living sustainably
The new challenge with great opportunities for us all

Website revised October 2018 - Last update June 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.

© iQoncept | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018   

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.

© Marta Design | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

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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
Climate Strike - FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE

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.

© smatch | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

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.

© M-SUR | Shutterstock, [US] 2018  

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  

© Munimara | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

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. 

© Anderl | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

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. 

© Christos Georghiou | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

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.

The great fallacy of the environmental debate over the past 30 years has been the hope that an ecological turnaround can essentially be implemented through 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

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.

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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

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Excursus consumption

© Rudmer Zwerver | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Our dilemma 
as environmentally-aware affluent citizens

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 - but it should be sustainable. The most captivating thing is the idea that we can change something without having to change anything.

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. 
According to Marcus Jauer. Das Dilemma des umweltbewussten Wohlstandsbürgers. Tages-Anzeiger 10.12.2018

The idea of helping the environment with resource and energy saving products is more than 25 years old - it has never worked. 
Translated from Peter Carstens. Grüne Produkte. Warum nachhaltiger Konsum nicht funktioniert: 14 Thesen. GEO 22.08.2018

Criticism of capitalism should be united with the climate protests: by renouncing consumption.

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.

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

Who wants to change something, can't get around thinking about the dogma of the «MORE AND MORE». 
Translated from Sebastian Schoep. Weniger verbrauchen, mehr leben. Kapitalismuskritik sollte mit den Klimaprotesten vereint werden: durch Verzicht auf Konsum. Tages-Anzeiger 06.06.2019


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© Sanit Fuangnakhon  | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

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! 

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

Sources

© Geza Farkas | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

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


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.


Uwe Schneidewind
. 2018. Die Grosse Transformation - Eine Einführung in die Kunst gesellschaftlichen Wandels. 
[The Great Transformation. An introduction to the art of social change].


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

Open access.


David Fleming. 2016. Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy.


Graeme Maxton
. 2018. Change! Warum wir eine radikale Wende brauchen. [Why we need a radical change].


Naomi Klein. 2014. This changes everything - Capitalism vs. The Climate.
Table of contents and excerpts from the book.

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© Kai19 | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

Our earth has been radically altered through technology and industrialisation.

Humans, in their bevaviour, thinking and hoping, have remained the same

The world's two most urgent problems are still not solved, but solvable: the complete destruction of nuclear weapons and the limitation of climate change.
Steven Pinker, experimental psychologist. Enlightenment Now. For reason, science, humanism and progress. 2018

© Razvan Ionut Dragomirescu | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019
© Scott Book | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019

The human ability to act has far surpassed the ability to understand. As a result civilization is faced with a perfect storm of problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich, the use of environmentally malign technologies, and gross inequalities. 
Blue Planet Prize Laureates, Gro Harlem Brundtland and others - Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act. 2012

© Stokkete | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019 

Everywhere measures are being taken against the devastation of the habitat; these are far from sufficient, but raise the hope of becoming so soon. 
Konrad Lorenz, biologist and Nobel Price winner. Civilized Man's Eight Deadly Sins. 1973 

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The great promise of unlimited progress - the prospect of subjugation of nature and material abundance [..] - that is what has sustained the hope and confidence of generations since the beginning of the industrial era. 
Erich Fromm, psychoanalyst and social psychologist. To Have or to Be? The spiritual foundations of a new society. 1976

Today, the principle of responsibility must first and foremost be used to slow down, protect, preserve and thus prevent developments that could lead to the demise of humanity. 
Hans Jonas, philosopher. The Imperative of Responsibility. In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. 1979

© 3D_creation | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019 

We are on the threshold of a change that has nothing in common with the usual advances and transformations. This is due to the unintended side effects of technical progress. These have now become central risks that we are fundamentally unable to cope with. 
Ulrich Beck, sociologist. Risk Society - Towards a New Modernity. 1986

© Sergey Nivens | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019  

We are speechless and do not know how to overcome it in order to make reality comprehensible, to adequately describe the seriousness of the situation.  
George Marshall, communications specialist. Don't Even Think About It - Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. 2014

© Petrovic Igor | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018   

We have to set ecological limits on human activities. 
Tim Jackson, economist. Prosperity without Growth - Foundations for the economy of tomorrow. 2016

© tomertu | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Today, we have enough new knowledge to make the necessary changes to preserve our world.  
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, biologist and Anders Wijkman. Come on!  Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and  the Destruction of the Planet. 2017

 © Jacob_09 | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

Global environmental problems are no longer just about producing more efficiently. In addition, consumption reduction is needed for holistic environmental and social sustainability. It's about individual and collective behavioural change - and about psychology. 
Translated from: Karen Hamann and others, psychologist. Psychologie im Umweltschutz - Handbuch zur Förderung nachhaltigen Handelns. 2016 

© Rawpixel.com | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

An alignement of the global digital revolution with the goals of sustainability [..] is hardly to be seen, even though many key players emphasise that they have acted for the benefit of humankind.  
German Advisory Council on Global Change. Digitalization: What we need to talk about. 2018    

© dslaven | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

We are determined to protect the planet from harm, including through sustainable consumption and sustainable production.  
United Nations. Transformation of our world: 17 Goals for sustainable development. Agenda 2030. 2016


And what we do in our everyday life?...

