We live on Planet Earth, which has an ecosystem of plant life, animals and microbes. This ecosystem has no voice in our society, yet its survival is vital to our own. It provides us with food, fibres, timber, fossil fuels, biomass and all nature’s beauty. In the same way that a farmer’s primary concern is the health of his fields, since they provide crops for him, his children and his grandchildren, our primary concern must be the health of this ecosystem. Damage our ecosystem and we imperil our own future and that of all life on earth. The health of a country’s economy, jobs, wealth, possessions, must come second, with economists using their skills to establish societies that are both popular and sustainable. This website has been set up to find ways to change the way we live so that we no longer use more resources than the ecosystem can provide.
Safeguarding our ecosystem
Had the ecosystem a voice, it would ask that humans:-
- minimise their use of carbon dioxide producing fossil fuels
- minimise the rate that they cut down trees
- preserve habitats essential to threatened animal species
- reduce their population size and consumption so that they, animals and plants come back into balance.
Taking responsibility for the planet brings people together through shared endeavor. This may prevent us buying a desirable Range Rover gas guzzler, or limit overseas holidays, but is compensated by the satisfaction from leading a simpler life. Keeping fit by walking, cycling or bussing to work, going country walks or mountain biking, gardening, angling, playing golf, tennis or bowls, are all low energy activities that promote well-being. Minimising the energy we use and the waste we produce, buying food in season, taking holidays in favorite haunts close to home or if going far, travelling by train, all promote the satisfaction of treading softly on the earth.
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 commits Scotland to reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, from the base year of 1990, by 42% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050. UK figures for GHG emissions show a reduction between 1990-2010 of 23%. This does not include “embedded” emissions, the emissions we cause by buying goods and services from abroad. When these are included, GHG emissions show a rise of about 12% from 1990-2010. The 42% and 80% reduction targets therefore require a radical reduction in the amount of energy we use and a huge increase in renewable energy we must generate.
Three to one planet living
Scots at present use three planets’ worth of resources (WWF). Individuals, by their own efforts, should be able to reduce this to two. (Estimate your own use in this 5 minute WWF calculator). To get to one planet’s worth, which we require to become sustainable, we need governments to act, through either national or international action. Such action will include a shift from carbon sourced energy to renewable energy, policies requiring reduced/compostable packaging, busways clear of cars, biogas production from wastes, etc. The pages on this website that are listed under the heading of 2 Planet Living are actions that you can do yourself; those under the heading of 1 Planet Living need government to be involved, but you can be influential in getting governments to act.
Sustainable development has been defined in a number of ways. Two of the most well-known are:-
- Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Our Common Future: Bruntland, 1987)
- Sustainable development is improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems. (Caring for the Earth: IUCN, 1991)
The first is about present society being fair to to future generations, a relatively soft target. The second is about living within the constraints of our planet, a much tougher call. This entails: –
Restricting the warming of the planet to less than 2°C warmer than its temperature in pre-industrial times
Preventing thermal runaway of the temperature of the planet, due to the release of methane, 25 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide, from melting Arctic permafrost peatlands
Restricting warming will slow the increases in weather extremes, which we are already seeing, even though warming is only 0.7°C above the pre-industrial level .
Thermal runaway is cataclysmic. Methane release from permafrost could increase global temperatures well above 2°C. We are engaged in an experiment, where our children or grandchildren could be the unlucky victims.
Last update: 1 May 2018