Sustainable; able to exist over a period of time without causing damage.
Sustainable. The word is over our door, it’s in our DNA as a business, it’s a fundamental part of what we believe as people. It applies to the way we as humans treat our planet. The way we suck resources from the earth as if there is never a price to be paid. The way we consume as a hobby, buying to pass the time. The way we struggle to think beyond ourselves and our brief time as custodians of the miracle that is a habitable, fragile, planet. It’s there in our plastic use, our food waste, our thoughtless use of water. It’s there when ice caps melt, seas warm, corals bleach, coasts disappear.
But it is more than that. Sustainability is also about how we treat each other. How we function as a society. Sustainability is about the way we live our lives, every interaction big or small. A sustainable planet cannot exist without fairness, equality, justice, respect. Social sustainability is as much a challenge for twenty-first century societies as the environmental type is.
All of which drags us from our sheltering pod hiatus and out into a world where genuine, wide ranging sustainability seems further away than ever. It brings us to George Floyd.
We’ve thought long and hard before writing this Pod but ultimately, for a business or an individual, there comes a point where to stay silent is to be complicit. We as a business exist because we want to change the world we all live in. It seems a dereliction of duty to sit silent at a moment like this.
Let’s start with the basics. The person writing this blog is a white male. That means they won life’s lottery. To be born white and male in a western democracy is to be granted a life time of privilege compared to others. And that is, of itself, plain wrong. Your life chances, your opportunities, your freedom, your health, should not be dictated or shaped by the lottery of parentage. Far too often, they are. Those of us fortunate enough to have won this particular roulette should be both aware, and vocal in acknowledging, our privilege.
For those of us who believe in the idea of a sustainable future we should be offended by that fact. No, we should be enraged. There cannot be a sustainable planet until racism, alongside all other forms of discrimination, are eliminated. There is no point building a world free of fossil fuel use and single use plastics if huge swathes of the population remain disadvantaged by the colour of their skin. Changes to the way we treat our planet must go hand in hand with changes to the way we treat each other. I Can't Breathe is the same as We Can't Breathe
The starting point for all change is to recognise, honestly where we are. Can I, a white male, understand the challenge of being born black in a society riddled with systemic racism? Of course not. But I can empathise, I can educate myself and I can be an ally in their fight. I can understand that fighting for equality is not the same as all communities facing equal challenges. In the same way one person cannot change the planet, but each of us can educate ourselves, change the actions within our control and seek to influence those around us. If we can be passionate about saving the planet, we damn well should be passionate about saving the lives of our fellow humans.
Racism, like all other forms of discrimination, seeks to divide us. Racists seek to define a Them and Us. There is no them. There is only us. All of us, crowded onto this tiny blue and green miracle of a planet together. We are born the same way, when cut we bleed the same way, when hurt we cry the same way. In the end, we fall to the ground and die the same way. Racism is the very opposite of a sustainable society. The longer it exists the more it damages all of us. Physically and morally.
Events of the last few months have shone a harsh spotlight on the world we have created. Coronavirus has ravaged those most vulnerable in our societies whilst expecting the lowest paid to shoulder the highest burden. Racism has reared its head, flames of anger fanned by those who seek only to appeal to our basest instincts. We have found ourselves isolated, confused, scared in ways most of us have never experienced. All the while our planet continues to suffer the ill effects of man-kinds desire to reap the benefits of globalised capitalism whilst never quite getting round to paying the tab.
This does not have to be our future.
All of these challenges, disease, racism, planetary degradation, are interlinked and the way we respond to them is a choice. Our choice. Our societies are a mirror on ourselves. We have the power of protest , the power of voting and the power of our money. We can build a world where no damage is done to those who are vulnerable in the face of the most powerful, be they human or animal. To cherry pick between the issues facing us and only seek to resolve the one that touches closest upon our individual lives is a mistake and in the current circumstances, indefensible. We must understand that we can fight for the rights of others without needing to view ourselves as a victim of the same forces.
There is only us and our one planet. Equality for all, planet and person, starts within each of us and the voice we chose to use. This blog is our voice and we will not be silent or complicit. We refuse to be divided, scared into submission or silent. We refuse to accept eight minutes of a boot to the throat.
There is no Them. There is only Us.