...it's so easy to do nothing, when you are busy night and day.  
From the song Desperation, Steppenwolf. 1968

Very few people are willing to act now with a view to the long-term future, and even fewer people are clear about what actually needs to be done.

The majority of humanity is burying its head in the sand. But we must act instead of hiding from the challenges. 
Translated from: Graeme Maxton. Change! - Warum wir eine radikale Wende brauchen. 2018

© rangizzz | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

  • Even if we people in the rich countries are tired of being reminded over and over again that, with the lifestyle we now hold so dear, we are blatantly risking our descendants's chances of enjoying a good life...
  • ... we have unquestionably a responsibility to change our way of life as a precaution for our children and grandchildren and all future people now.

© Monkey Business Images | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

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Two novels from yesteryear which are still frequently read dealing with the question: Where are we going? 
Aldous Huxley. Brave New World. 1932 
George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four. 1948 

And a topical book: 
Steven Pinker. Enlightenment Now. 2018 
The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

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«If we defeat nature, we will find ourselves on the losing side». 
Translated quote from Konrad Lorenz, biologist and Nobel Price winner.

One...?

Humanity is unlikely to go under right away, as so many alarmists want to tell us.  

But the concerning question comes to mind:

Will people after us still have the chance to live a life fit for human beings in a world that we have left for them?

A life fit for human beeings in no way means a life of ever-increasing material wealth, as it does today in rich countries.

© HelenField | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

However, the basis of a decent life are sufficient food, sufficient living space, opportunities for education, meaningful workmedical care, retirement provision and sufficient natural surroundings.

Let's think about this in this context: Around as many people in the world as 3 times the entire population of Europe currently have no prospect of leading a life that truly provides human dignity.
From numerous sources with divergent estimates

If we just keep going as we have before we'll soon reach our planet's ecological limits.

By the end of the century, our children and grandchildren too may be confronted with a hostile climate, depleted resources, devastated habitats, large-scale species extinction, food shortage and mass migration.


Two...?

We will probably drastically intensify the hopeless fight for the remaining resources worldwide. 

© Robert Adrian Hillman | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

The world is currently arming itself more militarily than ever seen in the history of humanity - and with efficient, digital technology.

Global military spending rose 2.6 percent in the year 2018 to an estimated $ 1.82 trillion. That means a new maximum since 1988. 
Source:  SIPRI - Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2019

An atomic first strike is a real threat and probably still one of the big threats to us humans.

Gates: «Only nuclear power can save the world!»
Trump and Putin: «Our words, Bill!»
Fuck Nuclear Agreement.

© Felix Schaad | Tages-Anzeiger 5.2.2019


Three...?

We are facing tremendous changes in a full world, with there soon to be as many as 10'000 to 12'000 million people on the planet - one way or the other.

© Vladimir Sazonov | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

A sustainable development is the promising path that leads us from today's - ecological and social - global crisis into the future.

The large-scale social change, as required by the transformation to a sustainable development, first is a «battle» for hearts and minds of the people, and only afterwards accepted in legislation and economic policies. 

Every change that happens in societies and organizations needs individuals who initiate it. It is all the more pleasing that more and more people are working for it everywhere in the world. 
World in 2050 Initiative. 2018. Transformations to achieve the sustainable development goals.

© Jane0606 | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018   

We have no master plan on how to achieve the transformation of our society with its perpetual expansion towards sustainable development.

In addition, most people, as well as governments and companies, think in the short term. There is often a lack of appropriate knowledge and instruments to tackle long-term transformations.

And if the public is poorly informed about the challenges of sustainable development and the necessary changes, fear and uncertainty may provide a general resistance to change.  

Today, we have many solutions at our disposal for the transformation of our societies towards sustainable development. 

The only question is, how can we implement it in normal politics?

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© Monster Ztudio | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Sustainability is on everyone's lips, but often only vaguely understood. 

