June 17, 2024

KM News

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Environmental Essentials: Is Sustainability a Luxury?

“Sustainable living is all very well, but people also have to get on with living their lives’” concluded a timely piece in my local paper about alternatives to petrol and diesel.

This is an illogical, contradictory statement though since if we don’t live our lives sustainably (ie. in a green way) we will not be able to ‘get on with living’ them due to the flooding, drought or rapidly rising food and fuel prices caused. The ‘alternative’ to sustainable living is one that by definition cannot be continued BECAUSE it’s unsustainable.

This is why I believe the green agenda, which some (wrongly) say becomes secondary in economic hard times, has never been more relevant. It is the route to more stable, secure and affordable lives!

There are many examples of whole civilisations who learned this lesson too late, if at all, to stop them from going under (ably described by historians such as Clive Ponting in his ‘A Green History of the World’).

We don’t have to go the same way, though we are far from taking sufficient action fast enough to avert sudden, drastic and forced change. On the whole people probably appreciate the seriousness of problems like climate change but also need to see it as requiring urgent action and as causally connected with problems like soaring food and fuel prices. It’s a current problem requiring action now. It’s a short, medium AND long term problem.

The journalist’s statement sounds to me like something that is increasingly common – a denial of problems that are real, serious and urgent. Issues like peak oil production and climate change are inseparable from soaring food and fuel prices and clearly come into this bracket. The best science and economics tells us we have to adjust and adapt our lives. This means fully embracing sustainability’s key concepts: efficiency; renewability; environmental limits; meeting needs; fairness here and around the globe, for both present and future generations. This would take us away from massive dependence on increasingly expensive and scarce oil which is making everything else expensive because it is produced using it!

Sustainability is not an add-on luxury, it’s an essential – though for me current and past governments have failed to lead on this. They have failed to get across the message that sustainability has to be an integral part of all our lives. They have themselves wrongly treated sustainability as a ‘policy’ to be added on. Classic example: our Prime Minister recently announced big green energy plans apparently to cut oil dependence and carbon emissions but still has plans for more coal-fired power stations, hundreds of miles of new roads, expanding airports, incinerating waste and building consumerism, which will entrench carbon emissions and oil use. He wants his Saudi friends to raise oil production to so say help cut prices whilst he also says he wants reduced oil consumption! Not the good, consistent direction, leadership and investment needed to make it easier for people to make practical, sustainable choices.

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