#34 Responsible Consumption and Production Patterns are for us all

Image of UN goal 12
Image by United Nations

The phrase fiddling while rome burns” is one that has been around for quite some time and clearly depicts when something is off kilter or discombobulated. In the case of the article (with the same title) a disconnect between political elites and the public interest was being described.

Policies being adrift and environmental aspirations not being fulfilled are surely in everyone’s interest to stop ‘fiddling’ and get right.

In search of a new narrative the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs/Global Goals) and particularly Target 12 Responsible Consumption and Production Patterns is everyone’s problem no matter your sector or economic status.

The narrative is compounded by information such as rich and famous lifestyles are damaging the environment in untold ways and detailed through a recent report by Oxfam.

Eight richest people in the world control the same wealth as half of the world’s population.

Speaking in ecological footprints per average if everybody in the world had the footprint per average (as the UK) we would need 3.7 planets to support us all – this is not sustainable and even more of a reason to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns – Global Goal 12!

There are examples of how best to engage and support sustainable local capability to exist inside a global footprint (examples such as 2012 Olympics London UK; Guggenheim Museum Bibao Northern Spain).

Most importantly these models create a hybrid business model, which blends social and economic goals. In an Australian focused article titled How Australia can spread benefits of our bulging infrastructure pipeline the author proposes a way that communities can be seen as an asset rather than a risk.

By simply ensuring that Australian social benefit organisations and other industries (the built environment industry for example) operate within sustainable consumption and production patterns within a shared supply chain much more could be achieved. At risk of repeating earlier Consequences Blogs – It is so much more about not doing things as they have always been done before.

Equity of opportunity and wealth distribution are the basis of a stable and prosperous society. Recent world events have vividly demonstrated this.

In recognizing that action must be taken to enable more sustainable consumption and production patterns it is encouraging to read in some reports that growth can be achieved without using more resources and exacerbating environmental problems.

Well fortunately through the work of Professor Robert Costanza such improved understandings of ‘decoupling delusion’ are being used to tackle the unfortunate illusion of substitution, financialisation and cost-shifting. Having clearly defended this stance in a paper titled the decoupling delusion: rethinking growth and sustainability I am warmed by the conclusion:

The decoupling delusion simply proposes GDP growth as an outdated measure of well-being. Instead, we need to recouple the goals of human progress and a healthy environment for a sustainable future.

As a fan of Professor Costanza’s work I am encouraged that in support of Global Goal 12 and/or the need to have sustainable consumption and production patterns any discussions around growth consolidates how the prevailing paradigm simply wont work – yet again not doing as we always have! (the first repeat of my favourite adage)

In considering historical thinking of decoupling delusion and in no way suggesting that I am a reader of economic history I do find it most alarming that Polanyi in 1923 predicted similarities of substitution, financialisation and cost-shifting as then detriment to society. In an article To save humanity and the planet, we must redesign money I find the reminders and warnings at the turn of the 19th century and how the world in 30 years time will need “three times more resources than it does today” quite alarming:

We need to make the economy serve human goals –and this is what Target 12 is driving at- maybe it could be called the Polanyi target!

One common theme when considering how the economy could serve human goals or in the words of Polanyi to save humanity and the planet is the opportunities that can be found in recycling. In Five golden rules to help solve your recycling dilemmas a very simple call to action has been summarized:

#Paper, plastic, cans and tins, go in most recycling bins

#No soft plastics – particularly no plastic bags

#Scrape don’t rinse – a little bit of food left behind is ok

#Separate into parts first – remove lids and plastic wrap

#Keep small things together and like with like – if in doubt leave it out

Australia is demonstrating that Recycling can be confusing, but it’s getting simpler as it is good at recycling – with an increase from 45% in 2007 to 51% in 2011 just creeping above the average of 50% across comparable countries

Although the Global Goal #12 is not only about recycling it is something we can all do along with being extremely concerned where the products we buy are made and how they are produced.

I am keen to express throughout this Blog that the constant theme of things needing to be done differently continues as a common theme across each of the Global Goals. I also hope that in a subject area of sustainable consumption and production patterns that it is understood that this is not something that we as individuals have no control. We are consumers and whatever we buy whether it be through how we dispose of it ie recycling or how it is prepared ie location.

I conclude this Blog with an extremely powerful article and short video on the harshness of the sweatshop regime.

Watch this documentary to understand the working poverty of the sweatshop.

As it is quoted in this article and documentary:

People are described as poor because the ways in which production absorbs them, literally sucking their labour out of their limbs.

Next time you purchase an item ask yourself how was it created and do you need a plastic bag to carry it in! Simple acts that help us all be a part of sustainable consumption and production pattern are worthy of a collective effort.

 References

Oxfam Report https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/economy-99

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