Prologue: I have a dream – and you?
Harald Welzer stated in one of his books, we need more fantasy and dreams to imagine our future.
[I started reading this one today: https://www.fischerverlage.de/buch/harald_welzer_alles_koennte_anders_sein/9783103974010 – only in German so far, I think]
I totally agree with him. We need to imagine how we want our lives and the world to look like in the future. I have already started to write down my dream (or call it vision, utopia) a few months ago and his book inspired me to start sharing it with you.
I think that it is even realistic to achieve, when many people have the same or a similar vision. Not only Martin Luther King (who made the phrase ‘I have a dream’ famous) had a dream that was shared by many.
In order to move my dream to something bigger, I would love to get your input und comments. We all have dreams and I think that they might be quite similar. So don’t hesitate to share your visions with me!
Short version of the dream
Well, in short my dream is a bit similar to the following wonderful song, performed (amongst others) by Louis Armstrong:
WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD (George Weiss / Bob Thiele) I see trees of green, red roses too I see them bloom for me and you And I think to myself, what a wonderful world I see skies of blue and clouds of white The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night And I think to myself, what a wonderful world The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky Are also on the faces of people going by I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?" They're really saying "I love you" I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow They'll learn much more than I'll ever know And I think to myself, what a wonderful world Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world Oh yeah
[In case you don’t know the song – here is an original video of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWzrABouyeE%5D
This song contains the basic points: having wonderful, clean nature around us, living happily, in harmony with the environment and being a member of a peaceful, helpful and social society. This also includes having the basic needs fulfilled (food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine, hygiene, education and social ties). These basic needs are covered for most people in industrialized countries, but unfortunately not yet for everyone in the world. I dream of a world where we have achieved this state for all people.
Maybe this sounds a bit cheesy – but hey, it’s a dream!
Maybe it sounds impossible to you – but dreams can come true and I am sure it is feasible, when many people join in and contribute!
Maybe it sounds good to you – then help to achieve the dream, it is in your power and our power!
For believers and non-believers
Are you a non-believer? I am not talking about God in any form – this is not on religion. I mean non-believers in man-made climate change. If yes, you are in a club with some prominent people, but stand in opposition to many people and nearly all non-biased scientists in this world. There are some very good reasons for being sure of a climate change happening and of it being a much faster, harder and less-natural one than the others that took place in history before. However, I do not want to use this space to convince you. In case you speak German, here is a great article with answers for sceptics: https://www.nzz.ch/wissenschaft/klimawandel-forscher-antworten-auf-die-argumente-von-skeptikern-ld.1468011
Why do I not want to convince you here? Because I think that lecturing you won’t change your mind. We are all grown up and don’t need someone who tells us what to do. But I hope, that you will find something which resonates with your outlook or issues you have already found.
If you are religious, you might believe in the creation of the world and want to protect it. Or you believe in the concept of being a good steward (stewardship). Or you might want to dissolve through being good or wish for a good composition of the world. In whatever way you believe, you can probably find arguments for environmental protection and social efforts in your religion. Think about it!
If you are agnostic or an atheist, you might believe in the evolution of the world in a natural-scientific, biological way. If a species wants to survive, it cannot destroy its own habitat. A possible life on Mars or any other planet is not yet in sight… an earth-like one has not been found yet. Also collaboration has helped to sustain the human species so far.
But what would it mean to live a more sustainable and social lifestyle? This is the question, I am trying to find an answer for. So far I think that it will benefit a multitude of other people – and is much more equitable. Many changes will make you healthier, often save you time and even money.
Everyone of us has a different dream. But how amazing would it be, if we worked together to make them come true? Imagine! Together we could achieve a world which is worth living for. Not only for us, but also for our children’s children. Every person can have the same safe living standards, breath clean air and enjoy the beauty of the nature our planet has to offer!
 I only want to say that I do not care what people believe in, but I want to express that no religion should be used as an argument for killing, torturing, harming or suppressing other people (including women, children, minorities, LGBT, …). This is not religion then but a horrible excuse for being cruel and inhumane.
Why the natural environment is important
It is simple. Currently, the priorities often go like this: business/money → society → environment. And decisions are taken in this order, looking at the effects for profit first, then maybe at employees, and with much luck afterwards at the environmental impact the action has.
Why shouldn’t our thinking go the other way round? (environment → society → business) A world without natural resources, water, plants, metals, oxygen, etc. is not really a good place to live. But if we conserve the environment, and have healthy and peaceful communities, we will have some kind of economy within this prosperous and wonderful surrounding. I believe in the intelligence and creativity of humans to invent new things, including new societal structures, economic systems and connections.
While researching ways to build my vision and make it come true, I found many great people who really inspired me. They looked into the consequences of climate change, environmental degradation (soil, water, air, biodiversity loss, nitrogen and other cycles, deforestation, desertification…) and have much more knowledge about all these factors than I have. I’ll leave, the literature recommendations in my link page. I am happy to get further book ideas from you.
“Climate change is not the problem. Climate change is the expression of the problem. It is the feedback of the system, of the planet, that is telling us what’s going on. The problem is global warming, provoked by the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, caused by human activity.”Source: https://www.ted.com/talks/chad_frischmann_100_solutions_to_climate_change#t-71195
Why this narrative exists
I am studying International Sustainability Management and I am learning about the knowledge of some of these bright heads and studied some of them myself. I read articles about sustainability in any form, politics, international relations, innovations, etc. I try to live a more sustainable life (not really content yet) and want to change the world to the better. But sometimes all the bad news around scare or depress me. I felt that there is no real vision about how our world could look like in a positive scenario of the future. There are so many solutions and initiatives out there that already work on a good future, but how could they all come together? How could everyone be motivated to join the quest, the working on the realization of the dream? I hope that it will not only be a utopia, but also reality. If we all stop seeing ourselves as unimportant and tiny and start acting, we can change a lot. Of course, the change in one person’s behaviour does not have a directly huge (positive) impact on the planet (but it reduces the negative one!). And people inspire other people to change and act for the better.
Just take the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of your food:
According to a study by various scientists “moving from a high meat diet to a low meat diet would reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by 920kgCO2e every year, moving from a high meat diet to a vegetarian diet would reduce the carbon footprint by 1,230kgCO2e/year, and moving from a high meat diet to a vegan diet would reduce the carbon footprint by 1,560kgCO2e/year.”
So, if you reduce your meat consumption, your family might also do so and some friends and their families or friends…. In Germany, there were over 6 million people living a vegetarian lifestyle in 2018. In comparison to someone with a high meat diet, these people together are already saving 1,230kgCO2e/year * 6 million = 7,380 million kgCO2e/year. That are 7 million tons of CO2 equivalents. If half of the German population would go from a high meat diet (which many people still have) to vegetarianism, this number would rise to about 49 million tons. This would equal the CO2 impact of about 50 million return flights from Berlin to New York in economy class! Image what we could save in emissions (not even talking about all the other problems related to meat consumption) if it were all Germany, Europe or even the world!
So, there is no excuse: What you do matters! What your close surrounding does matters! And what your country does matters!
Of course, it is best if you scale up positive changes and do not only stick to yourself.
So much for the introduction into this publication. The remainder will be structured as follows: I will describe aspects of how I can imagine a sustainable and good future for humankind and name initiatives that I think are working towards the dream. I am not the most creative person and I am limited from my point of view. And of course, not all of these ideas are my invention. They rather stem from authors and things I have read and learned, but it is my mixture to put it together like this. Feel free to send me your visions or improvement propositions and I will see what could be envisioned differently! Also, you can make me aware of initiatives that I do not know yet.
What world do you want to live in?
 Scarborough et. al. (2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4372775/
 CO2eq = carbon dioxide equivalents (other GHG emissions are recalculated in terms of their relative impact in comparison to carbon dioxide to have a measure including all of their impacts)
 Based on over 80 million inhabitants in Germany – taking 40 million as roughly half the population.
