Many individuals are doing what they can, but real success can only come if there is a change in our societies and in our economics and in our politics.
I’m not in the habit of taking a negative stance but the latest Living Planet report from WWF, in collaboration with ZSL and the Global Footprint Network, tells us that the decline in vertebrate species including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, will reach 67% by 2020. That’s a measure since 1970, just 50 years. The figure was 58% in 2012.
Let’s put that into context.
It’s 2016, so at first I thought that’s four years time. Then I realised it’s late October already, time flies! So in reality, it’s three years.
If you started a full time degree programme this September to study sustainability because you care about elephants, and polar bears, by the time you graduate this depressing milestone will already have become fact.
There are positives, with the launch last year of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, being adopted by many organisations to drive change and with the Paris Agreement the first global agreement to tackle climate change. But without our actions they are just words.
Our key organisations need to keep building what they are doing. It is not enough to just react to legislation. It’s not enough just to run a programme to tell your staff to switch off lights, though that is an important part. What is needed is major shifts in our thinking. Deep level systemic change which we can all contribute to from where we are.
Every single day we make decisions that have an impact. From whether we accept a disposable non-recyclable cup for our morning coffee right up to whether we will launch a product that we know causes harm. Each of us, at whatever level we are working can make a difference.
We have a wealth of tools available to us, new models such as circular economy, biomimicry, sharing models and mechanisms to find finance for big ideas. There are thousands of case studies, pilot projects and experimental programmes to learn from. The scary part is moving away from what we’ve been used to and testing alternatives fully in our own lives.
I was born in 1970, the baseline year for this measure. In my lifetime we have lost the majority of our greatest resource, our biodiversity. This is the system that sustains us, provides the air we breathe, the food we eat, the very earth we live upon. We are nothing but another species in the web of life and nature controls our existence even as we find technologies to overcome its challenges to us. Our human natural selection factors are becoming less about survival limits around toxicity, heat, salinity, food availability… they are more about economic factors which drive our ability as a species to buy what we need.
We face the most simple choice as a society. Will we continue to live life the way we do at any cost, both financially and to the planet, or will we say ‘enough’. Are we capable of making the decision to do business and society differently?
I say we are more than capable but it means having the courage to change. That is why Catalicity exists. I grew up reading about threatened wildlife and back then it seemed a world away from my council flat. I watched David Attenborough in awe of all the things he showed us. Now we are seeing weather events that are clearly being attributed to climate change and the pace of decline in our natural environment is accelerating.
I wish I could say I’m ‘proud’ that I’m working in this field but that would be the wrong word as it shouldn’t be needed. Instead, I will say that I’m passionate about enabling change, I’m dedicated to it and what does make me proud is seeing the change in people as they make the transition to their new ways of working. The more I achieve that, the greater the ripple effect of the changes taking place so if you feel the urge to do something different let’s discuss it, I’m listening.
Sustainability and resilience will be achieved much faster if the majority of the Earth’s population understand the value and needs of our increasingly fragile Earth.
WWF Living Planet Report 2016
Sandra Norval is the Managing Director of Catalicity and believes that it’s the people and teams that make the culture of an organisation and their potential is often not fully enabled. Systemic change from the heart can make all the difference in adjusting mindsets and Sandra always gets to the heart first. Follow @Catalicity on Twitter, drop Sandra an email here or sign up to our mailing list.