On October 26, 2021, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonia Guterres addressed the world and called the UN Climate change report a “Code red for humanity.” It sounds like a phrase that should end the discussion of whether or not the world needs sustainable alternatives.
However, we are living in an era where escapism is the way to go and the absurdity of dark Gen Z and Millennial humor has made it difficult for us to differentiate between temporary escapism and absolute ignorance. Can we really laugh off an apocalypse? Or do we urgently need to start acting responsibly to avoid a climate collapse?
Most of you have grown up living with the idea of saving electricity, water and all sorts of resources because we have always known these won’t last long. The concept of sustainability is not a new one. It also sounds pretty doable in theory. All we need to do is reduce resource use and waste production in a manner where we meet our needs and hopefully help earth sustain long enough to provide for future generations.
Some of us are hoping that our steel straws are going to achieve that goal and most have simply given up wondering how big of an impact can an individual choice possibly make. What we do not realize is, the bottom-up approach of an individual action adopted by a large number of people could possibly have a much bigger impact on the environment than any fossil-fuel industry could. Individual actions DO have large scale results. Our choices have the ability to influence the choices of an entire community and the social media generation knows it better than anyone else.
Corporations have recognized this truth and have incorporated climate change considerations in their businesses since a long time ago, to appeal to the greater good. However, the short-sighted negative impacts like added costs and unemployment made switching to sustainable methods an uninviting alternative, and possibly a passing ‘trend’ that businesses had adopted to serve as a USP.
On the positive side, we can be thankful for this past decade and the constant conversations taking place regarding possible global fallout that have lead to the start of an eco-friendly trend, or call it consumer awareness, where people are making conscious efforts to successfully adopt sustainable alternatives and it may as well be the ultimate solution to achieve sustainability; to save the planet.
However, to see durable changes, sustainability cannot be used as a concept to appeal to this trend. It needs to have a tangible impact. There surely has been a surge in investment in clean energy projects and the share prices for clean energy equities have increased. But that does not change the fact that to achieve the state of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, there has to be a complete shift to sustainable alternatives.
As the UN climate change reports suggests, collective efforts are the need of the hour to help the earth out of code red. At the consumption level, sustainable choices are required that determine production. Production should complement these choices and at the socio economic level, the policy makers need to take drastic measures that ensure how this system is governed.
Sustainability might be considered by many a bandwagon to jump on. But if it is a trend, then it is here to stay. It is high time we recognise our role as primary drivers of a soon-to-be catastrophic climate change and make sustainability a reality before it is too late to go back.