 If any author, that inspired me, should read this, I hope that you find your ideas well integrated and described and you approve of my taking up your ideas indirectly without using direct citations. This would stop other readers and you are most likely mentioned in the recommended readings section.
Chapter 1: Nutrition
I dream of a world in which food is always grown with sustainable methods (such as organic + permaculture, agroforestry, …) so that everything is yummy and healthy. In cities we are offered predominantly seasonal and regional food in stores, which is unwrapped of course. Our food is fresh and individual. Food is sold with small marks and in fascinating shapes as they are not restricted to being linear and ‘perfect’ anymore. Old, regional sorts of plants are cultivated again, which also supports regional eating habits. Seeds are public goods, variety is appreciated and they are not patented by any company (and not genetically or otherwise modified which maximizes biodiversity).
So when I go shopping in the store in my quarter, I put my fruits and veggies into boxes, veggie bags or loosely into my big bags, depending on their size and consistency. I safe some fruits that are already close to their limits. Normally they are offered with a discount on an urgency-shelf and can become a delicious smoothie later. All dry foods are sold loosely. They can be put in small bags or light containers and can be filled intoboxes at home. I also carried some bottles this time, since I ran out of vinegar and oil.
By using bags and boxes, even baked goods can be brought home undamaged. All types of yoghurt and milk (vegan) come in deposit glass containers. This is very sustainable as they are grown and produced in the area. Some vegan cheese is cut from a big slice according to the amount I need and put into my ‘cheese’ box. Did I mention that vegan diets are the norm? Most people have shifted from carnism to veganism (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTesJYIbE-g) as it is healthy, the most sustainable nutrition and does not harm animals (https://www.provegan.info/de/basisinformationen/vegan/ – all Germans can read the part about animal rights and how slaugthering actually works; 5 reasons for a plant-based diet: https://proveg.com/5-pros/; explanation on veganism in English : https://gamechangersmovie.com/benefits/maximizing-performance/the-plant-based-advantage/). [Not working for some regions and peoples of course! e.g. for Inuit]
Sometimes I did not plan the shopping in advance so that I do not carry all of my boxes. No problem, I just take the selection of boxes offered by the shop. When I need more than I can carry or lack time, I can place an order which is then delivered via bike. As all the boxes have standard sizes and formats and run on a deposit system, it is easy to exchange them everywhere. I do not have kitchen bins anymore, as I do not produce any waste with my shopping. The remainder of some shells, skins and stones which I cannot even use for a smoothie or dish, is fed to my compost worms. Some people bring their few rests to the urban garden around the corner. There are many urban gardening activities in cities.
Two or three times a week, a farmer’s market is taking place in my quarter where I get to know the people that grow my food and select my fresh supplies. However, I also enjoy growing some of my food myself. As my balcony is limited, I am also part of an urban gardening project near my flat. It’s always great to meet other people! They have interesting stories to tell and we share recipes and tips. Some meet-ups take place on the multi-use roofs (green roofs, solar panels, gardening and some bee-keeping), so that we can enjoy nice views over the city.
People living more in villages or outside the city have bigger gardens and collaborate with their neighbours. This way, the villages are mostly self-sustained with food and people do not have to go far to get what they need.
Wild crops flourish in nature can be carefully picked during walks and runs. I especially like to harvest fruits such as plums and cherries, where I can climb into the trees that are publicly shared.
Food is not wasted anymore. People eat seasonally and what farmers have to offer. Stores buy in correspondence with the seasons and do not hold stocks that are susceptible to decay. At home people calculate well and only buy what their households can eat. For surpluses by stores, markets, home growers and urban gardeners, food sharing is used. In the transition phase (where there were still people homeless), organizations taking care of the nutrition of poor people were supplied by the whole food chain and rescued remainders.
Foods are made durable for when they are out of season with different techniques that former generations knew and practiced: salting, jamming, preserving, drying, storing in dry, cold cellars… Thanks to this, I can have tomatoes in winter, for example as sauce for the winter. These preserved foods are great amendments to the seasonal supplies. This is important especially in areas with cold winters and small numbers of regionally grown products. As everyone eats balanced and healthy, it is important to consume enough nutrients throughout the year and not only in summer.
Nothing is more enjoyable, than eating this delicious plum cake, made from self-picked plums. Thank you Jens, for your letting us into your garden!:
For people who do not like doing such things themselves, there are other options available. Stores offer glasses with regionally made things such as tomato sauce and jam. These glasses also run on a deposit basis like all other containers. Instead of cooking themselves, people regularly eat with family members that like to cook and bake, visit friends or sometimes eat out.
Restaurants offer seasonal, regional vegan dishes and also have eliminated food waste by handing out smaller portions. People can retake food if they are still hungry afterwards. Rests are donated and scraps are composted with high quality.
In general, eating has come back to being a social event. People sit together and talk while eating (they do not eat and work or watch TV). Food is highly valued and eating is celebrated.
People mainly drink free, clean tap-water. If they like water with gas, they have something like a soda stream at home and make their tap water sparkling. There are no water bottles anymore, especially noneout of plastic. Everyone has their own bottle which is repeatedly refilled.
Occasionally, drinks such as tee, coffee, cacao and juices are consumed. Some people also drink wine and beer. All drinks are handed out in deposit glass bottles or bulkware powders/beans. Soft drinks from international chains are not consumed anymore because they are considered to be too unhealthy. People prefer to make their own home-made lemonade anyways. Junk food and fast food have vanished for the same reason. People dine in and eat from plates or bring their own containers to fetch food if they prefer to eat at home or a friend’s place.
Eating is healthy, social, pleasurable and easy. Everything is sustainably produced, reasonably priced and there are no trade-offs to consider anymore: all things are unwrapped (if necessary in deposit-based containers), as regional and seasonal as possible, grown by people with good working conditions, vegan, organic and of high quality. Consumers do not have to stand in front of a huge confusing offer of products from various brands and origins. They do not need hundreds of labels to distinguish food quality and background, as all is equally very well.
This new nutrition has lead to many favourable consequences: restored soil health and biodiversity, reduced diseases (especially diabetes, obesity and heart issues and even cancer), allergies and (food) intolerances. The developments have helped the world community to be able to feed everyone healthily and sufficiently.
How do you imagine future nutrition? Please leave a comment or message 🙂 What you can already do in reality to reach this dream, has partly been written down in my earlier posts, such as:
- in some German cities there are already bulkware stores offering (bike) delivery! Check it out! Maybe also in other countries…
- here is what we all should do first according to UN environment: https://www.anatomyofaction.org/foodactionsmain
Here are some articles on the importance of food and the way we do our agriculture:
A psychological explanation why people eat meat: https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/service/sozialpsychologin-melanie-joy-warum-essen-menschen-fleisch-a-909292.html
Chapter 2: Green Cities
The city will be green and clean. All buildings will be isolated according to the newest building standards and only need a low amount of energy for heating and cooling (e.g. passive house standard). Most of them will be autonomous by making their own energy (e.g. solar panels or small wind turbines on the roofs) or get it from renewable energy sources in their region. Microgrids and other technologies will help to stabilize and distribute energy supply. Less electricity generation will be necessary though, because people use less devices and avoid energy consumption wherever they can. Heating (& cooling) and electricity are coupled so that heat energy does not get lost but is used for changing the building’s temperature. Solar heating can be installed next to solar energy on the roofs.
Storing energy during peak times has become less expensive and easier through advancements in batteries and other storing techniques. All buildings have green roofs and/or walls that also contribute to better heat and frost control within the building. Houses also collect rainwater that is used for toilets and for watering plants. In addition, biodiversity in cities is thriving. The numerous urban gardens, rooftop gardens, city bee hives, insect hotels, etc. have largely contributed to this development. Sealing of new land has been stopped to avoid further losses of soil and nature and desealing is massively employed. Maintenance of infrastructure is done with the most sustainable, usually recycled materials, often the remainders of desealed areas and shut-down factories.
