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For a long time we have
- ignored the impacts of technological progress,
- concealed the consequences 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.
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In a few decades, there will be 10,000 to 12,000 million people on Earth.
200 years ago, there were just 900 million people.
We act and live as if we were still as few in the world as we were two hundred years ago.
We consume and exploit the earth's resources as if there were no people after us.
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With our steadily growing consumption and resource consumption as well as rapid population growth, we are reaching the ecological limits of the Earth and are endangering our basis for existence.
«If we defeat nature, we will find ourselves on the losing side.»
Translated quote from Konrad Lorenz, biologist and Nobel Price winner.
In this context, let's not forget: Only 15 - 20 % of the world's population, mainly in the rich countries, account for around 80 % of total global resource consumption.
And the richest 10 percent account for half of all global climate-damaging CO2 emissions.
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.
The facts clearly show
- today, we humans live at the expense of future generations,
- the descendants will have to pay a big price for our irresponsible and short-sighted overuse of planet Earth, and
- 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 on our earth.
Global pollution is reaching a threatening level.
We are experiencing a gradual loss of our basis of existence everywhere in the world.
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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«Emergency situation» climate
For 30 years we ignored the research results of science and the forecasts regarding climate change.
Now we have the certainty that climate change with its impacts also on us humans can't be stopped.
If we act today and reduce until the year 2050 the CO2 - emissions from fossil fuels worldwide to zero, we can still prevent the worst.
Probably soon we will be confronted with a hostile climate. Millions of people worldwide will have to leave their homeland, because it is flooded or by long-lasting dryness no longer habitable.
Humanity is unlikely to go under right away, as so many alarmists want to tell us. But the concerning question comes to mind:
Do people still have a chance for a life fit for humans in a world such as the one we are leaving behind?
A life fit for humans in no way means a life of ever-increasing material wealth, as it does today in rich countries.
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However, the basis for a life fit for humans is sufficient food, sufficient living space, opportunities for education, meaningful work, medical care, retirement provision and sufficient natural living space.
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.
We need to fully protect the environment and climate.
At the moment we are probably creating more new problems in terms of the environment than we are solving existing problems.
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 Planetary Boundaries - [marked in red]
- Climate change
- Changing the integrity of biospheres [biodiversity loss and species extinction]
- Degradation of the ozone layer
- Acidification of the seas
- Biogeochemical cycles [phosphorus and nitrogen cycles]
- Altering ecosystems [e.g.deforestation]
- Use of fresh water
- Exposure of the atmosphere to microscopic particles (aerosols affect the climate + living things)
- Entry of new substances into the environment (organic pollutants, radioactive substances, nanoparticles and microplastics)
Quelle: Stockholm Resilience Centre
With regard to our consumer behavior and a sustainable development 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 with partly irreversible damage worldwide.
Giving up on growing our current economy means the risk of economic and social collapse.
Maintaining growth implies the risk of destroying global ecosystems that are our basis of existence.
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.
1. Tim Jackson. Prosperity without Growth - Foundations for the economy of tomorrow. 2016 2. David Fleming, Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy. 2016
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The conventional response to the growth dilemma is
the call for decoupling of economic growth from resource consumption, including harmful environmental impacts.
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].
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«Two different decoupling tasks must be pursued: Decoupling the production of goods and services from unsustainable natural consumption and decoupling the satisfaction of human needs from the imperative to ever more consumption».
Maja Göpel. 2016. The Great Mindshift.
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So we are facing the Herculean task,
to satisfy the basic needs of soon 10 billion people worldwide
and at the same time to respect the ecological boundaries of our planet.
The great fallacy of the environmental debate over the last 30 years has been the hope that an ecological turnaround can be essentially achieved with a technological innovation programme in the existing economic system.
The impressive wealth development was not able to slow down climate pollution, the consumption of resources or the loss of biodiversity - on the contrary, all these impacts have massively worsened.
Translated from: Uwe Schneidewind. Die Grosse Transformation - Eine Einführung in die Kunst gesellschaftlichen Wandels. 2018
It is regarded as certain that the current lifestyles and business practices constitute a comprehensive and deep intervention in different ecosystems.
Future generations and other living beings therefore face drastic and irreversible disadvantages.
The environment and sustainability policy has so far been far from successful in achieving a sufficiently strong reduction of environmental burdens.
Translated from: Gesellschaftliches Wohlergehen innerhalb planetaren Grenzen, Texte 89/2018 im Auftrag des Umweltbundesamt.
We urgently need a clear vision, a bold policy, and a truely robust strategy to find the way out of the growth dilemma.
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We are all called to embark on a journey towards a sustainable life.
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 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.
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.
A sustainable development is the promising path that leads us from today's - ecological and social - global crisis into the future.
We do not have a master plan on how to achieve the transformation of our society with its perpetual expansion towards sustainable development.
And what a future and sustainable society will look like, we do not know it either.
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- Align the economy sustainably.
- Reduce the imbalance between poor and rich countries.
- Stop the growth of the global population.
- Reduce consumption.
- Apply clean and efficient technology.
- Put digitisation at the service of global sustainability.
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For a sustainable development we essentially need the following changes, which are closely linked:
Uwe Schneidewind. Die Grosse Transformation - Eine Einführung in die Kunst gesellschaftlichen Wandels. 2018
- Prosperity and consumer turnaround
The question is how sufficiency - a «Culture of Enough» - is possible and how the formation of such a culture can be supported by framework conditions of politics.
- Energy turnaround
The goal of the energy turnaround can only be achieved if the conversion to renewable energy is combined with an energy sufficiency and energy efficiency.
- Ressources turnaround
Only if the resource consumption per capita is reduced by a factor of 4 to 5, is humanity long-term within the planetary boundaries.
- 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
The current food production is responsible for an important part of global resource and CO2 - burdens. 30% of consumer-related environmental impacts in Europe are caused by our eating behaviour. Consumption of meat and fish has to be significantly reduced.
- Urban turnaround
In the middle of this century around 80% of all people worldwide live in cities. Therefore, the way of urban development is of central importance for the overall sustainable development.
- Industrial turnaround
There are two main objectives: the decarbonization [stop CO2 - emissions] and the circular industry. This requires technological innovation, cooperation and an innovative policy framework.
How can I take the first decisive step?
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- In addition to my basic daily needs, only consume what gives me real added value.
- Less time sitting in the car and on the plane.
- Eat less meat.
- Heat less and use less space.
- Align my lifestyle with a good balance between quality and quantity.
- Ask me the highly topical question: To Have or to Be?
- Pay more attention to the environment:
For example with
- Environmental tips in everyday life Umweltbundesamt, Germany
- Green tips for a cleaner environment WWF
- Green eco tips for a sustainable lifestyle Global Stewards
- Climate tips myblueplanet
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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.
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For our children and grandchildren and all future people.
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So, are we not unquestionably obliged to change our way of life now?
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