Sustainability is a development that satisfies the needs of the present without risking that future generations will not be able to meet their own needs.
Brundtland Report
- Our Common Future. World Commission on the Environment and Development, 1987

Sustainability [ecology] is a principle according to which no more can be consumed, than can respectively be regrown, regenerated, and provided again in the future. 
Translated from: Duden German Dictionary

Sustainability means - concisely formulated - good life for about ten billion people within the ecological boundaries on our planet. 

The concept of sustainable development is a systematic extension of human rights by opening up equal development opportunities for all people on this planet and for future generations.
Translated from: Uwe Schneidewind. Die Grosse Transformation - Eine Einführung in die Kunst gesellschaftlichen Wandels. 2018

As simple as these definitions are, it is difficult to achieve a unified, shared understanding of sustainability.

Without such a common understanding of sustainability, however, the transformation to a sustainable society can hardly be accomplished.

The transformation towards a more sustainable development will inevitably be linked to a structural change that knows winners and at least temporarily also losers.

In this respect, in addition to the effectiveness and efficiency of environmental policies, the associated distribution effects must also be taken into account. Issues of justice are thus to be taken seriously as the third central measure of environmental policies in order to ensure their legitimacy and approval.

Translated from: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Nr. 310/August 2018: Verantwortliche Umweltpolitik - ökologisch wirksam und sozial gerecht. 

© BsWei | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 
 

Think about what's coming in advance. 

The circular economy is one of the expedient concepts of sustainable economic activity. 

In the circular economy, resource use, waste production, emissions and energy waste are minimised by slowing down, reducing and closing energy and material cycles.

Products should be developed from the outset in such a way that, after use, the raw materials can be extracted and reused without any loss of quality, or fed back into the biological cycle without damaging human health or the environment.

This way of doing business is of paramount importance for our future, given the current overuse and waste of material and energy resources worldwide. 

The circular economy. What is it and what does it mean for you?
Arcadis 


© sasirin pamai | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

Percieve critical developments at an early stage.

The precautionary principle is probably one of the most effective ways of sustainably protecting our environment.

Critical developments are corrected early on, i.e. initial measures are taken at an early stage against potential critical developments, even if science still has no definite proof of what, how exactly and when something will happen. 

The precautionary principle is becoming more and more important, since today, as far as the environment is concerned, we are likely to cause far more new problems than we are to solve existing problems.

European Parliamentary Research Service

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Among other things, for us people in the rich countries, sustainable living means,

1. Providing for the future humans on our earth.

2. Showing solidarity with other people in the world.


© Arthimedes | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Time is short, but the importance of provisions and solidarity for the future of us humans is underestimated.

Are we worried today? - Barely.
When it comes to action, environmental and climate protection has not yet been taken on board by the vast majority of us. 

Are we in solidarity today? - Barely.
Only 15 - 20 % of the world's population, mainly in the rich countries, account for around 80 % of total global resource consumption.

The illustration shows the magnitude, exact data are lacking.

The industrialized countries have also to answer for the majority of the global environmental impacts in recent decades. 

«And the richest 10 percent account for half of all global greenhouse gas emissions». 
Report from Oxfam Germany 2015


For example, Switzerland and its ecological footprint.

If all the people in the world lived like we do in Switzerland, then we would need three planets as big as our Earth. 
© Filip Bjorkman | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

© freesoulproduction | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Earth Overshoot Day 2019 lands on July 29

This day marks the date when we - all of humanity - have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. 

2000 it was the 23rd of September 
1985 it was the 4th of November
1970 it was the 29th of December

Source: Earth Overshoot Day and  Globald Footprint Network


The 8-tons Society

The average resource consumption per capita and year today, for example in Germany, is between 33 and 40 tonnes. For a truly sustainable lifestyle, however, the consumption of resources would have to be reduced to 8 tonnes. 

Calculate my own resource consumption:


© Aleutie | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

The facts are clear,

  • today we humans are clearly living at the expense of future generations,
  • our descendants will have to pay a big price for our overuse and pollution of planet Earth, and
  • at most they will have to live with severe restrictions.

Our way of life in the rich countries today is not sustainable and therefore no longer an option for the future people.

© 24Novembers | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019   

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The year 2015 - a milestone for global sustainability?

  • Pontifical Enzyklika Laudato Sì
    June 2015
    Pope Francis proclaims his vision of the world. At the centre is the vulnerability of creation.
  • UN Agenda 2030
    September 2015
    169 countries sign 17 Sustainable Development Goals to guide global policy towards sustainable development.
  • The Paris Climate Agreement
    December 2015
    196 member states of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agree to limit man-made global warming to well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

Transformation of Our World - The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

The agenda came into force on 1 January 2016.

17 Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved globally and by all UN Member States by 2030. 

This means that all states are equally challenged to solve the urgent challenges of the world together.

People should have relevant information and awareness of sustainable development by 2030 - all across the world.