To provide living space for everyone, some buildings have been built higher so that no land sealing was required. Each person has a living space of about 30 square meters and invidual flats for singles or elderly people are the exception. Communal living is the norm and very pleasurable. This also facilitates the sharing economy. There are also no empty flats and houses which was a waste of space. New buildings are rarely constructed but if so with the most sustainable, renewable materials available to minimize resource use and emissions. People who do not live in the communal city areas but in more remote places also share houses or resort to efficient tiny houses.
People are not spammed with advertisements in the streets, media and all over the place, so that the visual pollution has been reduced and the minds are less stressed. (Nightly) light pollution in cities has come down as shops and advertisements do not glow anymore and street lights are smart and efficient. Green walls additionally calm the mind and free the lungs. Cables largely run underground and radiation from internet, TV, phones and other telecommunication tools has been minimized. The reduced number of factories that is left, is not too close to residential areas. They are efficient, greened and powered carbon-neutrally. Some carbon had to be sequestered because the former generations have emitted too much. This material is used in construction. Sequestration efforts could already be reduced, however, because CO2 emissions have been largely eliminated.
In the wake of threatining catastrophes due to man-made climate change, measures for adaptation and risk-reduction were taken. Urban planning was very well prepared for many possible scenarios. As humans have rapidly and sharply cut their emissions, no big catastrophes occurred but all still benefit from the preparations in case of occasional hurricanes, floods, earthquakes or other natural events.
A city (in development) could look something like this:
Some TED talks on future cities (not all related to green cities): https://www.ted.com/playlists/29/our_future_in_cities
A German article on how Paris is becoming green: https://www.tagesspiegel.de/themen/reportage/gaerten-statt-beton-so-begegnet-paris-dem-klimawandel/24862586.html
Chapter 3: Mobility & Travel
As no one has a private car anymore, all parking spaces have been turned into green areas, where people can sit, meet, garden, plant, do handicrafts and enjoy their life in general. Transportation is mainly done by bikes and many streets are only free for bikes, skateboards and pedestrians. In bigger streets, one line is used for public transport, powered by renewable energies. In some cities, public transport is partly underground, but these stations have been renovated as well and have been made accessible for people that have difficulties to walk. Goods are moved by transportation bikes and some electric (maybe autonomous) vehicles that use the public transportation line to not occupy more space. Less transportation is necessary in general, because people have started doing more things again by themselves. Some vehicles with efficient and clean engines are used for public services such as transport of sick people and firefighters. Their tyres do not rub off microplastics anymore which used to pollute water.
When people want to go to meet friends or family members that live somewhere else, they go to the train station, take the right train to the other city and stay over at their friends’ place or in their community. There was rarely any additional infrastructure necessary for the train lines in addition to the already existing one, avoiding material and land consumption. Flying has become very expensive due to its high energy consumption. Emissions have decreased due to engines that are not based on fossil fuels anymore. Airplanes are smaller now because they have to carry less goods and less people. As commerce has become more regional, less transportation between continents is necessary. Most of the remaining transport is done by ships (moved with clean fuel) anyways. Container ships always carry their waste to the next port where it is properly sorted and recycled.
As the train is quite fast and reliable, it is a much better option for nearly all occasions. People have time anyways and like to contemplate while the landscape is passing by. For intercontinental travels and freight transportation, there are few airports left within each country. They are situated in a way that bothers as little people as possible with its noise. Techniques are used to improve efficiency and reduce sound from starting and landing engines. The airports are connected to cities via public transport.
If people want to travel somewhere to see a new place, they of course compensate their emissions (especially if they should fly there) and share homes with someone from this region or find a couch surfing space or a similar host. For business trips that are needed (no possibility for video or phone conferences at all), employees are received by business partners or other local hosts. Cruises do not exist anymore because they have been stopped as they were inefficient and harmful. Hotels therefore have become largely unnecessary, which made space for social activities and new flats. People prefer to be hosted by others because it is more social and less wasteful. When people want to have a trip, it usually is sufficient for them to go to one of the many natural recreational areas around each city.
People living in the countryside either have a public transport connection towards the next bigger cities or have a community car sharing of electric and/or hydrogen cars (or which other technology has been developed by then). They leave them at terminals at the city’s border, when they want to go into town. They are able to supply themselves with basic goods like food anyways. Central villages and suburban areas have shops selling all necessities so that people from remote areas do not have to go to the city center. Like all others, they craft and repair items themselves to reduce needed trips.
How do you envision future mobility and travel? Let me know what you think 🙂 (I am thinking about a sustainable frame – it might be nice if everyone could travel everywhere all the time, but this will unlikely fit into the boundaries of our planet)
- German article on how to travel sustainably: https://www.forum-csr.net/News/13665/UmweltbewusstindenUrlaub.html
- Microplastics in water stemming from car tyres: https://www.bund.net/fileadmin/user_upload_bund/publikationen/meere/meere_mikroplastik_reifenabrieb_hintergrund.pdf
- Great in-depth article on future mobility: https://enorm-magazin.de/wirtschaft/mobilitaet-und-verkehr/verkehrswende/nachhaltige-mobilitaet-mehr-gruen-wagen-stephan-rammler
- Smart apps for greener mobility, e.g. https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Jelbi-App-von-BVG-und-Trafi-vereint-Berliner-Mobilitaets-Angebote-4444131.html
- Limits of e-mobility: https://ingolstadt-today.de/lesen–der-sinnlose-traum-von-der-elektrischen-zukunft%5B44308%5D.html
- Here is what UN Environment proposes for sustainable mobility: https://www.anatomyofaction.org/moveactionsmain
Chapter 4: Consumption & Technology
In the future, people in general do not possess (a lot of) stuff anymore. They focus on buying what they really need. They have realized that pure consumption does not make happy and that the planet cannot sustain unnecessary production. Items are exchanged within communities (simple example from England: https://shareshed.org.uk/), with friends or via platforms, rented, bought second-hand or sometimes acquired from one of the sustainable stores. There are only stores selling responsibly produced and carbon neutral items. A few of them are present in each quarter so that they are easily accessible for everyone. If people order something online, there are carbon-neutral and zero waste e-shops for items that are rarely needed or difficult to store and thus not present in local stores. Tools and similar items can be borrowed there or from the community housing manager. Big machines like washing machines are shared within the community.
People enjoy constructing, repairing and making many things themselves (from jams to tomato sauce, doughs, to peelings, soaps, detergents – e.g. from chestnuts – and other cleaning powders). They grow food, clean their property and take care of family members. Less electric devices are used and needed, as people take the time to do tasks themselves. Devices are built in ways that make them durable, easy to repair and update (planned obsolescence is a thing of the past). Technology is used to organize decentralized renewable energy power supply systems and for sharing other things across the regions. People have refrained from making everything ‘smart’ and wasteful – also because they like their privacy and security. They found a good balance between using technology for efficiency and avoiding unnecessary applications. All devices are electricity- and water-efficient and do not run on stand-by, just when they are really needed.
Products are not used as status symbols anymore. Rather a person’s engagement for the community and the well-being of everyone earns a person respect. The reduction in fortune differences and increase of (financial) equity between people has reduced excessive spending (like for yachts, diamonds, but also TV screens, smartphones etc.), conflicts and social unrest.
In general, the best and most sustainable materials are used for everything. For example, products (like detergents, cosmetics, clothing, etc.) are not produced with harmful microplastics anymore and inevitable rub-off is strongly reduced due to much lower numbers of vehicles on the roads that are left.
People enjoy having everything they need for a happy life. They don’t have to waste precious and wonderful time with unnecessary items and stressful status building. They prefer easy, simple and practical solutions and help each other when it gets a bit more complicated. Having what is needed and not more boosts social life. People feel productive, flexible and resilient.
