Anyone who goes through life with their eyes wide open will experience on a daily basis the significance given to the rather fuzzy term "sustainability" across all media and at all political levels.
The hundreds of pages of reports published by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) under the umbrella of the UN highlight the probably most threatening aspects of our non-sustainable economy and lifestyle. However, all it takes now is a look in the garden or the near surroundings to see where drought and fires, or excessive amounts of precipitation have left their traces or even devastated the environment. This is happening all over the world, every day, and there is no protection against it anywhere. The pressure of climate change, not just on nature, is already very frightening for a lot of people. The terms "climate crisis" or even "climate emergency" are probably more appropriate in view of the risks. Younger people fear that there will be no future worth living ("climate fear"); others see their jobs and prosperity at risk tomorrow. In many poorer parts of the world, people may be forced to flee in order to survive at all. International politics is responding to this with election programmes and various measures, but there remains a growing feeling of personal threat and of stress overload. People who are actually responding with actions or solutions can certainly deal with the situation a lot more easily. And they are helping to prevent the worst and create something good.
Climate protection must be the guiding principle
Nothing has a greater impact and is more urgent than limiting climate change. Climate change as we see it today is man-made - there is no longer any doubt about that. The questions today revolve solely around what should be done. The scientific community is largely in agreement: the main thing is to reduce the rate of increase in CO2 emissions and thus limit the extent of the temperature rise to 1.5 or at most 2.0 degrees. Every tenth of a degree Celsius is at stake here, because it is foreseeable that the sharp rise in warming will gain even more speed at already identified tipping points. The consequences will then become increasingly difficult to manage. This will be accompanied by growing instability at all levels and the loss of control. The duration of the climate crisis can be shortened by decisive interventions and will quite possibly not last for centuries or more. Why do so many people see climate protection as the top priority? There is no area of life that will not suffer massive damage as a result of the climate crisis, at least indirectly. A "business as usual" scenario will ultimately prove to be an impossibility and thus an existential mistake. Conversely, we have much to gain from implementing low carbon solutions in almost all areas.
What can we do?
Individuals can make a contribution through their purchasing behaviour or suitable environmentally and climate-friendly lifestyles - and lots of people together will have a multiplying effect. Movements such as Fridays for Future, led by children and young people, show the political power of clear conviction. They change families, societies, mindsets and the future. Individuals are having an impact in many places, not least those with important positions in companies. Tesla, perhaps the most outstanding new company of the past decade, shows the power behind new ideas. Tesla demonstrates that mobility and the associated quality of life, if provided in a viable and sustainable form, can not only be maintained, but even raised to a new level. For one of the promises of electric and digital mobility Tesla-style is: entertainment instead of stress while driving, maybe even a game of Ludo with the family while greatly reducing emissions at the same time. The Tesla promise encourages you to think in systems, since it is to be fulfilled in a sustainable context: Tesla thinks just as much about battery recycling and renewable energy storage in a new energy economy model. It's not just about driving.
Companies are the key
Companies have it in their hands to develop solutions that benefit the many without immediately causing damage elsewhere. They can join in and get their energy supply from climate-neutral sources, or - better still - invest in renewable energies and produce them. This is possible both on a small and large scale. Business models of the future always have their own CO2 emissions in mind and set ambitious reduction targets which, if possible, are verifiable. At the same time they can rely on governments and legislators to convert the energy supply "to renewables". A lot of progress has already been made in some countries, and many others must follow.
But this core task is not the only important one; energy and mobility are just part of the picture. In the material world, for example, the toy industry could also produce toys and games that are predominantly climate-friendly. All it needs is the careful selection of materials. The games and toys of the future must satisfy other demands than just being fun or a mere distraction. Durability, recyclability, the use of recycled or renewable raw materials are the core elements on which the foundations of material sustainability will be built. Bear this in mind and you will be on the right track.
Money or life
There were times when a tribe of indigenous people was wiped out just so someone could get hold of their gold. The motives of the perpetrators were absolutely despicable, then as now. Anyone who places the primacy of economics at the top of their list of priorities today, and sees sustainability as a "nice-to-have", will soon and beyond any moral or ethical discussions discover that this was very stupid and short-sighted. For the catastrophic changes that the climate crisis will bring down on the entire planet are already projected for the near future. The wealth gained will no longer lead to happiness. Those who got away with it all too often in the past without any punishment, as well as their descendants, will suffer from the consequences of their actions. There is no escape. This means: Anyone with a family and who thinks in generations now has no choice but to make a contribution and invest in sustainability. Not tomorrow, today. Not with toy money, but with actions. Not just to feel better, but because the future of any other business model is not very promising.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: www.ipcc.ch
New Plastics Economy: www.newplasticseconomy.org
News on sustainable materials: https://renewable-carbon.eu/news/
EU Green Deal Policy: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en