This shout could easily come from a tired mum who is annoyed and frustrated with her 3-year old. Or this could be a strong determination, the first step of an empowered person rising up from the ashes. But what if this comes from our long awaiting and long-suffered Planet Earth? What happens if Mother Nature cries out for help in a desperate state?
We were (and still are) acting like carefree children who don’t consider the strength and resilience limitations of their mum. We have built up a lifestyle that is more taking than giving, we’ve started to accumulate goods around us, but not being brave enough to admit that they don’t bring long-lasting happiness. Pretty soon we need another “thing” to feel good for a short while again. We are consuming and unfortunately most of the time over-consuming, trying to fill our artificial needs and at the end of the day we are still unsatisfied.
But what is this that we are facing here? It’s nothing new actually, the topic just got more pressing lately. Already in 1899 Veblen noticed that people lived their lives on treadmills of wealth accumulation, constantly competing with others but this rarely effecting positively their well-being. He also argued that “conspicuous consumption” is the main reason why people with money choose to spend it. Despite having enough we are still suffering from the desire to have more, because there are others who have more and better and nicer etc-etc. If we consider a historical perspective, some scholars even argue that looking at the material goods an ordinary person having in a developed country, they live in a bigger luxury than for ex. Louis 16th of France. Unfortunately this is not a separate issue, but it grew out to be a global phenomenon.
Our planet is already globally suffering from our consumerism that can’t be sustained anymore only with too much price. Earth is rapidly degrading and is our responsibility to act and change our bad habits and patterns. The member states of the United Nations formed The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They’ve decided on 17 goals to ensure sustainability. The 12th goal is: To ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. This covers many areas in subgoals, like halve the global food waste per capita, environmentally sound management of chemicals and waste (not to release them into the air, soil, water) and reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. One important aspect is educate people and to raise awareness. They also committed themselves to help and support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacities.
Something must change! Conscious decisions are needed. According to the Agenda 21 the bad, old mindset of valuing growth for growth’s sake must change into a new one where ecological boundaries are taken into consideration. They claim based on studies that a positive trend is noticeable, however food and agriculture sectors face enormous challenges. In developing countries 1/3 of the food product is lost in production and transportation, while in developed countries goes up to 40%. This is extremely a lot!
How about Finland?
Finland was among the first ones who started to implement different programs targeting sustainability, like “Getting More from Less” (2005) and “More from Less- Wisely” (2013). In addition also various international framework programs has started. According to the Official Report 2020 about Finland’s brand study on sustainability there is a slow but steady increase. They point out as the biggest challenge to transform sustainability discussions and interest into actions. However, more and more dedicated people can be found. If we look at the PATH2030 – An Evaluation of Finland’s Sustainable Development Policy, we see that Finland in doing well according to international indicators, but there are many areas that need improvement. One of them is food production. Too much goes into waste and all in all is a lot of money thrown out of the window.
There has been many positive initiatives trying to address the huge amount of food waste. Many stores sell half-priced items close to expiry date, or give away the left over food to charity organisations or churches to give it further to the needy ones. They also established bread lines to give free food or even organising free lunch from these left overs to the poor. This might be only one way to use the extra food, but it is unquestionably very beneficial from social point of view as well.
But what’s the real reason?
Apparently having high life standards and being able to satisfy most of the needs is still not enough for happiness. And you know why? Because we keep on comparing ourselves to others and that constantly feeds our desire for more. To be able to maintain the vicious circle of spending more we need to work more, and even though leaving bigger and bigger footprints we still don’t improve our lives and well-being, states Brown (2018). She suggests that individual well-being and global sustainability should be incorporated in an economical framework. The video below nicely summarises the phenomenon of materialism and the high price we pay for it. It explains focusing on materials with the feeling of insecurity.
The video offers some deep insight both to understand the phenomenon and to find solutions for it. Promotes finding intrinsic values, to grow as a person, to be close to others and consider an ecological well-being. Even though there are powerful forces that pull us towards consumerism, we can try to shift our focus from materials to real values and to find meaningful activities.
Changing the world might sound too grandiose and totally out of reach. But what about starting with only 1 little conscious decision towards a more sustainable future in your personal choices. That doesn’t sound too scary. Could you do it daily? I’m sure you could. So let’s join forces!
Thanks for reading!