17 Goals


Sustainable development is more than environmental and climate protection. It is the design principle of our world. 

Sustainable development is the result of an approach that understands the environment, the economy and social affairs as equal and networked. 
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2019

© Gustavo Frazao | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019

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© imaginariumau | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

Critical developments in our environment are equally critical developments for us humans. Because without sufficient natural habitat, there can be no life on Earth that is fit for humans.

Some illustrative examples from a long list include:

  • In just 200 years, the world's population has grown from 900 million to nearly 8,000 million people.
    By the year 2100, an estimated 10,000 - 12,000 million people are to live on our Earth.  

© Arthimedes | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

  • With hardly controllable momentum and unchecked growth, the global economic system is endangering the natural basis of life and our coexistence on earth.
    Today's incentives are still one-sidedly promoting the exploitation of nature and man.

© underworld | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

  • The exploitation of valuable mineral resources and the overfishing of the oceans are progressing without restraint, regardless of the legitimate needs of future generations.
    The extraction of raw materials also causes major environmental pollution.

  • In the past 150 years, almost half of the fertile soil on Earth has disappeared.
    An estimated 24 billion tonnes of soil are lost through erosion worldwide every year. That's around 3 tonnes per inhabitant of the earth.

Our Earth - Available agricultural land
Source: UN - World Prospects: The 2015 Revision



  • Waste such as plastic, pharmaceutical products, pesticides, etc. are spreading in nature across the globe and increasingly entering the food chain, even food we humans eat.
    Thousands of new substances are synthesised annually and many of them are released into the environment, with mostly unknown effects on plants, animals and humans.

© Roman Mikhailiuk | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

  • We pollute drinking water worldwide with serious consequences for millions of people.
    Two-thirds of our planet's surface is covered with water. But more than 97 percent is salt water. 

Our Earth - Percentage of salt water, fresh water and drinking water



  • Our protective shield against harmful solar radiation - the ozone layer - has already been weakened.

  • We are changing the climate, with uncertain consequences for both us humans and nature.

© Photobank gallery | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019 © Ranglen | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 © Scharfsinn | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019 

  • Globally, the proportion of livestock has increased to 65% and that of us humans to 32%. The proportion of all wild animals, however, has dropped to 3%.
    [Percentage of biomass of all vertebrates].

© Peter Hermes Furian | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

If one were to distribute the global livestock to all people in the world, then each one of us would have about 8 chickens, geese or ducks and 2 cattle, sheep or goats at home. Five people would share a pig.

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A much-discussed concept in science
The nine Planetary Boundaries - A safe operating space for humanty
Stockholm Resilience Centre

  • If we exceed these boundaries, abrupt or irreversible environmental changes could occur. 
  • If we do not exceed them, humanity will be able to evolve and thrive over generations.


We have already passed four of the nine boundaries:
[marked in red]

  1. Climate change
  2. Changing the integrity of biospheres [biodiversity loss and species extinction]
  3. Degradation of the ozone layer
  4. Acidification of the seas
  5. Biogeochemical cycles [phosphorus and nitrogen cycles]
  6. Altering ecosystems [e.g.deforestation]
  7. Use of fresh water
  8. Exposure of the atmosphere to microscopic particles (aerosols affect the climate + living things)
  9. Entry of new substances into the environment (organic pollutants, radioactive substances, nanoparticles and microplastics)

We also do not know 

  • whether the changes on Earth caused by our pollution will continue to progress gradually, or 
  • whether individual systems such as the climate or the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic will suddenly and unexpectedly tip over. 

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© Jane0606 | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  


First

Align the economy sustainably 

© Quick Shot | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

The global economic system, with unbridled growth, and a barely controllable momentum by us humans, is increasingly endangering our natural basis of life and living together on earth.

© Lightspring | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

We need to pave the way for sustainable economies and rethink our future economics on a Earth overflowing with people.

Green EconomyFuture CityEnergy Transition - central systems of human coexistence have been identified, the transformations of which are of fundamental importance for the future viability of our way of life and economy. 

Research for Sustainable Development FONA, Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Germany.

Read more...
German Council for Sustainable Development
, Germany 
Sustainable Economy - National Research Programme Switzerland

Secondly 

Reduce the imbalance between poor and rich countries - Stop the growth of the global population

© Waldemarus | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

We need to develop patterns of thinking about how to reduce the great imbalance between rich and poor countries.

Probably only then, when people in the poorer countries achieve a good standard of living, can large population growth be stopped.

© Photobank gallery | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Every month about 7 million more people live on our planet. In a few decades we will be an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 million people on earth. 

