Questions about sustainability

What bothers you most about the world situation?

I think the problem of inter-generational equity – a fancy term meaning that we people who are now alive are destroying the world that the people who come after us need to live in (see: Climate change and future people).

How would you start to sort it out?

By recognising that all people have equal rights and responsibilities, and that among them are the right to a secure and sustainable environment and the responsibility to help safeguard it for everyone else.

But what can we ourselves do about it all?

I recently tried to boil it all down for the “what is to be done” section of a proposal for a film on oil palms (The Catastrophe Crop – Oil Palms and the Last Rainforests).  What I came up with was to set our relationship with palm oil within an approach to the whole raft of damaging and unsustainable aspects of our ways of life.  These are some of the principles with which I thought we might leave the audience, which are all relevant to palm oil and much else besides:

  • Have fewer children – none or one at most.  The best favour you can do the biosphere is to be childless and look after other children and nature instead.  The best favour you can do your first child is not to have another.  If you need to provide siblings, cooperate with other single-child parents to give your own child a social upbringing.
  • Raise children better – to consume frugally and be interested in restoring the world.  Teach self-discipline, cooperation and ecology.  Avoid creating selfish monsters.  Instead create people who can meet the biggest challenge of all, which is to put the ecological pieces of the world back together.
  • Consume frugally yourself – teach by example, and avoid feeling the guilt of selfishness.  If you’re alive and prospering today, it’s because of an economic system based on the unsustainable and unjust exploitation of ecosystems and peoples.  Don’t make it worse than it already is.
  • Consume selectively – send signals through your buying decisions to individuals, companies and governments.  Buy green, buy organic, buy local; buy information in ways that support investigative journalists rather than syndicated pap; buy to encourage equity and sustainability; apply this to food, drinks, energy, buildings, transport, medicines, holidays, electronics, durables, etc.
  • Vote wisely – not all politicians are the same.  Some are concerned about the future, other species and other peoples.  Some don’t get it, others do.  Find out who they are and reward them.  Send the others into the darkness.
  • Study diligently – get informed and stay informed.  Find out where your food comes from, your water, your power, your information, and what’s in it really and who has reason to lie to you.  Find out about climate change, what it means for your own community, and what plans there are to deal fairly and effectively with it.
  • Campaign fearlessly – if you need to, kick and push.  Things don’t change through passive wishes.  They change because individuals influence other individuals until they all become a movement.  If you can’t lead, join, and then help keep the leaders honest as well as effective.