the right direction. Unilever, Coca Cola and Marks and Spencer for example (although even that is open to debate). Smaller businesses are following in similar footsteps and young social enterprises seem to be popping up all over the place, addressing climate change.

Technology of course is, and will, go a long way to addressing many problems in industry. Cleaner solutions within infrastructure will undoubtedly make a difference to the effect we are having. But we cannot depend on it entirely.

And what are we doing? What are we as individuals doing? An advert I saw recently really struck a chord with me; it’s a play on the old war ads and I think a fairly effective way to drive the point that we must all do our part.

As the most recent IPCC report shows we are way beyond ignoring climate change. Even for the sceptics out there, careful consumption and resource management is just logical. But how can we encourage those people to listen? And if we are lucky enough to get them listening, can we get them to change?

I think there has been a genuine error in the way sustainability has been communicated over the last decade. Talk of saving the ‘planet’, the ‘environment’, the ‘world’ wrongly reframes the issue. It is not the ‘planet’ that will suffer, but us. Not the ‘environment’, but people. Not the ‘world’, but our families, children and grandchildren. Climate change, environmental degradation and resource depletion will lead to famine, conflict, mass migration and war. Perhaps this message is too harsh. But it is the reality, and one that is not being communicated effectively. When I tell people I work in sustainability, the standard response is ‘ah yes, interesting, we must do our bit to save the planet’.

But it’s not just the planet we are worried about – how can we communicate this message effectively?

Through The DoNation, I have been inspired by people who create change for themselves; who understand that their actions can count, can encourage others to do more and ultimately can make that difference. Should we not begin to act for ourselves to create that much needed change?

To use a well-known quote “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world, in fact it is the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead).

Source: www.post-carbon-living.com

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