Thirdly

Reduce over-consumption 

© Ljupco Smokovski | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

More and more people in the rich countries realize how irresponsible and selfish we behave and what a large, unpaid bill we leave to our children and grandchildren.

  • Older people are amazed at how quickly and completely the world has changed since their childhood, and not just for the better.
  • Younger people are amazed at the high price we have already paid for and will still have to pay for our growth-oriented lifestyle, should it continue to grow at the same rate.

Excessive consumption is possible because we personally pay the price for it only to a small extent.

© studioworkstock | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

The lion's share goes to nature, another part is paid by people in other parts of the world, and in the future, our children and grandchildren will pay for it.

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

The consequent significant wearing down of nature is now threatening the basis of existence of us humans on Earth. This means that, as fast as possible, we must reduce our over-consumption.

Fourth

Apply clean and efficient technology 

© alexwhite | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

Obsolete, polluting and inefficient productions must be rapidly replaced with new technologies.

However, we are falling for a great fallacy if we think that we can continue our lifestyle without change with increasing technological efficiency.

After all, the huge impact on our environment caused by our excessive consumption and rapid population growth can only be partially offset by technological improvements. 


Fifth

Put digitisation at the service of global sustainability 

© Mopic | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

It is to be feared 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.

So far there is, figuratively, no algorithm to benefit us humans or algorithm to protect nature.

The unification of digital progress and capitalist ideology in a monetarised society naturally leads to a concentration of power in a few, mostly private, key players [..].

To solve the really big problems [...], digitisation has contributed practically nothing. This is because, in general, ideas only come on the market if they can also make money. But the most pressing issues are problems that affect the poor. 

Translated from: Jonas Lüscher, Writer - Interview in the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, 06.01.2018

We must act swiftly, but keep a cool head. 

We need a prudent policy without doomsday scenarios, without ideologies and without individual interests


© Dirk Ercken | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

The concrete building blocks for sustainable development mainly consist of the following adjustments to our way of living, which are all closely linked:
Source: Uwe Schneidewind. Die Grosse Transformation - Eine Einführung in die Kunst gesellschaftlichen Wandels.

  • Turnaround in prosperity and consumption
    The question is how sufficiency - a "Culture of Enough" - is possible and how the formation of such a culture can be supported by politics with the introduction of framework conditions.
  • Energy turnaround
    The goal of a revolution in our energy systems can only be achieved if the switch to renewable energy goes hand in hand with energy efficiency and energy sufficiency. 
  • Ressource turnaround
    Only if resource consumption per capita is reduced by a factor of 4 to 5 will humanity remain within planetary boundaries in the long term.
  • Mobility turnaround
    The change in mobility is closely linked to the energy turnaround and the resource turnaround and therefore needs more than just technological developments.
  • Nutrition turnaround
    Today's food production is responsible for an important share of the burdens placed on global resources as well as CO2 pollution. 30% of consumer-related environmental impacts in Europe are caused by our eating habits. Our consumption of meat and fish needs to be significantly reduced.
  • Urban turnaround

    By the middle of this century, around 80% of the world's population will be living in cities. The nature of urban development is therefore of central importance for sustainable development as a whole. [1 + 2]

  • Industrial turnaround

    Two goals are paramount here: Decarbonisation [CO2 - emissions stopping] and the recycling economy. This requires technological innovation, cooperation, and an innovative policy framework.

1] For example Copenhagen: Denmark's capital aims to be the world's first climate-neutral [CO2-neutral] city by 2025. 

2] For example Zurich: The population of Switzerland's largest city decided in a referendum to move towards becoming a "2,000-watt society". The aim is to gradually reduce energy consumption per capita from 4,200 today to 2,000 watts of continuous power and to produce no more than one tonne of CO2 per person per year.

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© Jane0606 | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

It is very urgent. System collapse is a real danger. (...) We face tremendous challenges due to rapid population growth, the overuse of resources and associated pollution, the loss of biodiversity, and overall we are experiencing a gradual loss of our basis of existence.

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman - Come on! 2017

The 1972 Limits to Growth report to the Club of Rome dealt with the future of the world economy and, at that time, voiced the grim forecast according to which 

the absolute limit of growth on Earth will be reached within the next hundred years if the current increase in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and the exploitation of natural resources continue unabated.

© ittipon | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018    

Some distortions on our planet are reaching a threatening level.

«Emergency situation» Climate

For 30 years, we have ignored the results of scientific research and its forecasts regarding climate change.

Now we know for certain that climate change, and its effects on us humans, can no longer be stopped.

But if we act today and reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuels worldwide to zero by 2050, we can still prevent the worst.

We will probably soon be confronted with a hostile climate. Millions of people worldwide will have to leave their homes because they are flooded or no longer habitable due to prolonged drought.

