It has become increasingly important in the current society to make people aware of the impact each individual can make.
In this post I will be addressing how someone can work towards not just raising awareness, but also making progress towards a more sustainable way of living. There are many issues which can not be addressed by simply making people aware of them since there is a big gap between being aware something and being able to change it. Although not everyone has in-depth knowledge about large scale issues nowadays because these issues became harder to define, those with the knowledge can lay the framework.
The most efficient way to tackle these issues is by providing information that helps initiate change towards sustainability, but more importantly, on how these changes can be supported.
If the framework is not laid properly, the entire structure built upon it will be unstable. In the current society many people are focused on being different (but therefor becoming the same) rather than making an actual difference. This can be linked back to the more prevalent capitalistic framework that regards most people as ‘consumers’ which presents ‘new’ products as different and better(yet the same) compared to existing products. However this framework is not stable, since to make profits from new products the old must first be discarded. A clear example of this would be the iPhone.
This framework revolves around profit, and not on sustainability and resilience. However, the main problem with the mentality that came with this framework is that people became more desensitized and an artificial craving for ‘new’ products was created. What makes this mentality dangerous is that the same reasoning started being applied to every day life, the same people that focus on ‘trends’ are the first to start taking pictures during accidents rather than helping. The other side of this problem is that if the trend shifts to ‘doing good’ everyone might suddenly try to help without the knowledge to do so. Most people would agree that president Trump is a good example of the negative impact an amateur with power can have.
The framework that is required to improve society is focused on sustainability and resilience. This involves making people aware of how systems can be made self-sustaining, for example circular waste management can be explained by a simplified demonstration of input-output such as in a flow diagram.
What people really need to be made aware of is their own impact on things, how small changes matter on a larger scale. People need to think more about long term than short term plans that benefit more than just themselves. A single seed is easily planted, but if nurtured properly it can become a large tree.
Current society looks more like a machine than a tree, with the scientific, public, economic, and political sector working like cogs you can understand how it works by looking at the interaction between them. The scientific community focuses on observing and analyzing changes while the media finds a way to present it to the general public without causing a panic. Meanwhile the economic (business) and political sectors try to implement changes that benefit the general public while keeping it stabilized. Although very simplified this example illustrates that the overall capacity to deal with change on a large scale decreases when one or more of these sectors do not function properly. Innovation occurs when important changes happen while society functions at high capacity.
However in a sustainable and resilient society each sector can be seen as a branch of a tree rather than a cog in a machine. If a problem occurs on one branch this does not affect the others, although the effect is covered by the entire treetop and recovery happens on its own overtime. In a machine however if one cog is damaged this affects the entire machine drastically and can cause it to break down completely.
If we want to have a sustainable society we should focus on being prepared to act on opportunities to make a difference.
1. D, Jared., (2005). Collapse, how societies choose to fail or survive. New York: Viking Press.
2. Jabareen, Y. (2008) Environ Dev Sustain 10: 179.