Human beings are great at guilt, we have created religions to highlight our guilt. The 21st Century guilt is climate change. How responsible am I personally? Do I live in a way that is sustainable? This individual guilt can be debilitating. But is it all me?
I live in a consumer society. I operate within a capitalist economy where my skills and experience is bought and money is given to me. I cannot live on this money, so I go into the consumerist society and buy goods and services that I need. How are these goods and services provided to me? It is a corporate entity that provides the goods and services. How sustainable is the process of creating goods and services for the consumer? One answer comes from the story of stuff. It examines how the consumerist society has been built. It shows how energy and resources are wasted at every stage of the process. Moreover, the majority of the goods and services spend a small amount of time in your home before going out the door as rubbish. So it is not always the individual that should feel guilty.
Do corporates feel guilt?
Yes, sometimes, for example a UK energy company in 2013 was pressurised by a pressure group (ShareAction) to introduce the living wage. This could be seen as acting as a responsible corporate. However, the next day it was found that the energy company had hiked up its prices for consumers. This is what made the news story and politicians got on the band wagon to chastise the energy companies. The UK labour party used it to show the cost of living crisis. However, this did not get to the heart of the matter. The issue with the energy market is to do with the lack of separation between retail and wholesale. There could be issues of a cartel. WAIT, issue of retail and wholesale does this not sound like the issue behind the banking crisis? Does this mean the capitalist economy does not operate fairly? On radio 4’s today programme on 22nd January 2014 they had a representative from Npower. He stated that we needed to recognise that there is energy risk, so what do we need to do about it?
My concern is that corporates need to change and NOW. Organisations like Forum for the Future are working with corporates to help them change. But still more needs to be done. There is a Swedish research organisation (Stockholm Resilience Centre) that has recognised that there are nine limiting factors on the world. We have already breached three of them. This is the crisis. It has been put forward there is a new paradigm. My concern is the consumerist society lives well, people buy stuff for instant gratification without thinking of the consequences. Corporates continue to produce stuff in our capitalist economy. To what end? To generate more profit and larger GDP to satisfy the human need to accumulate more. This is done through spending money on marketing AND NOT on design to ensure products and services fit in with the product life cycle. Why?
On an individual level, I am looking in to creating a zero waste home. Where I think about what I bring in to the house. I re-think how I buy food so that it is not over packaged. I look at how I clean my house so I do not use too many chemicals. I think about how I travel and start with walking and cycling, then public transport, and finally fossil fuel travel – car and plane. I am working on increasing the amount of rubbish that is rottable. I put vegetable waste in to a wormery. At the moment, I am thinking about water usage as this is a limiting factor. I am also putting pressure on corporates where I can to remind them of their need to think about design rather than marketing.
What are you doing for your children, grand-children and future generations? What are you doing to keep this blue planet, blue?