© Avivi Aharon | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  


The latest Report to the Club of Rome, '
Come on!' from 2017, describes the status quo and is, as it were, an agenda for socially relevant and possible steps in the next few years. 

It is believed that we have enough new knowledge today for the necessary changes to preserve our world.

Time is running out 

But only then presumably, when the pressure coming from below - from us citizens - targeting the policy- and decision-makers grows, will environmental and climate protection really make the breakthrough.

© andriano.cz | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

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1. Stop CO2 emissions
Transform the global energy sector - Immediate climate protection

© Ranglen | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Global warming and hence climate change are progressing very rapidly.

Limiting global warming to a level clearly below  2 °C requires a rapid decarbonisation of the global economy.

If this project fails, it will have serious consequences for future generations.


2. Cut back over-consumption

© Ljupco Smokovski | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

We have to rethink our way of life and cut back on over-consumption. 

The wearing out of nature through our consumption-oriented lifestyle is too great and endangers our basis of existence. 

Very often we do not consume what we really need. Four out of five people are spending less on their own needs, but rather on what their friends, relatives, neighbours or work colleagues are buying. 

Three powerful status symbols still determine our consumption behaviour.

© Thomas Soellner | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

  • Big car 
    A big vehicle has always been considered a powerful status symbol. In the past, it was the pompous coaches of a few, then the Rolls-Royce of some, the American Chevrolet of many, and today the ever-bigger car of almost all people. 

    In Switzerland, for example, but also in many other countries more and more people are driving to work and shopping - even in the cities - with large off-road-cars (SUVs).

  • Large consumption of meat and fish
    Since time immemorial, the consumption of meat has been a powerful status symbol. First, it was the feasting in the palaces of a few (over 200 years ago, in Europe, over 90% of all people generally had no meat to eat), then frequent food in expensive restaurants for the many, and, today, almost all people eat meat daily.

    In addition, we now almost only eat the better pieces of slaughtered animals, the other parts end up as waste.

    For 1 kg of beef about 33 square meters of agricultural land is required, for 1 kg of potatoes, however, only 0.3 square meters.

    Per capita fish consumption has doubled worldwide since 1960.

    Meat Atlas - Facts and figures about the animals we eat.
     Heinrich Böll Foundation Germany and Friends of the Earth Europe Belgium. 2014. 


  • Large living space
    Large living space has always been considered a powerful status symbol. It used to be the pompous castles of a few, then the spacious villas of some, the homes of many, and, today, the large apartments of almost all people.

    The living space per inhabitant in Germany, for example, has almost doubled in less than 50 years from 26 to 46 square meters in the year 2014 [There are similar developments in other countries]. And about one third of the claimed living space is not or hardly used.

    This entails a large increase in energy consumption in heating and a large subsequent consumption, such as the purchase of furniture and many additional home furnishings.

All three status symbols have a big impact on our environment. 

© Dariusz Jarzabek | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018      © puhhha | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018    © Jenny Sturm | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 


3. Use clean and efficient technologies

© art4all | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

The impact of our steadily growing consumption and world population growth can only be partially offset by technological solutions.

We now need both: 

  • the rapid implementation of clean technology and 
  • a sustainable way of life in rich countries. 

Only then can we correct the imbalance on our planet.

© Macrovector | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018   

Policy is challenged. It must set and enforce the framework conditions for a sustainable development of our society.

Policy is often barely able to fulfil its responsibilities as it lag far behind the accelerating pace of technological developments such as digitisation and the momentum of the economy led by the increasingly powerful global financial sector.

In addition, many politicians still believe that free competition and the free market are the best tools for the economy and for solving the major problems of our global ecological and social crisis.

The massive lobbying of powerful business representatives with their individual interests in our parliaments still too often prevents measures for sustainable economic activity. Everything then relies on the voluntary actions of the key players and thus much valuable time is lost. 

In addition, environmentally harmful activities linked to our economy should no longer be kept alive with the argument of keeping jobs.

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© Castleski | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019

We humans in the rich countries can and must decide: 

  • do we want to continue as before or 
  • do we want to throttle our excessive consumption?

Now is the time for responsible and committed people to voluntarily start to live sustainably. They can show us others how a sustainable life - without sacrificing quality of life - is also possible in modern society.  

However, we can not just wait until we change voluntarily our behaviour overall. This will take too long in view of our threatened human basis of existence.

Protecting the climate now requires effective incentives, intervention measures, duties, taxes and also bans.

© Ditty_about_summer | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Politicians must now set the framework conditions 

  • so that our economic system can abandon the pure growth strategy and prioritise a sustainability strategy and
  • so that a sustainable life becomes easier and cheaper for the people in everyday life.

