Sustainability and the ‘new normal’

By Sophie Kim

In between all the hours on Tik-Tok and manic baking I have been doing to distract myself from the current madness, I have also been trying to find some positives in the world coming to a stop and so I hope my ramblings bring some comfort to you as well. 

Last year, I did my dissertation on sustainability and honestly the biggest takeaway I got from it is an overwhelming hopelessness at the way our world was going. Pre-Coronavirus, warnings and protests about climate change have never been louder and on top of that, poverty and homelessness continues to be a growing problem in even the most developed countries like the UK. We are at a point where the ‘normal’ is profit-seeking at the huge expense of our environment and communities, and no amount of recycling and tree planting is helping us. Basically, a complete reset is needed.

Now, you will have seen all the posts circulating about the air getting clearer and animals returning as a result of the pandemic keeping everyone inside. Whilst this is incredible and gives me hope that environmental sustainability is possible, it greatly worries me that this is happening at the expense of human life – do millions of people really have to die, lose their jobs, and be faced with extreme uncertainty for the world to repair itself? (I promise the comforting part is coming).

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Sophie wearing her mask as a precaution

We have seen how quickly and drastically companies and countries are able to adapt and act in the face of adversity. Furthermore, the same companies and world leaders are realising that most people will not want to go back to ‘normal’ as it were. I recently heard that the CEO of M&S admitted that shopping behaviours will never be the same again and the complete shift in their business plan to account for this. This just highlights how much power we have as consumers, and citizens, to force a certain kind of change moving forward. 

Looking ahead, I have so much hope that this compassion for the environment and, importantly, the enormous compassion that we have felt for each other as communities will become the forefront for corporate and political decision making. In McDonough and Braungart’s book ‘Cradle to Cradle’, they explain how the ecosystem of a cherry tree is completely free of waste – even the falling leaves become nutrient to the soil and, in this way, the tree thrives without suppressing its surrounding ecosystem. Similarly, the vision for sustainability is to completely rethink processes and life as we know it so that all aspects of life (economic, social, environmental) can co-exist and support each other, rather than one area dominating at the detriment of the others. Last year, this seemed like a pipe dream but now, it really could be possible…

[The book I mentioned is ‘Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the way we make things’ and I would really recommend it! Also, the Instagram accounts @nowhereandeverywhere and @adapt_____ are great for showing this kind of information in quick, digestible ways.]

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