Further information on these topics:
- Learn about problems with digitalization: https://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/digitalisierung-und-umwelt-utopie-und-horror-liegen-dicht-nebeneinander-a-1261870.html
- Learn about palm oil: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/ng-interactive/2014/nov/10/palm-oil-rainforest-cupboard-interactive
- The importance of reducing consumption: https://medium.com/@hanishbhatia92/the-lost-narrative-of-reduce-d6785e8dd805
- Problem of over-consumption: https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article198216057/Bericht-des-Weltklimarats-Wir-muessen-weg-vom-Ueberkonsum.html
- Video – how many things do we really need?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSHZ5SjTxgE
- Information on stand-by: https://utopia.de/ratgeber/standby-die-wichtigsten-fakten/
and what you can already do to make this part of the dream come true:
- By the UN: https://www.anatomyofaction.org/stuffactionsmain
- Buycott bad companies: https://utopia.de/ratgeber/buycott-diese-app-zeigt-welche-marken-zu-welchem-konzern-gehoeren/
- Video – person trying to live sustainably: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGxeIBXDlZY
- How to avoid common plastic waste: https://utopia.de/plastik-muell-gewaesser-europa-136153/
- Avoid bad supermarkets: https://www.oxfam.de/ueber-uns/aktuelles/2019-07-03-supermaerkte-check-schlechte-noten-deutsche-supermarkt-ketten
- Avoid Cargill (as ‘worst’ company in the world): https://utopia.de/cargill-schlimmstes-unternehmen-vermeiden-149135/
- Don’t shop on Prime Day, Black Friday and similar days: https://www.ecowatch.com/prime-days-environmental-cost-2639197705.html
- 10 things you should ban from your household: https://utopia.de/ratgeber/dinge-haushalt-verschwinden/
Chapter 5: Waste Management / Circular Economy
After years of plogging, I can enjoy jogging without seeing any trash around me. This is due to various reasons. Firstly, people care about nature and beauty and therefore do not dump things anymore. Secondly, with public clean-up days involving all citizens and many ploggers, the already existing trash was collected. Remaining garbage dumps have been removed and the materials either recycled, composted or cleanly burnt. And thirdly, there is not much waste produced in general in the future society.
The area needed for waste containers has been reduced because most house communities only produce organic waste which is sometimes collected, but mostly directly composted at home or in community gardens. It is sufficient to collect all recyclable materials like paper, glass and plastics once a month all at the same time, because people are treating resources as valuables and reuse everything as long as possible. As packaging has been reduced to a minimum and is based on reusable items and deposit systems, most waste sources have been eliminated. Food, for example, is not wrapped into single-use plastic packaging of any kind anymore. The small amount of residual waste is burned in the cellar of the building, creating heat and/or electricity for the building, which is stored for possible shortages. The emitted gases are carefully captured, cleaned and taken care of.
New constructions and products are generally made from recycled materials. A proper circular economy has been built, keeping resources for decades in a reusing cycle. New resources are sometimes necessary and are then bought from responsible sources. From unused industrial sites and infrastructures, materials are recovered.
Forests have been restored, desertification has been limited (also due to better irrigation systems), and water ways have been cleared of eutrophication and chemical residuals. The ocean has been cleaned from plastic waste due to global, international efforts. Nowadays, plastic is mainly recycled within the circular economy and only used for special applications. New plastic is mainly based on plant materials, as petrol is left in the ground. Oil is not burned anymore, because the remaining resources are needed for a few steps in production. No one wants to produce oil spills and these huge amounts of carbon dioxide that were freed when people used to burn oil. In general, ecology comes first.
Products are produced only to cover people’s real needs and their production is permanently improved to be most ecological and social. For example, products do not contain microplastics anymore. Paper (for toilets, writing, …) is always made from recycled fibers and never virgin. Detergents are used sparsely and are completely degradable without polluting water. As people enjoy making things themselves, they often resort to natural and self-made alternatives such as washing with chestnuts or ivy. They know how to make cosmetics, produce and process food, repair bikes and small devices. For more complicated procedures, there are specialists around to help and to optimize resource use. Waste reduction and circular economy have largely contributed to cleaning our planet and making it pristine and very beautiful again.
- Drawings showing the ‘trashmaid’ to get attention to the waste issue: https://utopia.de/arielle-muelljungfrau-zeichnungen-instagram-156001/
- How to tackle waste in tourism and events: https://futureofwaste.makesense.org/toolbox/
- Sustainability of tetra paks explained: https://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/recycling-die-groessten-muell-mythen-des-alltags-1.3490012-2
- How glas recycling works: https://www.resorti.de/blog/altglasentsorgung/#Glas_richtig_sortieren_Was_gehoert_in_den_Glascontainer
- Importance of paper recycling: https://utopia.de/ratgeber/altpapier-baeume-retten-statt-pflanzen/
- The issue with coffee cups: https://www.manager-magazin.de/politik/deutschland/das-problem-mit-den-to-go-bechern-a-1272238.html
- How to make your flat minimalist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1zhuAGIb1E
- Why we should leave resources in the deep sea and not extract them: https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/vereinte-nationen-verhandeln-ueber-weltozeanabkommen-zum-schutz-der-meere-a-1283764.html
Avoid waste and check how to sort the remainder properly:
You can find inspiration on how to get to Zero Waste in my former blog posts, e.g. under: https://cathagoessustainable.wordpress.com/category/zero-waste/
In general, the internet provides ideas and instructions on how to make many things easily yourself 🙂 Get inspired and test new things! It’s usually much fun, brings great results and a nearly empty bin
Chapter 6: Health
People in the future will be much healthier. Many illnesses are prevented due to healthy nutrition (for elaboration see https://cathagoessustainable.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/chapter-1-nutrition/). Food is free of unhealthy chemical residues stemming from fertilizers, pesticides, etc. The fact that people stopped smoking, has also contributed to this development and this has also removed many toxic substances from the environment (https://blog.wwf.de/rauchen-umwelt-zigarettenkippen/). It is a pleasure to sit outside in completely clean air (no passive inhalation of cancer-bringing chemicals from no source anymore). People largely refrain from other toxic and dangerous substances (alcohol, drugs, …).
The air is clean also due to more green areas and no pollution caused by emissions (see e.g. Chapter 3 on Mobility – https://cathagoessustainable.wordpress.com/2019/09/26/chapter-3-mobility-travel/). That is why there are no health problems caused by dirty air anymore. It has also become quieter so that heart diseases and headaches have become rare and accidents are nearly non-existent.
In general, prevention is the new medicine. Sports and active lifestyles (cycling, gardening, playing with children, repairing…) make people strong and reduce back pains as well as similar issues. People wear sufficiently thick clothes in winter and prevent the flu with teas. In general, simple household remedies are preferred to expensive medicines with side effects (which have luckily been reduced compared to the past).
Products are made from natural materials that are not harmful to human health anymore like e.g. chemicals in plastics (such as BPA) used to be. Due to clean nature, microplastics are an issue of the past, so we do not go on consuming them by accident. Water (also in the oceans) is finally cleared from all residues of past pollutions. Cleaning up nature has improved health of all living beings on earth. Prevention of harm is a focal issue of all production in the future. This is linked to humane working conditions for all humans (old jobs like mining or sorting electronic waste were really unhealthy – especially in poorer countries with even less safety equipment and machinery).
These healthy basics have massively reduced private and public spending on (basic) health care, which leaves money for other important sectors or fighting of remaining illnesses. The total number of diseases has been largely reduced all over the world. Specialists therefore can focus on very special or serious (e.g. genetically caused) diseases or when people get injured e.g. due to sports.
Many of the causes of sickness have been adressed by not even looking at the health sector itself. Due to these improvements, there is a lot of capacity now for treating the remaining illnesses and injuries. People do not have to wait for months for an appointment with a doctor anymore, but can find one as soon as they need him/her. Health care personnel suffices so that their working slots are shorter and they are less stressed themselves. Reduced stress levels in the population in general have also improved health levels. And if you are one of the rare cases that have to go to the hospital, you will at least have a nice view into the green from your room.