Three first immediate measures are, for example:

  • Enact laws that are easy to grasp so that CO2 emissions are quickly reduced to zero by the year 2050
  • Stop state subsidies for resource consumption
    Fossil fuels, for example, are being subsidised worldwide at the unimaginable level of 6.5% of global gross domestic product GDP [= total global economic output] 
    Source: International Monetary Fund IMF, Study 2015

    The price of kerosene, for example, is artificially cheapened in many countries with billions in subsidies. Without these and other subsidies, however, hardly any airline in the world - measured on purely economic criteria - would be able to survive.
  • Apply the «polluter pays» principle in general
    The «polluter pays» principle is an environmental law principle which states that the costs of measures to protect the environment are to be borne by the polluter. 
    Whoever causes damage to the environment must pay for it.
© Lisa S. | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018
© Spectral-Design | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

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© Sasin Paraksa | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

We wealthy people like to live by the motto: 
Buy organic vegetables and jet around the world.

«When the focus of travel is on cultural encounters, all people should want to travel. But they should then want to do so in a different form. Stay in place longer to really get in touch with a culture.

The worst thing is the short flight for one day to Paris, then three weeks to Thailand. These are first and foremost consumer experiences and thus parts of an economic and not a cultural globalisation.

We will not be able to afford these consumer trips in the long run for ecological reasons...»
Translated from the interview with the environmental psychologist Marcel Hunecke. Tages-Anzeiger, 05.02.2019


Example 1 
Resource consumption

The resource consumption of people with a high level of environmental awareness and good education is often well above average. The reason is probably a usually higher income. 
Repräsentative Erhebung von Pro-Kopf-Verbräuchen natürlicher Ressourcen in Deutschland. Umweltbundesamt Germany, 2016.


Example 2
Global 
CO2 - Emissions 

What about current climate protection - with the targeted global reduction of CO2 emissions to prevent major global warming?

A reduction has not [yet] been made and global greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise. In 2018, global CO2 emissions hit a record high. 
Which forces are involved? - Fossil Fuel Doublespeak. 2018

Source: International Energy Agency/Global Carbon Project 2018 


E
xample 3
CO
2 emissions of Switzerland

CO2 emissions in Switzerland amount to 4.5 tons per capita per year. However, if CO2 emissions from abroad are included, the figure is three times higher, namely 14 tonnes per capita per year.

© Daniilantiq | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019   

The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment shows in «Carbon Risks: First study for the Swiss financial centre» [2015] that the Swiss equity fund market finances emissions of a good 52 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents abroad. This corresponds approximately to the total CO2 emission in Switzerland for one year.


Example 4
Traffic

We are buying an 'environmentally friendly' car that uses less gas. That's great! But: With the purchase of an ever-larger car and increased driving any positive effect for nature is immediately negated. 

© Grisha Bruev | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019  


Example 5
Aviation

We are flying more and more. Globally, 2017 was a record year. For the first time over 4 billion passengers were flown around the world. It is a growing trend. In just 10 years - since 2006 - the number of air passengers has almost doubled.

Forecasts of the European Union suggest that international air traffic will increase sevenfold by 2050 and the emissions are expected to increase by a factor 4.

But let's not forget: 
More than 90 percent of all people in the world have never boarded a plane. 

© Pixabay 2018 


Example 6
Waste

In Switzerland, for example, we recycle a good 50 percent of our waste. That's great! But: At the same time, the total amount of waste (recycled and incinerated/landfill) from our household has steadily increased.

© Paperboat | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

The first two objectives, namely avoiding waste and reusing things, have so far hardly been addressed.  

Because only the third-best measure - recycling - allows us to continue to consume as before and without restraint.

Not waste, but our consumer behavior is the main problem.


Example 7
Agriculture 

The farmers in Switzerland for example - originally close to nature operating - are today recklessly endangering the supply with clean drinking water and the fertility of the arable land in the medium term due to intensive industrial production. Even more, in the past few years there has been a rapid reduction in biodiversity.


© oticki | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

Not enough: In order to be able to fatten the huge livestock in Switzerland, an additional arable area 2/3 times as large as the arable land inland is made use of abroad for the import of animal feed! 

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© Kevin_Hsieh | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

The question of what each one of us can do to make the world a more sustainable place is not easy to answer.

Maybe we individuals can make the greatest difference,

  • if we take other people with us on the path to sustainable development,
  • if we act together and network locally and globally,
  • if we push for fundamental changes in politics, so that it listens again to the voice of the people and not only to the voice of the big companies and banks,
  • if we reduce our collective consumption by just ten percent, because that would already have a major impact on many of the most polluting activities of our economy.
    Graeme Maxton. 2018. Change! Warum wir eine radikale Wende brauchen. [Why we need a radical change].

