Our CEO and Managing Director, Phil Vernon, shares his thoughts on the future of our society.
In his sobering book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond explored societies which disintegrated in the face of major challenges. These included Easter Island, which was brought down by deforestation, Rwanda, which was crippled by overpopulation, and Central America, which collapsed due to spiralling population, drought and aggressive neighbours.
In each of these societies, the challenges occurred gradually. However the people were aware of the threat well in advance.
Diamond also describes societies faced with similar challenges that survived and thrived such as 18th century Japan, which averted catastrophic deforestation. Why did some societies survive while others didn’t? The societies that collapsed had one thing in common – they failed to adapt their way of life to neutralise the threats facing them. The Easter Islanders carried on logging their forests to extinction, destroying their source of timber for fishing boats and the habitat for animals that were a food source.
By contrast, Japan used several strategies to end deforestation including limiting harvesting, planting seedlings, using new construction techniques which needed less timber and increasing their reliance on fishing as a source of food. They recognised what was occurring and took action to prevent it.
As consumers, we know the same thing is happening to us now. We have the science. And yet we rationalise or indulge inaction in so many of our day-to-day choices. We vote for politicians who talk as if there is a compromise between economic wellbeing and solving the climate crisis. We buy products from businesses that have questionable supply chains and put profits before the environment and even their customers. And we invest our money in areas which fund the fossil fuel sector and the continued destruction of our planet.
There are so many ways where, with so little effort, we can raise our awareness, make more conscious choices and redirect our purchasing and investing dollars to create a world which we know we want, not one we feel resigned to accept. We hope the stories in this issue provide some food for thought.
So will we adapt or disintegrate? The responsibility sits with all of us.