Unnecessary operations are a thing of the past. Hospitals do not have to maximize profits, so they can treat patients in the best way possible – and not just in the most lucrative one. The time of ‘industrialized’ treatments is luckily over. As people are willing to donate organs after their death, the waiting lists have become very short. Everyone is registered with their medical details at the organizations for donating bone marrow and blood as well. This is part of societal ties and caring for each other. Necessary vaccinations are also undertaken on time to prevent new spreadings of diseases. Of course, proper hygiene levels in all parts of life have reduced infectuous diseases as well.
People are happy because they are mostly healthy and fit – with head, heart and body.
Chapter 7: Freetime & Social Life
People know their neighbours due to their joint community garden, common areas, playgrounds or neighbourhood activities. In case they need something – like help with babysitting, elderly care or plant-watering as well as some item – they can ask in the community group and will usually quickly find a volunteer. You have helped many of your neighbours before, so they are pleased to give the favour back to you. The city is not a black, anonymous hole anymore and crime has been nearly absent for years as all people are living well and feel connected to each other. There are many intergenerational living communities. Time is spent rather in the real than in virtual worlds. People communicate with other human beings they see, instead of looking at a screen or having their ears plugged with loud music. Trust and mutual support are the norm. Work is seen as pleasurable and fulfilling by most people, but they also enjoy their freetime. This includes practical work, cooking, spending social time, but also reading, making music, painting, relaxing, strolling and many other wonderful activities.
Sporting facilities are available in each part of the city. They are powered by renewable energy (if any electricity is necessary at all, because outdoor activities are preferred), waste is minimized and people are happy to meet new people around. Each part of the city has its own efficient multifunctional building – for watching movies, attending theatre sessions, concerts and exhibitions – which has a high utilization rate and is effectively used. Books can also be borrowed there. As crimes as well as bureaucracy have been reduced drastically, the democratic city council and the police share one building and are present in each sector of the city. It has become much easier to make one’s fiscal declaration and to indicate changes of residence by following a simplified online procedure, which is made safe through personal identification tools.
In general ways are short to reduce (bike) commuting times. All necessary institutions are situated centrally, such as nurseries, schools, elderly care homes and hospitals. As people themselves use some of their time for such social activities and services, the work pressure per person has been reduced. Helping each other in all aspects of life is very central and important for everyone. This also helps to reduce private and public costs for social security. Only few people are without work and none are homeless – this has enabled freeing public money and using it for making the world even more beautiful.
The total world population has stopped its extreme growth, because most women are educated, self-determined and contraception as well as family planning are known around the world. It is also not necessary to have many children anymore in order for some to survive and be able to take care of their elders. In the absence of poverty and with a stagnating (or decreasing) population, pressure has been taken from societies and nature. The current state is pretty stable and everyone is well-off.
To see what UN environment proposes regarding sustainable fun actions, look here: https://www.anatomyofaction.org/funactionsmain
How do you wish the future to be like? Let me know your thoughts!
Source of header image: https://ecosistemaurbano.com/cervecera-fadura/
Chapter 8: Education
All types of schools and universities are in the neighbourhood or well-connected somewhere close in the city. As the city is safe and friendly, already young children can walk or cycle to their school without problems. People firstly learn how to think critically and by themselves. They get to know from an early age how to live in harmony with people and nature. They respect each other and other species. Sustainability is the foundation for everything that is done because this thinking helps to preserve our prosperity and the prosperity of the world around us. People learn how to envision the future and improve the status quo even more. They learn to question the system that surrounds them and support the good parts of it. In history, they get to know about the luckily prevented climate crisis and the unsustainability of former human generations. They cannot imagine why people used to pollute, destroy and kill so much. People learn about theory, but also a lot of practice. They know how to cook, bake, plant, repair and craft things. They are motivated to use their creativity to come up with new ideas and concepts. This can result in tiny variations in spicing dishes or in entirely new ways to upcycle materials. As people closely observe nature, they have brought biomimicry to ever higher levels.
Learning never stops – therefore, there are many courses and workshops for people from all age classes. For example, in Germany, there are already courses on climate change and environment in some of the so-called “Volkshochschulen”: https://www.wwf.de/aktiv-werden/bildungsarbeit-lehrerservice/klima/vhs-kurs-klimafit-standorte/ People can learn about everything they are interested in from philosophy to physics, from languages to handicrafts and everything else you can imagine.
People also get to know other cultures. Students videocall with people from other countries and have class trips by bus or train for exchanges. This helps to foster peace and understanding within the larger region and other regions. It is vital to feel connected not only to the people very close around, but also to see the relation to people in the other continents as all depend on the same planet. Of course, learning will also depend on the individual surroundings. Not everything is the same in all of the world’s regions and cities.
As all buildings are net zero and greened, the environmental impact is minimal. The playing grounds or break areas are green (not paved) and attached to the institution’s gardens. There, children/students learn to grow their own food and how to cook with it. Healthy and sustainable nutrition is essential and taught early (avoiding sugars, transfats, animal products, industrialized foods etc. – also see Chapter 1 on nutrition: https://cathagoessustainable.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/chapter-1-nutrition/). This goes in line with regular physical activities. While people learn how to properly and resourcefully use and develop technologies, they prefer movement and being out in the fresh air. Concentration problems and depressions that haunted earlier generations due to excessive use of technology and social media are a thing of the past.
As everyone else, educational institutions invest in new research helping people to understand things and help the sustainable world to thrive even more.
How do you imagine the future of education? I am not creative enough to imagine something without schools, but maybe you do?
- How to push your university to become green now: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/how-green-my-university
- There are already programs to bring healthy cooking to schools such as: https://ichkannkochen.de/
Chapter 9: Economy & Money
As more things are done and created within a community or region, there is less dependence on international actors and events. Logistics and transport have been reduced. Value chains are shorter which makes them easier to control and to update qualitatively. Less money gets lost to unnecessary middlemen [i.e. “a dealer, agent, or company intermediate between the producer of goods and the retailer or consumer” acc. to Merriam-Webster dictionary]. Businesses are usually small or medium-sized. There are no fast-moving, publicly traded shares to avoid short-term investment horizons and purely profit-oriented decision-making. Most organisations are well-organized cooperatives, where everyone has a say and vote on the future of the operations which avoids former suppression of workers. The individual regions can sustain themselves better (sufficiency and subsistance) and if money is needed for a transaction, it is probably going to be paid in one of the regional currencies.
Financial speculations on everything including food crops are long gone and now banks such as many other organisations are cooperatives. Money is not created through (uncovered) credits given out by banks anymore. Instead, to support the population in the best way possible, the welfare governing body regulates the money supply. Paying back credits required economic growth, which could not be sustained anymore – recession followed recession.
Economy in general is a means and not an end. People have left the path of mainly chasing endless economic growth (measured by GDP) since it was a destructive one. They have realized that well-being is not related to money (after a certain threshold). Inequality within and between countries has spurred social unrest. Therefore, the possession levels have been more equalized through taxes and salaries. Also all people can be employed as jobs are better distributed. Most people have reduced their working hours to have more time for care, subsistence and leisure.
People do not feel the need to differentiate via status symbols such as big cars and brand clothing. They all have similar standards of living and enjoy their community. Providing everyone with a good life is more important than consuming unnecessary and wasteful things. Those cryptocurrencies that used insane amounts of energy (equalling the use of entire nations) are down as well.
Capitalism and the long unquestioned economic growth paradigm have led to ever-increasing consumption and exploitation, failing to solve inequalities, poverty, health and environmental problems. Not everything has to have a market value and be commercialised. A new system focused on nature and people has been introduced instead, providing benefits for everyone. Public and private investments have been shifted from destructive to creative/creating industries. The new communal and sustainable future is based on renewable energies, green cities, social ties, healthy nutrition and regional provision of most goods. There is also knowledge exchange and a good relationship with the other regions of the world, also for the delivery of goods that cannot be produced regionally.