We do not have to change our lives completely, but we must adapt our lifestyle to the new circumstances and reconsider behaviours long held dear.

We often do not get involved in environmental and climate protection because we underestimate the following fact: 

My very personal contribution to environmental and climate protection, no matter how small, can achieve a significant effect together with the contribution of all other active people. 

For example, if every Swiss citizen (= 8 million people) did not eat meat on one day a week additionally, at least 300,000 pigs, 8,000,000 chickens and 25,000 cattle a year would be less likely to be fattened and slaughtered. 

Each of us can immediately take four measures, making an effective contribution to the protection of the environment and climate.


© laymanzoom | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  
1. Consume less.
Only consume what and as much as I really need.



© ra2studio | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 
2. Less time sitting in the car and on the plane.



© Estrada Anton | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 
3. Eat less meat.



© StockLite | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 
4. Heat less and use less space.

Consume less, drive less, fly less, eat less meat and less heating - we can start with that right away today.


© Aquir | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2019 

The transition to a sustainable society in Switzerland could mean for example:

  1. Reduce CO2 emissions from an average of 14 tons today to 1 - 2 tons per capita and year by the year 2050.
    Here calculate my CO2 emissions with the
    CO2 Calculator.

  2. Reduce resource consumption from an average of 30 tons to around 8 tons per capita and year in the longer term.
    Here calculate my ecological backpack with the Resources-Calculator.

  3. Reduce energy consumption from an average of 6,000 watt continous output to around 2,000 watt per capita and year in the longer term
    [it corresponds to an energy consumption of 17'450 kilowatt hours (kWh) per person per year].

© M.Stasy | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018   

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© Wision | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

First

Question my consumption in everyday life, while travelling, on vacation and in my free time.  

In addition to my basic daily needs, only consume what gives me real added value

Ask me the highly topical question:


In his book 'To Have or to Be', Erich Fromm describes the prerequisites for a fundamental change in the economy, politics and society in order to overcome the present crisis and to move from an orientation towards having to one towards being

Erich Fromm. To Have or to Be? 1976.

Secondly 

Align my lifestyle with a good balance between quality and quantity.  

© docstockmedia | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 

The consumption-oriented lifestyle in the rich countries is pursued from many people worldwide, but it is probably not an attractive option for our children and grandchildren:

  • first, because we are thereby causing large and sometimes irreversible damage to nature and it mostly affects many people in other regions of the world.
  • second, because the price we pay in our lives is disproportionately high compared to the benefits gained, this being increasingly felt by the suffering of so many wealthy people in industrialised countries.

In this context, the question arises for us:

What philosophy of life is behind the insatiability of us who live so stubbornly and so dispassionately and morosely at the expense of others and the environment?
Translated from: Gabriela Simon: Mehr Genuss! Mehr Faulheit! Mehr Schlendrian! Die Zeit Nr. 42/1992

Thirdly

Pay more attention to the environment.

© pathdoc | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018   

For example with  

  • Tips for a cleaner environment
    WWF

Fourth

Experience the richness of nature.

True love of nature is probably the best way to make my life sustainable.

Melinda in Firiteaz, Romania 2018 

It is far from enough to watch good nature films on TV, to drive through beautiful landscapes by car, or to inform myself about ecology.  

The reports of environmental disasters anywhere in the world, as we read or hear them daily, barely affect us. 

However, being affected is essential to us humans so that we can change our lives.

All of us - and especially our children - need very personal experiences outdoors in the «richness» of nature.

When I discover the perfect interplay of living things and their beauty, I experience myself as part of the great nature and spontaneously take care of the environment.

© Pure Sight lab | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018 


Fifth

Living sustainably
My threefold benefit.

1. I can better adjust my life to my needs.
2. I will burden our environment less. 
3. I will save money and gain time to live.

© Vjom | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018


In general

There is a widespread opinion that sustainable living means bitter renouncement and a loss of enjoyment in life. The opposite is true. 

We do not need a culture of renunciation, we need a culture of enjoyment thanks to less consumption.

© Rawpixel.com | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018

Living sustainably does not mean that every day and everywhere I go I will be racking my brain over environmental problems. 

Sustainable living is a learning process that demands all our creativity and opens up new opportunities for us.

Our children and grandchildren will be grateful if we leave them an intact world so that they, too, can live their lives independently and freely.

© Sunny studio | Shutterstock, Inc. [US] 2018  

And finally 
[and intended tongue in cheek]

Presumably only when
the last tree has been cleared, 
the last river poisoned, 
the last fish trapped,
will we realise that we cannot eat money
. 
Source: Unknown

First and last

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