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Sustainability Sunday

Written By: - Date published: 2:47 pm, December 4th, 2022 - 6 comments
Categories: climate change, poverty, sustainability - Tags: , , , , , ,

Quick post with a few ideas that popped up this morning.

This enhances life,

No idea if Pete Seeger did in fact say that (and this is an edited version), but the gist is that not only could we be using a circular economy (transition without having to completely dismantle capitalism), where the relationship between resource use, pollution/waste, and consumption are visible and intentionally designed to focus on renewable resources and processes where the waste can be integrated and used rather than dumped, but we should be doing this as a priority.

It ties in strongly with climate action, biodiversity restoration, and socioeconomic problems. It’s the way out of our current cul de sac. The great thing about it is that it uses all the useful bits of our technological advances and creative monkey brains. Degrowth doesn’t mean reverting back to some imagined pre-industrial life. It means moving into a new way of organising that centres sustainability.

An illustration showing the difference between the take, make waste linear economy approach, and the circular economy approach

An illustration showing the difference between the take, make waste linear economy approach, and the circular economy approach

 

The problems aren’t technical, we have that capacity coming out our ears. They’re political and social, and the biggest challenge there is the barriers to imagining new ways, how they could work, and how we get there from here.

Fortunately, lots of people have been working in this very thing, sometimes for decades. We don’t have invent a sustainability wheel, it’s already been done.

For instance, the Transition Movement arose in the early 2000s from Permaculture, a design system that was formalised in the late 80s. People in both movements have been working all this time on how society can function within the limits of the material world in ways that enhance human lives.

This 12 minute read, Eat, grow, share: Communities building food resilience from Transition Together in the UK looks at a range of initiatives arising from the pandemic and cost of living crisis and building on the many ways in which communities already function.

This isn’t a “cost of living” crisis; it’s a cost of inequality crisis. It’s a cost of fossil fuel dependency crisis, with its knock on effects on transportation and resources for farm production. It’s a lack of food resilience crisis, in a country where food deserts already existed in low income communities and neighbourhoods. The pandemic, economic instability, war and global trade disruption are showing us all just how vulnerable the essential systems that we rely on really are. But in many places, communities are working towards reinventing local food systems, to ensure everyone can access fresh, healthy, quality food.

Lots of goodies in that post, showing the interconnected nature of our problems, and how the solutions are likewise centred in the relationships between all the things.

Community fridges give open access to food to everyone, create dialogue about food poverty, and open doors to other projects like growing food or cooking clubs.

Slow cookers as a response to the drastic increase in the cost of electricity and gas provides immediate relief to low income people, and is packaged with cookbook, ingredients and access to social connection where people can swap ideas.

So many other good initiatives in that piece that demonstrate that sustainability and community resiliency are intertwined. The sheer numbers of people involved now is heartening at a time when we are inundated with news of what is going wrong and how bad things are. We’ve never had so much choice in what we can do to effect good change.

We know the problems, now is the time to put our attention to the solutions,  what is already working. and then get on with it.

6 comments on “Sustainability Sunday ”

  1. Add fast fashion.

    Add cost of clothing one's family in clothes that are biodegradable, capable of being mended.

    I work with 'waste' textiles. I work with others finding and reusing/repurposing textiles mainly from Op shops but latterly I have been part of a team that has gone to social housing communities to encourage recycling as opposed to landfill. (In the last one of 97 housing units 800 kg of items were able to be either recycled or repurposed and we have just scratched the surface)

    As a general comment the stuff that is not recyclable is the poly stuff mainly cheap from The Warehouse and other places. When I first started doing this about 10 years ago I went to a Op shop to retrieve:

    a) curtains that are suitable for reusing in Curtain banks etc

    b) cotton, linens suitable for using by groups who make quilts for charities such as Women's Refuge, The Nest, City Mission and DCM (in Wellington)

    In a room I found 8 still opened but tamped down wool bales filled with 'stuff'.

    Going through one bale I found less than station wagon load of cotton etc & curtains. The rest was matted, pilled and 'had it' looking synthetic clothes. These can go to places to have buttons and zips removed but basically it is stodge staying in our landfill for ever.

    The thing is that it is cheap for families who have not much money to buy.

    Cotton processing uses huge amounts of water in its manufacture and we want it to be reused and reused. It can be.

    This charity had this room full of bales, they did not want to send it to the tip, as it cost untold and the people I was dealing with knew about the good stuff there.

    We have curtain manufacturers who would gladly give their scraps away for resale/reuse. Again the quantities are mind boggling.

    We come slap bang up against the fact that many/most of these places are being run with volunteers and mainly older people and mainly women volunteers.

    Building resilience is key and being open to recycling clothes through families/neighbours is part of that. This cannot be done with most of the synthetic stuff. It is single use only.

    Ragging machine operators used to work with underlay manufacturers but these manufacturers now prefer to use wholly new processed materials.

    We need the equivalent of the plastic fenceposts that are made from soft plastics or the ground glass used as road surfaces to happen to textiles.

    Or

    we need to ensure that our people have funds to buy better quality recyclable clothing.

    This is the same argument that would put better quality food (no more white death bread) into our children's tummies.

  2. Pleasing to see well made 1970's furniture is popular with the young who are apparently voting for lasting things by buying it on Trademe. Good for them.

    • Hunter Thompson II 2.1

      Trade Me is a good recycling system. I have used it on several occasions.

      I agree it is easy to think the future is bleak because of the many bad environmental events occurring, so news about successful green initiatives brings some balance.

      Recently on Youtube I watched a DW tv programme about humus farming in Germany. Apparently this greatly improves soils and gives good crop yields without needing lots of artificial fertiliser.

      • Shanreagh 2.1.1

        Trade Me is good and also Freecycle. Also giving good stuff to op shops…not matted old poly clothing.

        I also use old cotton sheets, cotton products as a natural weedmat. Cotton pieces can be burnt as a fire starter, I put mine in a paper bag, in the fire. People are often looking for cotton T shirts to cut down to make woven articles. bath mats etc.

        Little Yellow Bird has a circular cotton recycle method and will also send cotton, that is not part of their manufacturing process to be remilled.

        https://littleyellowbird.com/

  3. gsays 3

    Hey there weka, great post, keep it up.

    Without wanting to be a Derek Downer.. it provides a great illustration of what we are up against. Folk will expend plenty of time, effort and energy on a post that encourages putting the boot into Luxon and the nats. Or thrash themselves into a lather over some war porn. Given the opportunity to influence, question and build their future… crickets.

    Whenever we spend a dollar, we make a political decision. Unfortunately convenience and that renowned kiwi mean-fistedness has too much sway. We can ignore the diesel miles embedded in food and other products or buy the pork that is way cheaper while ignoring animal farming standards that local producers have to adhere to.

    Shifting, as much as possible, to a less energy/carbon dense footprint is the way forward, a'la Transition Towns. Incidentally, this approach helps to build community, another source of strength that has diminished since Labour's 'reforms' of the '80's.

    • weka 3.1

      I love how the good things for say climate are also the good things for community and recovering from neoliberalism.

      I've been thinking a bit lately about why people give more attention to Luxon than climate, or why people are focussed on what's wrong but won't put energy into solutions. Part of it is NZ's political culture, which is very adversarial. Part of it is TS, which has a particular debate culture. Nothing to stop people applying that to transition though, transition would benefit from that. So maybe it's also that people don't want to think about it because it's too hard. Which is ironic because posts like this are about making it easier.

      Hey ho. Thanks for the encouragement, it does make a difference.

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