June 8, 2010

Of Great Concern to You

If you read nothing else today, I urge you to read this. This concerns you, your business, your family, your children and grandchildren.

Yesterday I attended a symposium on the current status of our impact on the earth and was stunned by what I learned. I must admit at first I wasn't too interested in hearing what they had to say. I thought I knew enough and did enough. But I was invited by a friend whose opinion I greatly respect, so went along.

I'm glad I did. What I learned was important and of interest to us all. I won't share the stuff about the lions (only 10% of the world population remain). That's really not going to interest all of you.

I want to speak to you in terms of your business and personal survival. I think most people will pay attention to that.

As a part of a Western Society, we are better off than 85% of the rest of the world, yet our impact on the global ecosystem is threatening not only their way of life but ours.

Not in the far, far future, NOW.

nlike indigenous populations who recognise the interconnectedness of man and nature, we fight the earth and figure out how to master it, use it, bend it to our will.This was all fine when we were a small population. But we are now 6.6 billion people worldwide.

Combine population size with current attitudes and corresponding actions and here is what it adds up to. The figures below are from the US (population 300 million) and UK (61 million), but you can adjust the numbers to fit your country.

In the US, people (that's you and me) throw out 600 million plastic bags PER DAY. That amounts to 100 billion bags per year. (World Watch Institute). That is 2 bags per person or 40 million bags a day in Australia.

People (that's you and me) throw away 60 million plastic water bottles each day (Container Recycling Institute).

We throw out 27 million paper bags each day.

In the UK, we throw out 47 thousand mobile phones each day.

When we "throw away" something, where does it go?

Where is AWAY?

When I was little I used to think our garbage magically disappeared. Actually, if I'm really honest, I still think it does. How about you? Ever get a picture of a landfill as you toss that coffee cup into the bin? Not me, it's going away. Poof.

If you're interested in finding out where your stuff comes from and goes to, have a look at Annie Leonard's video, The Story of Stuff.

The cost of environmental damage by 3,000 of our largest publicly held corporations is 2.2 trillion dollars, more than one third of their profits if they were to be held financially accountable. This includes greenhouse gas emissions, other pollution and water degradation.

Make no mistakes. There will be a day soon when that bill is going to come your way. Nothing alters behaviour like economic incentives - carrot or stick.

Some of the impacts of our lifestyle include:

Since 1950, 90% of all large fish in the ocean have disappeared (National Geographic). That includes Tuna, Swordfish, Marlin, Cod and similar.

So, my sushi choices are getting more and more limited. What is increasing are the chances of said sushi containing mercury or some other heavy metals as an unexpected bonus. No tipping necessary.

According to Thomas Karl of the US National Climate Data Centre, extreme weather and climate change events are on the rise. No need to explain that to the residents in Sydney impacted by a recent cyclone.

We now have 150 "dead zones" in our oceans due to chemical dumping, some as large as 45,000 square miles. The current crisis in the Gulf of New Mexico is expected to continue through September. The area that has been closed to fishing amounts to 37% of US waters.

I'm not going to get started on trees. I'll leave that up to you to find out. But, my daughter said it all when I asked her to help with recycling old Financial Reviews. "Mum, how many trees did it cost to make these papers?" I'm opting for the online version.

Our actions that caused this impact have been perfectly correlated with a world view that is incorrect and obsolete. We have lived as if domination, competition, or survival of the fittest is the fundamental law of nature, where cooperation is how nature really works.

We need to start cooperating with our home planet. Not because it is morally correct, but simply so we can continue to survive and thrive.

We have to buy out of the marketing campaigns we bought into that new is better. The reality is, happiness is found more in life experiences, then in material things. It's the people in our lives and what we experience with them that bring us joy. Not the new Rolex watch that gets old within a few days.

What does this all mean to you?

This is not about giving it all up and moving to the rain forests. It's about altering our relationship to our planet and recognising that we are one of 6.6 billion. It is about realising that our actions matter. A great deal. To us, to our children and our future now.

My purpose for this blog is to urge you to open your eyes and do your research. Our population is rising exponentially and with it comes corresponding increases in demands of limited resources, and pollution of our home planet. We need to innovate our business practices and lifestyles. We need to use our collective brilliance and power to transform our living and working practices into something sustainable. Not just for our future generations, but for all of us now.

There is no away to move to. This is all we got.

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