Now this is a story all about how… I was sitting on my sofa on 1 January 2021, tuning in to BBC iPlayer, when I discovered they had made available all episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I liked the show when I was a kid so thought I’d give it a go again.
Imagine my surprise when, after about 10-15 minutes, the show turned to the effects of climate change. What? I hadn’t expected that. This show is from 1990 after all. Nowadays there is a lot of talk about climate change (or is that my filter bubble?), but I wasn’t that aware of it when I was young.
In 2020 I decided to take some sustainability-related courses. This was after a few years of getting involved in sustainability, including as a volunteer for Ethical Reading. These experiences had made me realise I needed to get a more solid background in the different facets of sustainability. So I did the Business Sustainability Management course at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training, where I came across the Earthrise photo at the top of this post.
However, it was New Year’s Day – not a day I was going to be focusing on climate change or sustainability. This was my day off and I was just going to enjoy a bit of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. To paraphrase Johan Cruijff, however: “You’ll only see it when you get it”. And once you’ve got it, you can’t escape it!
I know it’s not new. I remember having conversations with old friends of my wife’s grandfather who were working on sustainable solutions back in the 1970s. And yes, I knew that people had been aware of the issues for decades, so why had it only stuck with me a few years ago?
I’ll probably never know, but the complexity and wide range of causes and their effects might have something to do with it. Just take a look at this map from the World Economic Forum.
Overwhelmed? It is indeed a lot to take in: climate change, degrading environment, rising income and wealth disparity, increasing polarisation of societies. Now I didn’t pick these topics at random and more might fall under the same umbrella, but for me, these stand out and their connecting topic is sustainability.
Each of them alone is a symptom of using our home, planet Earth, in an unsustainable way. Therefore, if we just try to tackle climate change on its own, for example by changing to all electric, we’ll need to build a lot of solar panels, wind turbines, hydro dams and more. However, where are all the rare earth minerals going to come from? How much biodiversity habitat can we agree to destroy for massive hydro dams? Exactly!
So, although it’s difficult to do, we’ll have to come up with a systems approach. And there are some great frameworks around such as the Doughnut Economics idea and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
‘Yes, but this is impossible to do,’ I hear you say. ‘And we need to invent more technology to make this work.’ Well, not really.
Have a listen to episode 5 from the IDEO podcast series. It’s about lobsters, kelp, climate change and ocean acidification. You see that by changing habits, taking a systems approach and looking at things in a different way, the solutions are better, for everyone. Here’s another good example, this time around regenerative farming and miraculous abundance.
And these are not isolated cases. Have a look at Project Drawdown. They have summed up the 100 best solutions to help the world reach Drawdown – ‘the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change – as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible’.
Notice how they are specifically trying to make this work for everyone and everything, exactly as per the systems approach. Important also is that they’ve gone for ‘every big helps’, as that will make the biggest impact.
If you want to see some of the ideas in practice, please have a look at 2040, as all the solutions from Project Drawdown are ready to implement now. No coming up with inventions in the future or waiting for better technology, we can do this now. All we have to do is change our habits and change our choices. And start creating a better future, now!
I hope you’ve found this interesting, but for now, let me leave you with some inspiring quotes:
David Farrell – “Sustainability is not an ideological thing. There are fundamental physical principals, laws of nature that stand with us, that we cannot carry on the way we are, we live on one planet that is governed by the laws of nature, and we cannot abuse them. Either we bow to them, and modify and moderate our behaviour, or the system and the laws within it will impose itself on us. That’s our choice.”
Will Day – “Sustainability is common sense.”
Oh, and just in case you know some climate change doubters, just for fun show them David Mitchell’s reasoning of why joining the science is the right thing to do.