Friday, 7 January 2011

New beginnings?

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” said Seneca, the stoic Roman philosopher, in the mid-1st century AD.

In this new year of a new decade can we begin the green society and bring to an end an age we can’t in any case maintain for much longer? This would mean putting the concept of sustainable development into action in place of just signing up to the concept, speaking warm words about it but carrying on essentially with business as usual!

Its long been put about that sustainable development is a slippery concept, hard to define fully and properly, not well understood. But is it really? I think many people have a decent general grasp that it’s about achieving a balance, giving as well as taking and ensuring a decent future for generations to come ie not more and more jam, for some, today but an ongoing availability and decent supply of jam, fairly shared.

The features of sustainable development are good sense and not rocket science. It’s clearly not a good idea to be wasteful, yet one bag in every three bags of food bought in the UK ends up being thrown out, many buildings rapidly leak heat and we still don’t make products to last. Efficiency must replace waste.

It’s irresponsible to rapidly squander resources, especially those whose supplies are limited or those that require careful, sensitive management if they are to remain available. Yet we remain hooked on high use of oil, coal and natural gas, build over the limited supply of green spaces and take from forests, soils and seas faster than resources are naturally replaced. Renewability must replace squandering.

Sustainable development means assessing progress through the health and wellbeing of people and their environment. Yet we continue to pollute on a scale that causes human sickness and environmental imbalance and we retain increasing the flow of money as the number one political and socio-economic aim despite coalition government warm words and research into assessing wellbeing. We must live within environmental limits and set new social and economic goals.

I assume no-one wants to see growing dependence and poor community development. Yet we see power centralised, local character and variety eroding, goods and services imported and many jobs exported and we encourage other regions and countries to do likewise, so they suffer dependence and sagging spirit too. Strong local communities need to be built.

Waste, resource squandering, pollution, money for a few before health and wellbeing, weakening community, means people and environments in this generation and those to come, the world over, are not getting their dues. Fairness is inseparable from sustainable development – in fact all the features of sustainable development are interrelated so solving problems and taking opportunities requires joined up thinking.

Enacting and practicing the required combination of behavioural and technological changes on the required scale, at all levels of societies, across the globe, in the face of entrenched vested interests, takes leadership we are just not getting however.

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