Against a backdrop of environmental crisis, society is unsurprisingly developing a greater appetite for action and adopting more ecologically sensitive lifestyles. Ecosystems are collapsing in front of our eyes across the world. Many of our pollinator species have declined as a result of pesticides being used in industrial farming practices, forests in Alaska have died unable to cope with the pace of climate change and most recently the devastating fires across Brazil’s rainforests, the most intense for more than a decade. Earth is becoming increasingly contaminated and toxic, and the boundaries between what is natural and humanmade have become blurred. Over 92% of cities in the world fail to meet the air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organisation, and extraordinary levels of microplastics can be found in our oceans, even at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
One of the critical challenges we face is how we replace the crude linear ‘take, make and dispose’ processes of the industrial age. The planetary impact of these highly intensive and extractive processes is finally catching up with us, and it is today’s generation that has the responsibility for undoing the ‘wrongs’ of past generations. It is encouraging that alternative regenerative models are starting to gain traction in business from the Doughnut Economics model developed by Kate Rawson to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that champions the adoption of circular economy principles as well as the likes of Ikea, Philips and Google who are also taking on these ideas. However, this was only made possible by the growing swell of public opinion that is demanding that governments and industries help us to live our lives sustainably without destroying the planet.
Services, products and lifestyles are now being established all over the world, making it easier for people to live their lives without destroying the environment. This is a welcome reprieve for populations trying to live ‘lightly’ in an excessive world. For instance, credit cards are emerging aimed at making banking more-eco-friendly by increasing their customers’ awareness of the environmental consequences of their spending and lifestyle choices. The mobile banking service “DO”, allows people to track their CO2 emissions and compensate for their impact with a series of carbon offset projects and “Black,” a credit card branded as the “world’s first with a carbon limit.”
Some sections of society have such a strong desire to live a more sustainable life that they are taking matters into their own hands. Examples of this include social movements like ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and lifestyle hacks such as the Swedish trend of running and litter picking called ‘Plogging’ that spread around the world on social media. Another example has been the increased popularisation of merino wool clothing that plays on its odour-free properties allowing people to wear the same item for a week, drastically reducing their water consumption.
The rise in popularity of veganism is also partly due to environmental concerns and is another way for people to modify their lifestyle choice for the sake of the planet. Scientists have been developing a diet that promises to save lives, feed 10 billion people and all without causing catastrophic damage to the earth. Their answer is “the planetary health diet” which does not completely banish meat and dairy but recommends that we get most of our protein from nuts and legumes instead. This plan requires changes to diets all over the world. Europe and North America need to cut back massively on red meat; East Asia needs to cut back on fish and Africa on starchy vegetables.
Against this backdrop of ecological despair and public awareness, there is a growing appetite for finding ways to live without damaging the environment. Most significantly, we are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.