There are still many people needed to solve all the questions regarding alternative socio-economic systems to the current one. However, one thing is clear: The current state cannot continue because we won’t reach sustainability and social prosperity with the current ever-expanding path. It has already led us past several planetary boundaries and we are on track to destruct further. We have to free ourselves from old paradigms which are still used by most people (including researchers) in all social sciences and invent better ways of acting and living. But there is also an increasing number of people who question the status quo, the current paradigms, and come up with solutions. We can all start to work on them. In each chapter of the dream, I mention many initiatives that can be taken individually, by groups and in public engagement. Join movements for a better world and help to design the future instead of just letting it come in any form.
Further information on alternatives to the growth paradigm can be found (for example) here:
- Concept of the Economy for the Common Good (in German and English): https://www.ecogood.org/de/ and https://www.ecogood.org/en/
- Explanation why green growth/only relying on technological innovations is not realistic: https://www.bund.net/fileadmin/user_upload_bund/publikationen/nachhaltigkeit/nachhaltigkeit_gruenes_wachstum_entkopplung_studie.pdf (German summary); https://mk0eeborgicuypctuf7e.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Decoupling-Debunked.pdf (full report in English)
- Explanations of degrowth/postgrowth in German: https://www.degrowth.info/de/was-ist-degrowth/ and https://utopia.de/ratgeber/postwachstumsoekonomie-geht-es-auch-ohne-wirtschaftswachstum/
- Video with Niko Paech on postgrowth (in German): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DKN_GRzLUY
- Definition and dimensions of degrowth in English: https://degrowth.org/definition-2/ and https://degrowth.org/dimensions/
- A possible future of finance: https://degrowth.org/financial-dimension/
- Also have a look at e.g. post-development concepts, Buen Vivir, Ubuntu, Economy of Permance and Feminist Economics!
According to the UN environment, you can already do the following regarding money: https://www.anatomyofaction.org/moneyactionsmain
Source of header image: https://www.onecommunityglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Revenue-Streams-Facebook-Meme.jpg
Chapter 10: Culture & Celebrations
Each region – and also smaller local entities – has its own culture. It is distinct to the others around the world, with own customs and language(s). Most people speak at least one of the bigger international languages in order to communicate with people from other regions. This diversity makes the world creative and interesting. The strength of individual cultures has benefitted from reduced international advertisement and the end of the domination of few global brands who made everyone look and act very similarly. Now, you can actually notice a difference between (inner) cities and you do not see all the same stores in each place.
Culture in terms of arts (paintings, literature, music, theatres, …) has been fostered in all regions. They need few resources (usually old materials are creatively reused), but bring pleasure and inspiration to people. The arts also helped to find individual and common identities and to spur society onto a sustainable and social path.
People also like to celebrate and spend their holidays with friends and familys. Regions and groups have their distinct celebrations which sometimes ressemble each other. The most important thing is to spend time with dear people, eat together, enjoy the day and make fun and/or relaxing things (sports, nature, picnic, arts, …).
Celebrations – as life in general – are not focused on making massive amounts of (often unnecessary) presents which are bought last minute before the event comes up. If people give each other things, they put thought in it, make something nice and useful themselves, organize something the person likes or make a contribution to a better world (such as planting trees).
Some holidays had been largely commercialized in order to bring profits to various industries. Presents were ripped open and forgotten because of the several others that followed, creating huge amounts of waste. People now are creative and wrappings – if used at all – are reused for all fitting occasions. The actual purpose of festivities has been rediscovered: To have time to be together in a special moment and enjoy the happiness.
How do you imagine future culture(s) and festivities? Which holidays would you keep or introduce? What could be improved from the current state to the future?
Chapter 11: Politics & Democracy
The regions are democratically governed and in peaceful (trade and knowledge) relations with each other. All people are interested in politics because they know that the decisions directly influence their lives and they care about what happens in the community. They want to actively design and shape the world in the best possible way. Therefore, most places are governed in a form of direct democracy, where people have more to say and can easily get involved. This helps to resolve conflicts and find good solutions for all. Dangerous extremism and radicalism has been mitigated. As everyone can share their opinion, people do not feel forgotten by ‘politics’ and ‘society’.
It is important and fun to get engaged and people like to have fruitful discussions. They do not insult each other and they use arguments to convince others of their point. Solutions should help everyone and the environment. Transparence of decision-making is key. Corruption, manipulations and exploitation by individuals are stopped in their roots and incentives for such behaviours have been reduced. People care for each other and not only for themselves.
People have managed to stop all ongoing wars because climate change has been mitigated, resources are secured, and no one is fighting for power or over beliefs anymore. People have come to understand that different cultures and backgrounds are valid and great. They enjoy tasting each other’s dishes, share music and movies. Destroyed cities have been rebuilt and institutions reinstalled. Of course, weapons are not produced anymore. Only knives for cooking reasons and other tools are allowed. Everyone is treated equally and has the same rights to contribute to the society.
There are some examples of alternate governing already existing in the world, where we can take inspiration from. Switzerland is known for the use of referenda. I presented the Rojava’s system in an earlier post: https://cathagoessustainable.wordpress.com/2019/08/08/role-models-where-you-would-propably-least-expect-them/. There are also direct democracy systems in India and other places around the world.
Dictatorship involves much personal interest and securing of own power, so it is not a wishful state for this dream.
How do you imagine the future of politics? Are you already engaged or would you like to be so? If not, why not? Let me hear your thoughts!
- Current democracy is threatened in many places. Here is a German documentary on doubtful campaigns which led to the Brexit referendum: https://www.zdf.de/dokumentation/zdfzoom/zdfzoom-angriff-auf-die-demokratie-102.html
Chapter 12: Shared Values
As the individual regions have different cultures, the values are also not the same everywhere. However, there are some values that are shared by all the people – making the world a brighter place.
The maybe most important one is peace – and therefore there is a strict opposition to warfare and killings. Fortunately, all the wars that were raging and killing innocent people could be stopped some decades ago. In the current well-functioning democracies, arising conflicts are solved through debates and finding of compromises or creative solutions. As all regions are safe and stable to live in, people are not forced to migrate against their will anymore. If they want to relocate, it is due to their own choice and not because they need to do so.
Corruption has been eliminated because people care for their communities and not only for themselves. Altruism is highly appreciated and regularly enacted by everyone. The societies have managed to provide good and largely equal living standards to everyone. In the past, a few people in the world owned as much as billions of poorer people. This inequality was eliminated due to changed taxes and economic systems. The (ultra-)rich invested their excess money into the development of a sustainable and social world society. They realized that they had much more than they needed for themselves and that a sustainable lifestyle made them more happy than being surrounded by security, paparazzi and ‘worthless’ luxury items.
People are honest, empathetic and supportive towards others. They do not discriminate against people from different religions, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, age, etc. All people have the same right to live and to be treated well, in a fair manner. People care about living in a way which does not harm others and they delight in mingling with the community. They realized that everyone is happier when each of them is behaving in a friendly and respectful way. Solidarity and responsibility also play a central role in the future society. Everyone is part of the whole and contributes to overall prosperity. This has not only eliminated ‘bigger’ crimes such as rape and murder, but also ‘smaller’ crimes such as theft and vandalism.
What a wonderful world! 🙂
Which values do you consider as most important for an ideal future? What could all people agree on?
There are already many opportunities for investing in such a future. For example:
- https://www.onepercentfortheplanet.org/donate – here individuals and organizations can donate to support the work of environmental nonprofits
- https://www.betterplace.me/klimaplan-selber-schreiben – support the writing of a proper climate plan for Germany (as our government is incapable of doing it, several scientists will do so)
Or you can take direct action within your community by joining e.g. the transition network:
Chapter 13: Love for Nature
Nature is highly valued by everyone. People know that it has an intrinsic value, but also that it is the basis for human life on earth. Humanity has moved from an ego-logical to an eco-logical view:
Therefore, nature now is protected. There are countless natural reserves and wilderness areas where humans do not enter. In addition, there are several national parcs and other natural recreation areas for humans to use. People pay attention that they do not overuse land and nature, neither for recreation nor for food cultivation. Many sealed areas have been desealed and fertile soil has been restored. Past damages have been reversed as much as possible. There was a lot of restoring necessary. There were and are also massive afforestation and reforestation programs.
