With every passing year, the inevitability of the climate catastrophe looms closer. There were 25 hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean this year alone, a phenomenon that hasn’t happened in recent history. Think also about the Australian bushfires, or the four million acres of forest that burned in California while it snowed in North Dakota in September. With Covid-19, our favourite restaurants are out of reach and we can’t attend concerts or sporting events. As individuals, it’s important that we realise our part to play in undoing the damage we’ve caused. There’s no planet B.
Before delving into how you can affect change, let’s take a step back and define what sustainability means. Often, we wrongly conflate sustainability with the environment. In actuality, the environment is a component of sustainability, and sustainability is about more than just being more environmentally aware. It involves changing the lens through which we view the world. It involves shifting your perspective from an individual approach – one in which you’re the centre of the universe – to an ecosystem approach.
An ecosystem approach asks that you view your lived experience as a function of four key stakeholders: yourself, people who are dependent on you – this could be family, colleagues, and so on, people whom you depend on, and lastly, the environment in which you live. Sustainability works only when all four stakeholders are in equilibrium.
The biggest challenge in the ecosystem approach is recognising and coming to terms with the fact that we aren’t alone, and that we’re more interconnected than we possibly realise. The entire world is an ecosystem. Today, no government can claim to be entirely self-reliant, and often rely on other nations for various resources. Sustainability involves and impacts everyone.
Let’s say you live in a beautiful apartment, complete with top-notch amenities, but step out the door and the neighbourhood in which you live is in shambles. What will you feel when you live in such a home? What impression will this leave on guests who visit you? When it comes time to sell the house, will you be able to do so? You can’t simply live in your own bubble. When your neighbourhood succeeds, so do you.
A successful ecosystem approach is one that supports and respects all the stakeholders involved. It involves zooming out and looking at the daily decisions we make from the perspective of the ecosystem in which we live. When the ecosystem thrives, the individuals in it thrive, and we become sustainable.
It goes without saying that you’ll have to live by example and make sure your actions align with your point of view. Aim to be an example of how to make decisions with the ecosystem’s best interests at heart. Why not even make ecosystems a part of your daily language? Communicate this idea with people around you to show how deeply reliant we are on each other to survive.
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Dr. Kumar Iyer
Sustainable Strategy Mentor