It may be arguable to what extent climate change results from natural phenomena or from the impact of human activities and the emission of greenhouse gasses. Our understanding of cause and effect is far from perfect, but, that climate change is real and will affect all of us seems inescapable.
But what if you are not convinced about the reality of climate change. Perhaps to you the more serious problem facing us is the population explosion and the effect that this is having on the cost and availability of accommodation and of natural resources, like water, food and energy sources. No matter, these are likely to have similar impacts on our personal wellbeing to those of global warming.
With climate change and/or population explosion, we are likely to find life progressively more uncomfortable and expensive. Our standard of living is likely to become more difficult and insecure. Our ability to commute over long distances will be more restricted. With climate change we are likely to become exposed to more frequent extremes of weather and more vulnerable to life-threatening natural events and pestilence. The rate at which these will become problematic may be up for debate; the fact that these affects are already noticeable is hard to refute.
Something needs to be done, but what and by whom? Government? The United Nations? G8? Maybe! But what can we do as individuals? Unless we happen to be the head of state of a world power or the president of a multinational corporate giant, our personal impact on the causes of climate change or population explosion is unlikely to be measurable in the global scheme of things … so, does it matter what we do? Only if we want to ensure our personal ability to mitigate the effects of these on our health, comfort, expenses, standard of living, security and mobility.
Coincidentally, in most cases the things that we can do to protect ourselves from the adverse effects of climate change and population explosion also have an impact upon those things that are believed to be at least exacerbating these problems. The more earnest we become at ensuring our own wellbeing, the closer we get to living sustainably!
To secure our own wellbeing, and that of the people in our community, we need to
- change our consumption patterns away from non-renewable to renewable resources
- be as close as practicable to reliable sources of supply of the essential natural resources that we need to sustain us and make us comfortable
- focus our human resources on local economic activities that benefit the community.
We need to plan to live sustainably.
From a simplistic, enviro/eco-centric perspective, in order to live sustainably we need to adopt a lifestyle which consumes only those natural resources that the world can replace in our lifetime so that we do not deprive future generations of those resources. This lifestyle has been dubbed as a sustainable Âor a one-planetÂ lifestyle.
To live a sustainable or one-planet lifestyle, each of us must actively work towards:
- Consuming only what our planet has the capacity to regenerate within our own lifetime
- Using our talents, skills and resources throughout our own lifetime to ensure that our planet’s capacity to regenerate consumed resources is productive.
Living sustainably has, however, a much broader meaning beyond the preservation of natural resources. It is not merely an environmental conservation strategy, but a strategy to promote economic and social justice and to give effect to human rights principles such as the right to earn a living and of access to resources.
In a nutshell, Sustainability requires that economic activity is optimised within the capacity of our human resources and that economic activity and social development is done carefully so that it does not compromise the biodiversity of our natural environment.