Climate change and western consumerism

 

Before humans, there was no such thing as ‘waste’. The Earth was this healthy, self-sufficient, thriving planet, operating in a balanced and circular manner, zen as shit.

Yet, since the first industrial revolution, humankind has been extracting, modifying, manufacturing, manipulating, and then simply discarding resources - aka, the linear economy - and we’ve been doing this to seemingly no end.

According to a report produced by Circle Economy earlier this year at the annual World Economic Forum, only 9 percent of the world today is circular, leaving a ginormous ‘circularity gap’. In other words, approximately 91 percent of the 92.8 BILLION TONNES of minerals, metals, biomass and fossil fuels that enter the economy each year are NOT re-used.

Consumerism is an economic and cultural ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services, in an effort to increase economic growth. Yet consumerism is a western way of life and consumption - and is not how billions of people in developing countries live. According to Oxfam, the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population are responsible for a mere 10 percent of ‘total lifestyle consumption emissions’. Whereas, Europe and America, for example, with only 12 percent of global population, account for more than 60 percent of worldwide consumption.

Our western consumption patterns are so engrained in our lives that to change them requires a massive cultural and economic overhaul - yet our western economists argue that to do so could create severe “economic dislocation”. Theories of recessions and depressions will go viral in an hour - whereas the real crisis of real-life human beings being displaced in real-time, will barely muster a Facebook share.

So you know what I think? I think that “economic dislocation” can go get fucked. It is the continual use of the western linear approach to economics that has resulted in the “dislocation” of our climate. Climate change is responsible for unparalleled disruption to where people can live, work, grow food, build cities, and rely on functioning infrastructure. In many parts of the world, temperature changes and sea-level rise is already putting livelihoods and infrastructure under extreme strain and vastly affecting human well-being.

The climate emergency is the most ubiquitous thriller of our time - and western consumerism is auditioning for the lead role. Yet by transitioning to a circular economy, we WILL prevent further environmental degradation and social inequality.

While a circular economy is mainly implemented via governments, businesses and social entrepreneurs, we all have a role to play. The businesses we support and the choices we make all cast a vote for the future we want.

Increasingly, there are more and more innovative companies crafting their entire business around feeding back into a circular economy and closing the loop. Adopting a circular economy approach enables organisations to move towards business models that allow goods to be designed and produced for extended use, disassembly, reuse and recycling, from the initial planning and design stage. Given the necessity - and rise in popularity - of the circular economy, it is no longer simply the territory of multinational corps - it is one which all organisations need to consider for future competitive advantage. And from a consumer point-of-view, when you make the shift to consciously supporting circular businesses, you’re not only supporting the planet and her people, yet you are also living your life in a more fulfilling manner.

A circular economy has the proven ability to bolster societal needs. A circular economy fosters entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration. A circular economy empowers humanity with action-oriented agendas, collectively uniting whole countries, communities, and even individuals. So let’s fucking do this, earthlings, because this thriller ain’t no dress rehearsal.


Image: Jo dressed in a circular economy trench coat, by The R Collective.