Facing our globe’s future together

This part discusses cases of hope from despair to action to represent the global environment for the benefit of all humankind. Now, there are many examples where communities have replaced the short-term impulse with the long-term plan.
Dr. Peter Butera Bazimya
Dr. Peter Butera Bazimya

This part discusses cases of hope from despair to action to represent the global environment for the benefit of all humankind.

Now, there are many examples where communities have replaced the short-term impulse with the long-term plan.

But part of that strategy ---- in my opinion at least ---- is the need for a new public and private-sector partnership which includes NGOs. and community participation.

To work effectively this will require governments to provide policies which support community participation.

That way we might achieve the long‑term economic returns that are commensurate with the behavioural changes we need in order to attain sustainable levels of development.

It seems to me that for this to work we need to ensure that community and environmental capital is indeed put alongside the requirements of financial capital and that we also develop transparent means to measure the social and environmental impact of our actions.

We certainly need to refine our ability to measure what we do so that we become more aware of our responsibility.

This has been the impulse behind the concept of Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility which I have been trying to encourage for the few years and which is now substantially integrated into many economic sectors.

It also validates the need for accounting for sustainability ------ a method with which businesses can take account of the cost to the earth of their products and services and which I initiated some four years ago during my research work.

It is encouraging that this approach is being tested by a range of companies, government departments and agencies and I hope that it can be adopted more generally so that well-being and sustainability can be measured, rather than mere growth in consumption.

We also need, dare I say it, new forms of international collaboration to value ecosystem services.

In this regard I have been heartened by the progress of the Rainforests Project, which has sought to build a consensus around the need to provide massive interim financing to help slow the rate of tropical deforestation.

The basic premise of this project has been that the world must recognize the absolutely vital utility that the rainforests provide by generating a real income for rainforest countries---- where, incidentally, some 1.4 billion of the poorest people on earth rely in some ways on the rainforests for their livelihoods ------ an income which can be used to finance an integrated, low-carbon development model.

Paradoxically, the answer to deforestation lies not solely or even mainly in the forestry sector, but rather in the agricultural and energy sectors.

And we must also recognize that rainforest countries are responding rationally to the demands we create ---- the economic price signal that we send out in our seemingly ever‑increasing demand for agricultural commodities like coffee, tea, sugar cane, tobacco, soya, palm oil and beef. But by dint of working with governments, NGOs, leading companies and local communities, it does appear that a solution could be in sight.

It is also heartening to see that it is increasingly possible to enhance efficiency and economic rates of return by linking different sectors together in what are called virtuous circles.

You can see this in the relationship between the waste, energy and water sectors where the waste product of one process becomes the raw material of another, thereby mimicking nature’s cyclical process of waste-free recycling.

The trouble is, at the moment, so many of these brilliant ideas sit on the fringes of our economy.

They are seen as alternatives when they need to become mainstream.

But for that to happen and for them to be effective, this will require a system of long-term consistent and coherent financial incentives and disincentives, otherwise how else will we achieve the urgent response we need to rectify the situation we face?

Now, another example of an alternative that needs to become mainstream, and which would enhance community and environmental capital, lies in the way we plan, design and build our settlements.

I have written long and hard about this for what seems rather a long time ---- and look at what it has done-------not much! ----- but it is yet another case where a rediscovery of so-called old‑fashioned, traditional virtues can lead to the development of sustainable urbanism.

This approach emphasizes the integration of mixed-use buildings and the use of local materials to create local identity which, when combined with cutting-edge developments in building technology, can enhance a sense of place and real community.

As it happens, we need every effort for the built environment in suggesting a new model for green building that is built on site and easily adapted for volume building.

Its design should have a contemporary, yet timeless feel even though it is based on the time-honoured, geometric principles of balance and harmony.

And it should use, instead of bricks, new, inter-locking, clay blocks which are low-fired, and therefore low carbon, much quicker to lay and molded in such a way that they not only breathe, but also have an astonishing capacity to insulate.

In a similar vein, the emerging discipline of biomimicry puts what zoologists and biologists know about natural systems together with the problems engineers and architects are trying to solve, in order to produce technology that mimics how nature operates.

There are some remarkable examples ---- by studying the surface of lotus leaves, an exterior paint has been developed that enables walls to clean themselves when it rains; and from a tiny desert beetle comes a sheet that can harvest moisture from the lightest of mists in the driest parts of the world.

They all blend the best of the old with the best of the new to produce highly efficient technology that works with the grain of nature rather than against it.

Indeed, our need for these solutions is going to grow exponentially as our global population rises and our ecological and economic crises deepen.

Is this not a rationale for investing massively in these new and more integrated approaches which, thereby, could help to create the kind of virtuous circles based on environmental and community capital mentioned earlier in the article?

Such an investment would also; have the added benefit of creating many new jobs. But are we prepared to take such a step?

As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out, The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.

Therefore it is not so much a matter of capacity, but of deciding to do something. However, the starting point is to see things differently from the current dominant world view, which in so many ways is no longer relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves.

The worst course would be to continue with business as usual as this will only compound the problem. We must see that we are part of the natural order rather than isolated from it; to see that nature is, in fact, a profoundly beautiful world of complexity that operates according to an organic grammar of harmony and which is infused with an awareness of its own being, making it anchored by consciousness.

It is an interconnected, interdependent function of creation with harmony existing among all things.

We are, as I said at the beginning, at an historic moment--- because we face a future where there is a real prospect that if we fail the earth, we fail humanity.

To avoid such an outcome, which will comprehensively destroy our children’s future, we must urgently confront and then make choices which carry monumental implications. In this, we are the masters of our fate.

On the one hand, we have every good reason to believe that carrying on as we are will lead to a depleted and divided planet incapable of meeting the needs of its nine billion citizens, let alone sustaining its other life forms.

On the other hand, we can adopt the technologies, lifestyles and crucially, a much more integrated way of thinking and perceiving the world that can transform our relationship with the earth that sustains us.

The choice is certainly clear to me, and it should be to you if you are.

The author is a Development Policy analyst

Email: bbazimya@yahoo.co.uk