Not only the ecosystems, but also animals are treated well. Wild animals are left in peace and not poached anymore. People have realized that items such as tiger paws and elephant tusks do not heal and that they are not worth killing these fascinating creatures. There is no mass production of animals left, because people eat plant-based food wherever possible (i.e. everywhere where plants grow sufficiently). The remaining domesticated animals that were not slaugthered, lived in free range with humane treatment up to their natural death. If people have pets, they treat them well and only have them in fitting surroundings (e.g. big dogs in city flats). Usually people just delight in observing animals in their natural habitats and listening to bird and other sounds around.
Biodiversity has luckily increased again everywhere – e.g. in the restored forests, especially the rainforests that are finally left in peace. With the close to zero reduction of meat intake* and biofuels for engines, soy production has been largely reduced. Palm and similar oils are little demanded internationally as people eat less processed food and rather make things themselves. Resource extraction has been reduced to a viable minimum so that in total environmental degradation could be stopped and all regions are thriving again.
How did you like the vision in the Dream so far? Can you imagine something like this? In the next weeks, you will learn more about how you can contribute to make it come true. There will also be an epilogue to the story.
*In case that you are a scientist, you can support the following initiative by signing their letters to mayors around the world: https://scientists4lessmeat.org/
Chapter 14: Working Life & Professions
Work is flexible. It can be done from home, from one of the public eating areas or from your workplace, which is usually in bikeable distance from your home. Traffic jams do not exist anymore, and commuting is short. You work partly for money, but as working weeks are shorter, you have a lot of time to do things yourself and support others without remuneration in terms of money – but in joy and gratefulness. Jobs are adequately paid and/or done within the community, like educating children and taking care of elderly people. As people spend less money on unnecessary things (cars, gadgets, jewelry, huge amounts of clothes, shoes, handbags, …), they can spend less time working. Instead, they can use their time to relax, be in nature (e.g. in the community garden), with friends and family or helping others.
Jobs provide identity and can be a way to fulfill one’s purpose in life. They can contribute to achieving a good/better world (for me: as described in the dream) or to sticking to the status quo. This often makes matters worse. Your job is not only very important to you, but also for society. You spend most of your lifetime with it.
The good thing is that many people have a choice! You can decide if you want to be part of the problem or of the solution. Change your occupation towards a positive one or improve it as much as you can – if you do not already contribute to a better future! Here are some examples (in alphabetical order):
|Agriculture||You work in agriculture? Great, because you help to feed the world! But: go for organic production/agroecology, permaculture etc. to reduce the harm you cause e.g. for animals and biodiversity, soil health, etc. Sell plant-based instead of animal-based products. Try to find people to (financially) support your shift. (You can at least reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers you use, plant old sorts and make people aware of structural difficulties, …). Many great inspirations can be found here: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/food|
|Architecture||You are an architect? There are countless options to build environmentally friendly and socially incluse houses. Passive house standard, zero energy house, tiny houses, … be creative, use and find great solutions! Get inspired here: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/buildings-and-cities and https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/coming-attractions/living-buildings|
|Arts||You work in entertainment/movies/theatre/music? Make your productions carbon neutral and powered by renewable energy. Reuse props, costumes and other materials to keep them in a circular flow. Make people happy and contribute to social inclusion and justice. Do not fly around, when someone local can do it just as well.|
|Cars||You work for a car producer? Help to shift the company’s business away from selling as many personal cars as possible to creating future sustainable mobility systems! (or at least: sustainable ways of moving the car e.g. find a solution to recycle batteries of e-cars; look here https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/transport)|
|Chemistry||You work in chemistry? Develop materials that are easy to be recycled or composted. Refrain from putting patents onto food/seedlings and do not develop crops that harm biodiversity. Do not sell fertilizers, pesticides and other toxics; nature does perfectly without!|
|City Planning||You work in city planning? There are so many areas where you can contribute: improved public transport, more cycle lanes, green concepts, tree planting, resilience, energy-efficient passive houses, social housing… Have a look: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/buildings-and-cities and https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/transport|
|Cooking||You are a chef or caterer? Offer more (or only) vegetarian and vegan dishes! Use organic ingredients! Show people how yummy and easily they can cook for themselves. Find ways to reduce food waste. There are plenty of things that you can change.|
|Construction||You work in construction? Use circular economy approaches to reuse materials, avoid waste and use sustainable materials. Make environmentally friendly passive buildings, with renewable energy sources, green roofs, etc. Work together with sustainable architects and innovative city planners 🙂|
|Consulting||You work in consulting? Push for projects at or close to your home. Avoid flying to projects (especially within countries and regions). Do not go to 5-star hotels. Focus your work on making companies more sustainable, instead of optimizing unsustainable businesses. You could directly go to a sustainable consultancy instead of the big ones.|
|E-Commerce||You work in e-commerce? Consider switching from big companies to smaller, more sustainable operators that are carbon-neutral and reduce other negative impacts of the business.|
|Education||You are a teacher, educator or professor? Teach kids and students how to live a sustainable life in private, but also how to contribute to change for a better world in their later work life. Get rid of old patterns of teaching, show how to question paradigms and how to find creative solutions. Reconsider what you learned yourself (e.g. question business capitalism, homo oeconomicus and endless growth in economies, but talk about circular economy, alternative economics, sustainable supply chain management, etc.) Show kids how food is grown, how they can cook healthy, meat-free dishes, … You have a wide-array of possibilities. Help to change the syllabus so that every young person is taught sustainability. Educating girls is especially important: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/women-and-girls/educating-girls|
|Engineering||You are an engineer? Look, for example, at biomimicry and learn from nature! Make the items you conceive as efficient as possible, develop them as carbon neutral and with minimum amounts of waste, reused in a circular system. Check out dealing with sustainable materials: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/materials|
|Entrepreneurship||You are an entrepreneur? Find a social/environmental issue you can solve and build your company around this! Join movements such as the common good economy or purpose economy.|
|Finance||You work in finance? Help to improve sustainable investment criteria, push for stricter rules, do not invest in critical sectors, leverage your power to influence companies and investors to the better, etc. Help to stop speculations, set up local/regional currencies, etc.|
|Food & Beverage||You are working in a food or beverage company? Push for use of organic ingredients, reduce packaging, change products away from packaged ones. If you e.g. sell water in (plastic) bottles: That is not going to be sustainable! Change away from this and use your expertise to improve tap water or provide access to clean water where people do not have this yet!|
|Gardening||You work in gardening/landscape architecture? Use local plants that are more resilient and a better refuge for animals. Work on improving biodiversity in your area by recommending natural concepts.|
|Handicrafts||You work in handicrafts? Repair things instead of making new ones, offer services rather than products, build long-lasting items, be creative in use of recycled and sustainable materials, teach people how to repair items …|
|Law||You are lawyer? Why not help plaintiffs who are harmed by climate change and environmental damages? Defend social causes and not just the ones who are most lucrative.|
|Management||You are manager? Have a look at your sector and company and get started. Bring your vision on ethics and sustainability into your organization. You can start by paying your fair share of taxes (especially international companies)…|
|Medicine||You work in medicine? Help people to lead better, healthier, more sustainable lives. Maybe work in another country to help people in need. You already have a social occupation, make the most out of it! Do not sell unnecessary surgeries, Botox, etc.|
|Pharmacy||You work in pharmacy? Help to develop medication for poorer people. Give people medication they really need (do not push unnecessary things just for the sake of selling). Make your ingredients healthier/better/more sustainable… Help to prevent diseases instead of only treating them.|
|Politics||You are a politician? Help to set subsidies, regulations, taxes, incentives, etc. to make the world more sustainable. Do not listen to lobbies of industries that are inherently unsustainable. You will find alternatives for the work force and the benefits for environment and society will be worth it anyways! If not all people agree: Follow your conscience and decide for the best of all.|
|Production||You work in production? Make things as long-lasting and reparable as possible. Help to make your factory carbon neutral and reduce waste and input of (especially: fossil) resources. Especially when you use a lot of energy, take renewables: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/electricity-generation|
|Sales & Shop Assistants||You work in sales? Is your offer sustainable? Do you need to change the employer to find a more responsible position? Can you influence the current offer and contribute to making it more environmentally and socially responsible? Example: fast fashion versus fair and organic clothes labels.|
|Sports & Stars||You are an athlete or ‘star’? Avoid plane rides, be a role model in showing your fans a sustainable (instead of excessive) lifestyle and healthy eating habits, … Use your publicity to inform people on good causes. Use your name and get involved!|
|Student||You are still studying or learning? Choose your subjects according to your interests but also to the contribution you can make with your knowledge afterwards. Insist on more sustainability at your university or school. Tell employers that you care for social and environmental responsibility! In order to do this, you can support the following initiative by sharing their page and especially publishing your own call to employers: https://call.ecological-awakening.org/en/; https://pour-un-reveil-ecologique.org/en/|
|Tobacco||You work for a tobacco company? Shift away from cigarettes. Help your farmers to grow other crops and contribute in feeding the world, instead of making it sick.|
|Waste Management||You work in waste management? You can induce people to produce less waste, sort better and work on better recycling and composting facilities. Do not send waste into landfill and avoid burning of valuable materials!|
- You can also reduce your working hours, spend less time with consumption, and have more human interaction, time to really create things and enjoy the wonderful nature around.
