Thursday 25 April 2019

Sustainable newspeak

They say that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Actually, the quote is attributed to Alec Issigonis one of the great all-in-one-head designers of the 20thC - he created the Morris Mini just in time for it to be the iconic car of the Carnaby Street generation in the 60s.  I was a bit reluctant to fully embrace the EnvSciCnf which The Institute hosted at the beginning of Easter Week - not my gig; won't know anyone; I gave already - but eventually the free lunches and a certain restless curiosity overcame me and I found myself having fun and learning a bit, too.  The theme was Climate Change and some of the talks tried a nod in that direction. Talking to another (and far more competent) silverback we agreed that Climate Change was The Problem for our time. He made the point that cheap oil (to run diggers and drills and mills) had ensured the consumption / destruction of reserves of all the other minerals - tin -- teak -- copper -- !water! -- chromium -- aluminium -- gold - too often in the process of making the metals available catastrophic environmental accidents have occurred. My slightly tangential response was "what are we like? how is that, on a finite planet, the key economic metric is growth?". I asked him if he'd read Richard Douthwaite's The Growth Illusion (1992 publ blurb). He confessed that he'd bought a copy when it came out but only skimmed it looking at the graphs. That was exactly my experience, so we agreed that the main virtue of the book was its title. If you are much younger than me - and almost all the Blob readers are - you may not have heard of the book. That's okay; the subtitle says all you need to take on board: How Economic Growth has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many, and Endangered the Planet.

The key-note speaker at the EnvSciCnf cited, with approval the Sustainable Development Goals SDG 2030 dreamt up by a UN committee and released to a confused world in 2015:
"The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030". It's too bloody complicated, ye daft buggers! You can't get behind something you can't get your mouth around. Like Bill Laio's tree-planting venture We Forest which has the mission statement Making Earth Cooler. How cool is that? I could sign up to that as I park all the mixed messages that alienate fellow-travellers from really embracing SDG 2030.
1 Poverty No Poverty
2 Hunger Zero Hunger
3 Health Good Health and Well-being
4 Education Quality Education
5 Gender Gender Equality
6 Water Clean Water and Sanitation
7 Energy Affordable and Clean Energy
8 Work Decent Work and Economic Growth
9 Innovation Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10 Inequality Reduced Inequality
11 Cities Sustainable Cities and Communities
12 Consumers Responsible Consumption and Production
13 Climate Climate Action
14 Oceans Life Below Water
15 Forests Life on Land
16 Justice Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
17 Partners Partnerships to achieve the Goal
There are couple of obviously annoying inconsistencies in here. 5 = equality but 10 = inequality. 17 shouldn't be given parity of esteem with the other items because partnerships are required for all the other goals but isn't really a goal in itself. But, obviously given my Douthwaite rant above, my ire is particularly intense for 8 = Work and Economic Growth. Aaarghh not the goddamned growth, that's what has fucked the planet to give us all hula-hoops and pop-tarts while removing passenger pigeons, quaggas, Tamanian wolves, and Steller's sea cow.  I'm trying to think of a mnemonic to help me nail all the goals, but not too hard because the list is so poorly constructed that it won't go anywhere or, more importantly bring anyone there.

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