Monthly Archives: August 2014

23. Some interesting quotes

Just a few of the really interesting quotes from the materials I have read over the last few weeks:

“Since 1950 alone, the world’s people have consumed more goods and services than the combined total of all humans who have ever walked the planet” (Tilford 2000)

“Sustainability isn’t hard; it’s just not simple” Jedička 2010

“Nobody wakes up in the morning calculating how to trash the planet. Instead our daily lives are a series of choices, each minuscule in its daily impact. But when multiplied billions of times, day after day, year after year, the impact is enormous” Jedička 2010

“Human wellbeing does not require high levels of consumption” Jedička 2010

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little” Edmund Burke

One of my other really favourite quotes is rather longer and comes from a paper I read by Bob Doppelt in Semester 1, but it sticks with me as I think about what comes next, and what is really important to us all…

It comes from a paper entitled From me to we: The five transformational commitments required to rescue the planet, your organisation and your life [Systems Thinker Vol 23 No 8 Oct 2012]. It goes like this:

Imagine, for a moment, that a genie suddenly whisks you away from your everyday life and makes you the world’s most powerful decision maker. At your fingertips is the most up-to-date information about the planet’s economic, social and environmental conditions. You can use that data to make any type of decision you want about how resources and wealth should be allocated and how things should function.

But there is a catch. The genie has also given you amnesia. You cannot remember your social status, nationality, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, how much money you have, or even who your parents are. Consequently, you don’t know what the effects of your decisions will be on your loved ones because you don’t know who you are or where you live.

Under these conditions, what decisions would you make? Would you use as much energy, consume as many resources, or generate as much solid waste and greenhouse gas emissions as you do today? Would you seek to to accumulate as much personal wealth or power?

We need to shift the focus of ME to WE: to treat others as you would want to be treated—to stop focussing on personal wants and needs and choose to see things through the eyes of others.


22. Letter to the Editor—getting my cranky on o_O

Week 4 and we have to submit a Letter to the Editor.

At 250 words it’s not a big task but it has to be engaging, pithy and talk about a sustainability issue.

No surprises that I wrote two. Both reproduced below, but the one I ended up submitting was the one on food—just because the consensus in our workshop was that it was probably more interesting.

Dear Mainstream Media

How do you disappoint me? Let me count the ways!

You disappoint in the way you ignore the environment and yet promote the economy. Were you out of the room when we all worked out that without a suitable, equitable environment you can’t have a society, and without a society there is no need for an economy?

I did a review of online news sites, both newspaper- and TV-based—mostly Australian, but some international—and out of twenty, only three of you have a dedicated tab for the environment on your main page! So, brick bats for most of you, including The Age, The Australian and the Daily Telegraph[1] PLUS Aunty ABC (now that’s disappointing), SBS and all the other Australian TV-channel websites. Bouquets for Deutsche Welle, The Conversation and The Guardian.

I am interested in which came first: do you choose to present what you think readers want; or does your content drive public interest? Whatever the case, you are kidding yourself if you think that what is happening with the DOW is more important than rising CO2 emissions.

It’s clear from the IPCC, NASA and other scientific bodies that environmental issues including climate change, species loss and over consumption (to name but a few) should be part of our daily dialog. In my opinion you have a duty of care to all of your readers to inform and promote debate.

It’s time for you to step up and create a space for the environment on your main sites and not bury such vital content on some sub-directory, out of sight and out of mind.

[1] According to Onlinenewspapers.com these are the three most accessed Australian online newspapers.

Full-frontal on food

Here are a few ‘fun facts’ first up.

According to Foodwise, Australians discard up to 20% of the food they purchase —that’s one in every five bags of groceries—gone…in the bin!

An estimated 20–40% of all fruit and vegetables are rejected before they reach the shops because they are ‘not pretty enough’ aka they did not reach consumer or supermarket cosmetic standards.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of the global food supply doesn’t even get to people.

Sadly, the environmental implications of such waste are bigger than you think.

Just to produce this food requires great volumes of water, energy and other inputs. Try to imagine in your mind’s eye the progression from paddock to plate, and account for the fertilisers, the pesticides, the storage, the packaging and the transportation. All. Wasted.

And when the discarded food is dumped—mostly as landfill—it decomposes anaerobically to produce methane, one of the most potent of all greenhouse gasses. In the USA, the EPA estimates that nearly a quarter of all methane produced is from uneaten food.

Since the industrialisation of food we seem to have been overtaken by an overwhelming attitude of super-sized profligacy.

Right now we need to strip things back—become more ‘food aware’ and show some respect for what sustains us. Here are seven simple ways we can all reduce our food waste: buy local produce; choose fresh over processed; cook less food; use up any leftovers; shop for only what you need; understand the use-by/best before labelling system and resist the temptation of take-away.