- You know your own job best – you are the one who can be creative about maximizing its positive impact!
Which ideas do you have? Which category does your job fall into? Are you already getting involved? Systemic changes need many people to realize them!
In work, public or private, there are lots of things to do. For example, you can check the 100 solutions proposed by researchers to achieve carbon drawdown: https://www.drawdown.org/ There is something in for everyone. At the minimum, everyone has to choose what they eat and where their food comes from..
However, the reference to Drawdown is not supposed to say that we can solve everything with new inventions and better technologies; we also have to reimagine how we live together and in harmony with our surroundings (with adequate footprints for everyone). And they also emphasize that often less is more: e.g. natural agriculture without chemicals is better for all (except for the profits of the respective companies).
Fortunately, humans at the end of the first quarter of the 21st century where wise enough to drastically change their lifestyles and ways of production so that global warming could be limited to 1,5° Celsius. Natural catastrophes have been faced with more resilience and the environment could be restored. All global regions have built more resilient cities and have used natural measures to protect shores, e.g. with mangroves.
This sounds like a nice dream to you? So or similar? I think that we have the knowledge and ability to let this come true! But we need to start changing radically NOW! Scientists have diagnosed a 10-year window for rapid change, before all the harm we have done to our planet will be irreversible and our kind will not live well on earth much longer.
There will be trade-offs involved for sure. Workplaces will be lost, but others will be newly created. If there is a smaller number of overall jobs, people can share jobs and work less. Less unnecessary consumption and less paid work frees time for things that can really make happy. A massive shift in our societies will take place in any case. But we can decide if we want to design the change or get hit by it. We can build a positive future, instead of not acting for fear of trade-offs and some negative implications, waiting for environmental degradation, climate changes, natural disasters and social unrest to take over.
Of course, there are many regions in the world that are still in war and conflict. I have the hope that a strong global society can work together to stop these terrible situations and has the means to take good care of every human being. We have to be open to accept people that have come from areas where their lives are threatened. We should help them to restore peace in their land, and help them to rebuild it so that they can go back and create a prosperous future life there as well.
Many regions on this planet are still poor. This is often due to our exploitative consumption patterns and I believe that things can get better, when we all consume more responsibly. They will be able to produce more value-added products locally and autonomously and will not be reduced to being our commodity sources any more. People in all countries are creative and find solutions that best suit them. Northern/western people tend to be much too imperialistic in their efforts to ‘help’ or sometimes just exploit others without even hiding it. Africa, for example, is not one country, but a rich and diverse continent that is or has the potential to be a great area to live when people have the freedom to develop positively and in the ways they want.
It is understandable that people in many countries say that they now have the right to catch up to rich people’s living standards which is legitimate. But maybe the path doesn’t have to equal our destructive one. Movements such as Buen Vivir and Ubuntu try to conceive alternatives to the ‘development path’ taking into account other philosophies and opinions of different (also indigenous) people. And there is the possibility to leapfrog in technology use (for example directly using renewable sources for electricity generation).
In ‘developed’ countries, people are not able to survive by themselves because they do not produce anything real, not even their food, but have shifted everything to land that does not belong to them and exploit people in other continents for work they do not want to do. Resilient, prospering regions can be more easily built when they are not pressured by international markets and unjust trade relations.
Each region on this planet has the right to develop towards prosperity and sustainability in its own way but with the help of others if wanted. And that is why everyone who is currently leading a life which would need more than one earth to be sustained, has to act NOW and drastically reduce his or her own footprint. In addition, push companies, governments and all other stakeholders for change, because we need their support for moving towards the vision. They have to set the default options to sustainable ones. However, they won’t do so when we do not demand it and show them our support for such changes.
Not everyone will be happy with everything that is proposed in this blog (specifically, the dream series). The idea is to propose the best life for everyone with the least environmental impact from my limited opinion. It does not mean to please everyone who is not acting accordingly as of now. As stated in the beginning of the series, I am open to adjust my vision and take in other ideas. In order to do so, you just have to share those with me. We just need to start discussing in society in general, how we want to live well in the future.
There is no other liveable planet yet in sight. Space travel requires a lot of energy and materials and produces debris in space, which we cannot get rid of so far. We have to stop producing waste that we cannot take back and focus on conserving rather than exploiting the good.
So where can you get started? There are many things you can do – in your private life, working time or in your active freetime. We have to work together to reduce our own footprints to a fai level and also on moving our society in general. That is why I will present you some activities in several categories next week. As it’s Christmas and most of you probably have holidays then, it can be a good time to start. And who doesn’t make propositions for the new year anyways? Why not start with sustainable ones? But only making propositions is not enough – we also have to enact them.
Do you join the pledge?
Do you want to know how you can contribute to the dream? I created an Excel file with all things that individuals can do to help to achieve a more environmentally-friendly and just society. I gather those in the past year. It is probably not complete, so I am open for comments! Click here to download:
Fill in your pledge and nominate others to do so as well!
The table is currently designed from a European (esp. German) point of view, but can probably be applied to North America, Australia, Japan, Arabic countries and richer communities in all other countries. For people with less income negative impact is usually lower. However, someone local could adapt the tool according to the respective circumstances. If you feel that the tool does not fit to your country, region or situation, feel free to change and/or translate it.
You can use it as follows:
- Determine a monthly day, when you will revise your pledge.
- For each month, pick some items you want to achieve. You can mix from different categories and different degrees of effort/difficulty. You should not pick only small and easy things though! For example, you should not only buy recycled toilet paper, but also reduce your number of flights and intake of meat. Challenge yourself! But do not take on too many changes at once! You should sustain them ideally for the rest of your life and new habits need some time to become a routine.
- Depending on the degree of responsibility/sustainability you are starting from, you can hopefully check all items as “achieved” or “non-applicable” within 1-5 years.
- You can also revise your footprints (e.g. carbon – https://uba.co2-rechner.de/de_DE/, water, plastic, …) and see your improvements over time.
Get started now and contribute to a sustainable planet and wonderful life on earth! Join the pledge, show your progress and motivate others to join!
Why not nominate your brother, uncle and best friend? Feel free to use all online and offline channels you have 🙂 Why not start with some items as new year propositions? Many people are also on holidays these days at the end of the year, so you probably have time to start with some first steps.
I am in – what about you?
For Germans, individual actions are also included in the frehsly published German climate plan (not by the government but by scientists, organized by an NGO): https://germanzero.de/downloads/GermanZero_Klimaplan_191217_ES.pdf
Have a look and join the movement 🙂