It’s hard enough spelling the word sustainability, but what about implementing sustainability issues into our lives? Sustainability is just one word, however it has a lot of meaning, which affects each and every one of us.
In recent years, sustainability, sustainable products and lifestyle, conscious consumption, going green, green consuming, environmental protection and so many other definitions have started to take a place in our daily lives. Nonetheless, the choices we make in our everyday lives consciously or unconsciously have started to change too because society has become more interested in and conscious about environmental issues. Moreover, one of the reasons for society being interested in such developments is because it is related to our lives directly and the possible consequences of not embracing sustainability in the future is firmly on our minds. People are now more aware of the result of their consumption, choices and lifestyle and how it has had positive or negative impacts on the environment in the past.
In a nutshell, consumption habits for many people have changed and become environmentally sustainable because it is a part of our instinctive desire to have a better, happier and more conscious life. In addition to this, we can name these purchasing habits as ‘green consumption’, but consuming green products is only one solution to reduce the environmental problems. However, the problems facing our planet are much more complicated than that and these complex environmental issues are commonly referred to as ‘Wicked problems’. A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Most well known wicked problems are economical, political and environmental problems.
So is consuming green products the solution to these complex or wicked problems? Is using eco-friendly products, receiving and paying bills electronically, purchasing goods, which have eco-labelling brands or buying low carbon products and so forth enough to solve them? The simple answer is No. It will take a lot more than that, because industry and governments must change too to bring about large-scale change. However, the cumulative effect of more and more individuals going green will start to make a difference.
Now I am going to be honest with you, there is no definite way to wicked problems because there are many reasons and influencing factors to connect them to each other. These kinds of issues do not have solutions, which rely solely on the separate responsibility of individuals, companies or governments. In fact, after a while wicked problems begin to cross all boundaries, which is why we need to deal with them collectively.
If we think about environmental problems on a large scale, they can be truly defined as wicked problems. For instance climate change is a complex problem with many causes and factors. It was something talked about by handful scientists in the early stages. Then it seemed like something, which was happening somewhere far away, our homes and so didn’t directly affect us. But how about now?
Climate change has now turned into a global scale problem. It is something, which is affecting our lives every year with catastrophes such as extreme weather conditions e.g. the recent devastating hurricanes to hit the Caribbean and North America and also annual flooding in countries worldwide. In actual fact, climate change is now one of the biggest challenges which we as humanity have faced, in terms of survival, in all of our history. Recently, new research shows that the highest global CO2 emissions were recorded in 2017, so the wicked problem of climate change is now getting worse and worse.
Recently, all eyes were on the UN Climate Change Conference 2017 ‘Aims for Further, Faster Ambition Together’, which took place from 6th to the 17th November in Bonn, Germany. Indeed, the challenge of climate change brought governments, governors, businesses, investors, academies, NGOs, scientists, civil societies and so forth together. Effectively, it all means we need to work together with a well-organised strategy to mitigate and adapt to climate change, bring sustainable and meaningful change to the table, take collective political action, understand the impact of climate change on livestock and food security and so forth. Individually, I do believe in the actions people are taking to be sustainable for our planet’s future, but only by working together collectively will we empower the fight against the destructive consequences of climate change.
Nowadays, even artists and celebrities are getting involved in climate change and other environmental challenges to raise awareness. .”Before the Flood” is a documentary presented by National Geographic and features Leonardo DiCaprio. It demonstrates how interlinked the ultimate outcome for human beings is, whether that is an extinction-based scenario for the human race or something more positive. Furthermore, it highlights that we all have it within ourselves to alter the worst-case scenario and create a more sustainable and positive future for future generations.
In May 2017, Venice had an incredible art installation, which was actually a spotlight for flooding because Venice is an ancient and very iconic city, which is threatened by climate change effects from the Mediterranen sea levels rising.
These awareness raising events all serve to make society consider all the individual and collective things we can do to conserve our planet. Society’s attitudes and behaviours are now changing. It is driving a major change in the relationship between consumers and goods too.
As we all know, ownership is a very common behaviour in our society. We believe that by having your own products indicates a certain quality of life, as well as happiness. But now even that ossified behaviour has started to change. People are starting to see that instead of owning properties, sharing them is a better choice. One good example is car sharing which is a very innovative form of collaborative consumption. To illustrate, you may need a car for something and only for couple of hours. By using your smart phone app you will be able to rent a car where or when you want to have it. Initiatives, which companies are introducing, like the example of car sharing, will increasingly evangelise people into changing their behaviour.
Now we can realise that brands can and do have an impact and role in advancing sustainable lifestyles. Furthermore, simple choice edits will provide us with the opportunity to have more responsible lifestyles. I want to leave you with the following thoughts:
- Society needs a systemic change.
- Building a sustainable life will be more effective with all the stakeholders making a contribution.
- We need to remind that ourselves we are both the problem and the solution because we are willing to change the world in a better way.
- We have to take small steps to reach a new mind-set.
- The very least you need to do is start the change from within yourself.
All YOU need to do is:
- Act for the planet!
- Act for the future!
- Act for the future of our children!
- Act for equality!
- Act for the good of the planet!
Because taking action is a part of the process of exploring, learning and experimenting (ELE).
Şeyda DAĞDEVİREN HILL, Istanbul, December 3, 2017.