living sustainably
The new challenge with great opportunities for us all

Website started 2018 - Last update December 2019

Deutsche Sprache

The website is aimed at people in the richer countries of the world who want to rethink how we live our lives today.

The environment and the climate need to be fully protected. This can only be achieved if we open ourselves to a sustainable life.

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If I do not see the environmental and climate protection in a larger context, then I will underestimate the urgency of my own actions by far.

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1. Our dilemma

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Our dilemma is that we live in a finite world, but behave as if it were inexhaustible.

Economic growth is not what everything is based on - but an intact planet

We engage in an experiment that is certain to fail. [...] The gigantic experiment is running worldwide and is based on the hypothesis that unlimited growth is possible on a limited planet.  
Translated from Harald Welzer: Alles könnte anders sein - eine Gesellschaftsutopie für freie Menschen. 2019.

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For a long time we have

  • ignored the side effects of technological progress,
  • concealed the concomitants of constant growth,
  • followed the instruction «multiply and subdue the Earth», 
  • put «having» before «being», 
  • kept thinking as if there were still as few people on earth as there were 200 years ago.

© Tashatuvango | Shutterstock, [US] 2018  

With regard to a sustainable development and our consumer behavior the rich countries of the world are, as it were, «developing countries».

The steadily growing consumption of all of us is the engine that drives the steady growth of our economy. 

This in turn results in major environmental impacts worldwide and is increasingly endangering our natural basis of life and living together on earth.

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So we have to face
the growth dilemma
that is

Giving up on growing our current economy means the risk of economic and social collapse.

Maintaining growth means the risk of destroying global ecosystems that are our basis of existence. 
Tim Jackson. Prosperity without Growth - Foundations for the economy of tomorrow. 2016  

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It is clear that there are no simple answers to this - none that could be proposed without proposing at the same time a transformation in the whole of the way we think, work and order our lives. 
David Fleming, Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy. 2016  

The conventional reaction to the growth dilemma is the call for decoupling of economic growth from resource consumption, including harmful environmental impacts. 

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The decoupling is to be achieved with more efficient production processes, «sustainable goods and services», «Smart Growth», «Green Growth» and «Sustainable Growth».

With the decoupling we are currently achieving a slightly smaller increase in resource consumption with the economic growth today [relative decoupling].

What we need in the medium term if we maintain economic growth, however, is at least no increase in resource consumption with continued economic growth [absolute decoupling].

The results so far do not allow for optimism, because the consumption of resources increases very strongly.

Therefore, two different decoupling tasks must be pursued: 

(1) decoupling the production of goods and services from unsustainable natural consumption and 

(2) decoupling the satisfaction of human needs from the imperative to ever more consumption.
Maja Göpel. 2016. The Great Mindshift. 

The reduction of production and consumption is a necessary consequence of the fact that it is impossible to sufficiently decouple economic growth from material throughput - i.e. the consumption of raw materials and energy.
Translated from: Schmelzer, M. und Vetter, A. 2019. Degrowth / Postwachstum zur Einführung.


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So today we are faced with the Herculean task 

  • of satisfying the basic needs of what is soon to be 10 billion people worldwide 
  • while, at the same time, respecting the ecological limits of our planet. 

In this context, it should be remembered: 

A minority of only 15 - 20 percent of the world's population, mainly in rich countries, currently accounts for around 80 percent of total global resource consumption.

The illustration shows the magnitude, exact data are lacking.

The G-20 countries - out of 195 countries worldwide - account for 75 - 80% of total global CO2 emissions.

And let's never forget:

Today, around 4.3 billion people - over 60 percent of the world's population - live in abject poverty and struggle to survive on less than the equivalent of $ 5 a day. 
Jason Hickel. The Divide - A Brief Guide to Inequality and its Solutions. 2017


The great fallacy of the environmental debate over the past 30 years has been the hope that an ecological turnaround can essentially be implemented with some technological innovation programme within the existing economic order

The continuing impressive development of prosperity has not been able to slow down climate change, resource consumption or the loss of biodiversity - on the contrary, all these pressures have increased massively.
Translated from: Uwe Schneidewind. Die Grosse Transformation - Eine Einführung in die Kunst gesellschaftlichen Wandels. 2018

We do not only have to do more; we also have to do things differently. Over the next decade, we are going to need very different answers to the world's environmental and climate challenges than the ones we have provided over the past 40 years. 
The European Environment - State and Outlook 2020. European Environment Agency. 2019

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It is quite simply a fact that the current ways of life and economic activity have a comprehensive and deep impact on various ecosystems. Future generations and other living beings therefore face drastic and irreversible disadvantages. 

To date, environmental and sustainability policy has far from succeeded in achieving a sufficiently strong reduction in ecological burdens. 
Translated from: Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung (IÖW): Gesellschaftliches Wohlergehen innerhalb planetaren Grenzen, Texte 89/2018 im Auftrag des Umweltbundesamt Deutschland. 2018.

Since [in the «free» market economy] public and common goods such as clean air, biodiversity, security, trust, cohesion or justice have no price, they can be destroyed for free and the resulting costs be charged to the general public. 

Who does more damage than others, gains a competitive advantage! 
Christian Felber. Change Everything. Creating an Economy for the Common Good. 2015

The 500 largest private companies have an economic and political power that no king, no emperor, no pope has had on this planet. They have established a world dictatorship that is stronger than any state.

