A change in attitude
07 Nov 2008 03:11:10
In the west we have lost sight of quite how fragile our own existence is. We feel like we are this super evolved species with computers, air conditioning and huge shopping malls selling us everything at amazing prices! But what we forget is how dependant all of this is on a) fossil fuels and b) the current climatic conditions around the world.
There are 3 main areas I feel we need to work on becoming as self sustaining as possible right down to a local level to enable us to be less dependant and more in control of our lives.
Energy, water and food - and these are the most fragile areas.
We are dependant on an infrastructure for our energy. Fossil fuels are running out and there is growing insecurity of existing supplies as we are not self sufficient for our energy. As energy costs rise, so will food, cosmetics and cleaning products (many of which are made from oil related products). Do we need to drive to the shops - couldn't we get a bus or walk if it's not too bad. We take too much for granted with energy and consider it a right and not a privilege. Energy underpins everything we do and if we have to generate and manage it ourselves we would be less wasteful - both as individuals and an energy system (energy produced at the point of use and need is inherently less wasteful).
Some say that the next world wars will be fought of water not oil. I think there will still be wars fought over oil and gas, but what we forget is how the changing climate will affect water supplies. The evidence of retreating glaciers around the world is clear - look at Kilimanjaro 30 years ago and parts of the Rockies, and you will see quite how much they have depleted. But why is this important? These glaciers feed rivers and traditionally there was a balance between how much ice melted and how much was replenished by snow fall. Now with rising temperatures these are melting without being replenished fully. This means that entire water basin will not be supported and the millions of people who rely on there rivers for water will be affected.
But it is not just climate change that is depleting water, our own greed and lack of respect for it as a resource are leading us to shoot ourselves in the foot. Look at the South west of the US. The Hoover dam hailed as the great provider for the west is now at 45% capacity, and Las Vegas is in real trouble - so much so that they now have world leading water conservation policies to reduce water wastage.
This leads on from the last point. If you don't have water you can't grow food. This is another problem being highlighted in the South West of the US. There is now growing friction between the farmers and cities for the water supply. The city wants to buy the water but the farmers need it to grow food which in turn is needed for the city. Food prices are rising due to fuel costs and soon the affect of water scarcity will add to this problem.
But what really aggravates the problems we face is our own attitudes to resources - particularly in the US, the land of the plenty. We expect the shelves to be full, we expect to be able to throw things away, we don't want to be careful and cautious because it goes against our belief that we are above having that dependence, and worst of all we expect and demand things are as cheap as possible.
We act surprised when we here horrific stories of child labour in the third world, but how else do we expect companies to make things at the cost we want. We can blame them for what they do to supply cheap goods, but ultimately we are the ones that buy them and make that choice - because we want the latest coolest clothes and are happy throw away last seasons fashion even it is perfectly ok to wear. But what we have forgotten is that the world is a finite resource and we cannot go on being so wasteful with everything in our life as everything is so dependant on the resources we need the most - energy, food and water. We forget that other people in the world suffer to feed our greed. We extract resources from around the world as cheaply as possible in a manner that does not grow the local economy and gives us a false sense of security.
So what do we and governments need to do:
We need a political and financial climate that encourages self sufficiency, energy independence and resource conservation.
We need to develop our culture from one of waste and greed to humbleness and resource efficiency.
And the good news is it probably all with in reach, all we need to do is the hardest thing of all but is also the simplest action - change how we look at the world and how we fit into the grand schemes.
We need to create this environment ourselves and encourage governments and business to follow so we can be in the best position to deal with the fact that our lifestyle needs to change or we will not be able to support ourselves.
By 2050 we will need the resources of another 3 planets....I cant think of any we can use, can you?