Why Sustainability Is More About People Than Planet
Sustainability has been the talk of the town. Governments and businesses alike are promoting their green efforts and boasting of reduced carbon footprint in the battle against climate change. But is 'going green' what sustainability is all about? You wouldn't be wrong for associating sustainability with terms like 'eco-friendly', 'plastic-free', 'climate change', 'carbon footprint' and so on. While sustainability is about being environmentally friendly, it is ultimately about people.
In 2015, the United Nations put together the Sustaianble Development Goals (SDGs), a universal call for countries to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Did you know that out of the 17 SDGs, 12 of them are people-centred? In fact, "climate action" is just 1 of the 17 SDGs. We are not trying to save the planet for the sake of the planet. Who cares if life on Mars is unsustainable (besides Elon Musk)?
We care about climate change on Earth because our lives will be impacted by it.
Climate change is not a matter of life and death for future generations, it is a matter of life and death for people today. 3 out of 4 people living in poverty today rely on agriculture and natural resources to survive. As temperatures climbs, floods and droughts will increase and affect the livelihoods of communities who depend on their land for survival. This will lead to the mass migration of these communities, also known as climate refugees.
Sustainability is about sustainable communities and livelihoods. If we ignore the issues of poverty, hunger, social mobility, gender equality and sustainable eco-systems for communities to survive and thrive, then our pursuit of "saving the earth" might well be a selfish and elitist one - preserving the planet for only the privileged to enjoy. We need to have a true understanding and definition of sustainability, one that considers the entire eco-system that we live in.
(Photo by Annie Spratt)