Take the climate debate: Despite all the promises made in Paris in 2015, the five largest producers even emit 28 percent more fossil fuels.

This shows the total powerlessness of the states. Young people who are now taking to the streets are also aware of this.

Translated from the interview with Jean Ziegler to his latest book «Was ist so schlimm am Kapitalismus - Antworten auf die Fragen meiner Enkelin». Tages-Anzeiger, 12.07.201

Climate change is one of the most threatening consequences of the "Free Market" and a direct result of the pursuit of everlasting economic growth.

An average increase in global warming of 5 degrees worldwide, as predicted by the end of the century, means massive changes. 

5 degrees in the other direction as a comparison, that was the last ice age. About two thirds of Switzerland were covered by ice at that time. That's the measure of change when we talk about 5 degrees. 

Translated from the interview with Reto Knutti, climatologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETHZ Zurich, REPUBLIK 23.11.2019 

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We urgently need a clear vision, a bold policy, and a truely robust strategy to find the way out of the growth dilemma. 

The growth  dilemma is barely taken into account by the normal policy-makers and is mentioned only marginally in public debate. 

Tim Jackson. Prosperity without Growth - Foundations for the economy of tomorrow. 2016 

... [it is] the conditions of any future economy that need to be redeveloped: For all the great achievements that we can look back on have only been at the price of not taking into account either the natural conditions or the living situations of people in other parts of the world. 
Translated from: Harald Welzer. Alles könnte anders sein - Eine Gesellschaftsutopie für freie Menschen. 2019

Up to now digitalization has been mainly used for conventional growth and not for a sustainable transformation of our societies.

Overall, digitalization processes today tend to act as «fire accelerants», exacerbating existing non-sustainable trends such as the overuse of natural resources and growing social inequality in many countries.

It seems that with digital technology nature and humans will first and foremost merely be exploited even more efficiently, at least as long as policy is left aside. 

Only if we succeed in putting digitalization at the service of sustainability can the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030 really be achieved. 
Towards our Common Digital Future. 2019. German Advisory Council on Global Change.

Real climate protection will hurt

Politicians must have the courage to tell their voters that voluntary renunciation is not enough. Many people will have to change their lives.

There is no right to the freedom to buy everything. Even in countries with democracy and a market economy, freedom ceases where the livelihoods of all are threatened.

And China, India, and other poorer countries claim prosperity as in the West. Quite rightly.

So the West has to reduce its material claims. 
Translated from Markus C. Schulte von Drach Süddeutsche Zeitung, 13 July 2019 

[Because] today, Europe continues to consume more resources and contribute more to environmental degradation than many other world regions. 

The European Environment - State and Outlook 2020. European Environment Agency. 2019

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Humanity faces nothing other than the creation of a new way of thinking and a new philosophy, since the old growth philosophy is demonstrably wrong.

The overriding goal, it seems, can no longer be solely growth. It must become a truly sustainable development
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman. 2017. Come on! 

Our current operating model is unsustainable. It simply has to change, and the time is now.  
Swiss Private Bank Lombard Odier

We must move from the deeply internalized attitude of competition and self-interest to a basic attitude of cooperation and common good, if for example, we really want to curb global climate change.

We need an economic system that rewards sustainability rather than waste.

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Sustainable development is more than just environmental and climate protection, and understands environment, economy and social affairs as equal and networked.


A little digression about consumption
Our dilemma as environmentally-aware affluent citizens

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If we wealthy people want to protect the environment, all we have to do today - so we consumers are told - is to go to the supermarket. There are now sustainable and environmentally-friendly products everywhere. 

We can therefore seemingly consume more and more without any worries and thereby even do something good for the environment.

Almost no product from toilet paper up to cars is sold without the promise that one makes the world a little better.

«Buy me and make this world a little bit better» is the key message found among sustainable brand's marketing. It is argued that the market will fix the climate problem: One does not have to consume less, but only consume in a different way.

Now, however, the validity of this approach is being shaken daily by reports of the consequences of our actions. What we consider sustainable consumption so often leaves behind poverty and environmental destruction elsewhere in the world. 

Who really wants to change something, can't get around thinking about the dogma of
Translated according to Marcus Jauer. Tages-Anzeiger 10.12.2018 und Sebastian Schoep. Tages-Anzeiger 06.06.2019


Sustainable living means for us people in the rich countries - among other things - providing for the future humans on our earth and showing solidarity with other people in the world.

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Tim Jackson. 2016. Prosperity without Growth - Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow.
Table of contents and excerpts from the book.

Christian Felber. Change Everything. 2015. Creating an Economy for the Common Good.
Foreword and table of contents.

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman. 2017. Come on! - Capitalism, Short-terminism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet.
Table of contents and excerpts from the book.

Maja Göpel. 2016. The Great Mindshift - How a New Economic Paradigm and Sustainability Transformations go Hand in Hand.

Open access.

Graeme Maxton
. 2018. Change! - Why We Need a Radical Change.

Download a pdf copy of the book.

Jason Hickel. 2017. The Divide. A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions.
Table of contents and excerpts of the book.

German Advisory Council on Global Change. 2019. 
Towards our Common Digital Future

European Environment Agency. 2019 - The European Environment - State and Outlook 2020. 
Executive Summary.