Why I started this site
I’ve been reading a lot about the environment lately. It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time, but over the past few years that interest has morphed into a growing concern for the future of our planet.
In all my reading, two words have stood out above all others - ‘sustainable’ and ‘coexistence’.
Sustainable means “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”, or in other words “conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources”. So to live or buy sustainably means to do so “in a way that avoids the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”.
Sustainability has become a catchword for the environmental movement and rightly so - it is fundamental to solving all the problems we face. While climate change gets the lion’s share of media coverage, really it is but one symptom of that imbalance. Our inability to live sustainably is the underlying issue.
Let’s put all this in a bit of context. Planet Earth is over 4.5 billion years old and it has contained life for at least 3.5 billion of those years. Modern humans evolved about 300,000 years ago, began to farm crops and animals around 12,000 years ago and the invention of the steam engine in 1712 ushered in the Industrial Revolution.
In the past three centuries a lot has changed. The global population has exploded from 600 million in 1700 to 7.7 billion today, world GDP has increased over 150-fold, and the time taken to cross the Atlantic Ocean has fallen from at least 6 weeks to a matter of hours.
But all that progress has come at a cost. We are currently using 1.75 times the resources the planet can regenerate in a year, when we were in ecological credit as recently as 1970. 96% of the mammals on Earth are now humans and livestock. A football pitch sized area of the Amazon rainforest is cleared every minute. Given we are reliant on the Earth’s ecosystems and natural resources for our own survival this plainly cannot continue.
I think most of us at least have an inkling that something isn’t quite right. Although the science around climate change can be abstract (you can read more about that here), it is irrefutable that more than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production, almost one-fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been lost in the last 50 years, global wildlife populations have dropped by 60% since 1970, 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction and 90% of fish stocks are used up.
The below images of plastic-covered beaches, forest being cleared, and a city skyline shrouded by smog are further tangible evidence of the impact we are having. Or consider this, is it right that the plastic cutlery you used once, for a few minutes, at lunchtime will take centuries to biodegrade? Think about that, a plastic fork will outlive anyone alive today!
Coexistence is the state of existing at the same time or in the same place, and more importantly, existing in harmony. We may think we are coexisting with our planet and its environment, but the reality is we are overpowering it. There is no ecological balance anymore.
Our intuition tells us we can’t continue on this path - our population is growing and we’re using resources more quickly than they are replenished. Something has to give. The problem is that it’s so easy to get lost in the noise, or to just lose hope altogether. But we can’t. There’s too much at stake. Although so much of the news is dire, we can still do something about all this. Every positive action we take can move us onto a more sustainable path.
But there is cause for hope. Renewable energy sources provided more electricity to homes and businesses in the UK for the first time in the third quarter of 2019, awareness of climate change has grown - a July 2019 poll of the UK population found that 85% are now concerned about the issues, and this clip of Blue Planet II sparked a global conversation on plastic pollution. We need to do more though. And we all need to contribute.
It should be obvious to us all that we need to learn to do more with less for future generations to enjoy the same standard of living as we do today. If we don’t it’s unlikely we’ll be able to live in harmony with each other, let alone with Planet Earth.
We are citizens of this planet, not just consumers of its resources. We need to start acting as such, for the future of Planet Earth, and of our own species. We also need to demand change from our governments and corporations. It’s not too late. There are actions we can all take today that will make a difference. I hope to share them here along with a bit more information to help you reach an informed opinion.