Professor Jules Pretty OBE, one of the authors of the Royal Society’s recent People and the planet report, spoke with Alex Blackburne about the need for swift global action in three key areas – population, consumption and the planet.
Tucked some way behind the mainstream environmental battle that is climate change are two global challenges that jointly threaten the very existence of the human race.
In combination, a rising population and increased consumption lead to potentially calamitous effects in an increasingly developed world, and form the basis of a recent Royal Society report, People and the planet, which paints a picture of an “unequal and inhospitable future” if the two issues aren’t tackled.
Jules Pretty, professor of environment and society at the University of Essex and a Royal Society member, is one of the 23 authors of the report, which was chaired by Sir John Sulston.
Pretty, who was the recipient of an OBE in 2006 for his services to sustainable agriculture, begins our conversation by outlining the study’s focus.
“If [population and consumption] both go up”, he summarises, “then we’re in real trouble.”
The frightening thing is, both are doing just that. In the 20th century alone, the world’s population quadrupled to six billion, is now up to seven billion, and is expected to reach over nine billion by 2050.
Meanwhile consumption is arguably an even more pressing issue. The consumption of the average American is 32 times that of the average Nigerian.
“What we’ve got is three important variables”, Pretty explains.
“There is population or people, and their numbers and distribution, there is the planet itself, which is a finite resource of natural capital and environmental services that are important to us, and mediated between people and the planet is consumption patterns.
“[The report tries] to link together these three quite often separated narratives.”
The correct conception is to give people choice, and if they have that choice, they will reduce the number of babies they have.
Although it’s a challenge that certainly needs monitoring, population is, in some ways, a red herring when it comes to the environmental and societal issues that threaten the planet or its people.
“Population is heading towards nine billion for sure by the middle part of this century, and will probably carry on growing to ten billion by the end of the century, if our assumptions are correct”, says Pretty.
“97 affluent and rapidly industrialising countries have already got their total fertility rates—the number of children per woman—down, so there are many that have either stabilised or are reducing in population.
“Population is increasing, though, in countries where poverty is at its most endemic, particularly in Africa, where people do not have access to family planning, and female education is at very low rates.”
Indeed, it is in developing areas where population growth is at its most rapid. In Africa alone, there are 250 million people in need of family planning education, meaning an increase in the number of people born is almost inevitable.
Therefore, in its report, the Royal Society stresses the importance of giving people an opportunity to take voluntary action with
regards to controlling their birth rates, because even after one generation, dramatic shifts have been witnessed.
Pretty recalls case studies of Bangladesh and Iran— both of which have seen birth rates rapidly halved from around six children for every woman to around three in recent years.
“There is a good consensus that we’ll stabilise things, and the certain amount of scaremongering amongst those who think there are too many people or certain parts of the population are having too many children—that’s the wrong conception of the problem.
“The correct conception is to give people choice, and if they have that choice, they will reduce the number of babies they have.”
We’ve got to find pathways by which the affluent can change their consumption of material resources in order to have a positive impact upon the planet.
Consumption, or rather, unsustainable consumption of resources witnessed in developed nations, is to some, an issue of unrivalled importance.
In a piece for Yale Environment 360, Fred Pearce wrote, “By almost any measure, a small proportion of the world’s people take the majority of the world’s resources and produce the majority of its pollution”—something that was proven by Blue & Green Tomorrow last month.
We wrote about the Pacific Island nations that were fighting a losing battle with climate change, and included in that story was an infographic showing each world country’s contribution to the carbon emissions total.
The real eye-opening facts emerge when looking at the statistics surrounding the US, which produces as much carbon as the bottom 194 countries combined but has a population equal to the bottom 129.
Pretty adds that in China there are 0.8 cars for every 100 people, but in the US, there are 80 cars for every 100 people, including all the babies, the elderly and the infirm; a fact that is mirrored in resources such as water, food and energy.
“If we were all converging on ways of living that were in some senses sustainable and all having positive impacts on the planet, then we could all retire and put our feet up”, he says.
“Unfortunately, the convergence is on the groups of people or countries that are having a severe impact on the planet. If everybody did the same thing, it just wouldn’t work.
“The old argument that used to be made where we can save the world by wearing a hair shirt won’t work. People won’t buy it.
“We’ve got to find pathways by which the affluent can change their consumption of material resources in order to have a positive impact upon the planet, so, in that sense, peoples’ well-being and contentment could be maintained, but their impact on the planet reduced.”
Because of the weight of evidence, anyone who’s spent a bit of time looking at climate change has to say it is occurring and it is anthropogenic.
The final part of the Royal Society report, Pretty says, focuses on “the evidence for climate change, carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere, methane losses, nitrogen enrichment, ocean acidification, tropospheric ozone pollution, groundwater losses, and soil erosion”, amongst other human-caused issues.
“In the end”, he outlines, “all of those are impacting on economies, and sadly at the moment, we measure damage to planetary resources as a positive thing rather than a bad thing.”
Pretty refers to Gross Domestic Product—the market value of a country derived from all its financial transactions—much of which is sourced from unsustainable industries.
There have been a few somewhat tongue-in-cheek calls for countries to be instead ranked on their Gross National Happiness, which is perhaps a much fairer way to assess a country.
When it comes to climate change, the Royal Society’s stance is unequivocal.
“Underpinning the report is a very strong sense that the weight of scientific evidence for climate change is extremely compelling”, Pretty says.
“Each extra quantum of evidence that comes forward further convinces most people who have looked at the evidence that climate change is a real problem and that it is largely anthropogenically driven.
“There are quirks, uncertainties and contradictions in data as there often are, but none of those on their own dismantle the huge weight of evidence, or the kind of assumptions that go into the models.”
Yet still, there are deniers who, despite the overwhelming evidence for human-caused climate change, are adamant that it’s not a threat to civilisation.
A recent Australian documentary, called I Can Change Your Mind About… Climate, set out to tackle to issue once and for all.
“Because of the weight of evidence”, Pretty concludes, “anyone who’s spent a bit of time looking at it has to say it is occurring and it is anthropogenic.”
Ultimately then, these three variables – population, consumption and the planet – should form the cornerstones of global human development.
The Royal Society report eloquently highlights the trio as major issues, and attempts to influence the affluent to change their ways. But will it work?
“I think we must be optimistic about it”, reflects Pretty, “otherwise it becomes in itself a dismal set of propositions, because one would then be saying that we can’t make the sort of changes that we need to.
“It will require a lot of political will, but also a lot of technological development.
“But people can’t generate that technology themselves as individuals. We do need help with incentives to move things forward.”
America, China, Britain and a good many countries like them need to take stock of their agendas. It is simply not sustainable to continue along our current path.
Pretty concludes: “Put the whole lot together [population, consumption and the planet] and what we’re saying in the report is in a sense there isn’t a thing called business-as-usual – it’s just going to get a whole lot worse unless we act very rapidly.”
But it’s not just down to governments across the world to make a difference. Individuals and communities also have a responsibility to contribute by ensuring that investments support sustainable companies and solutions.
Our recent Guide to Sustainable Investment, which you can download for free, highlights the many ways in which you can give your money a true voice and why there is a compelling financial incentive to do so.
What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?
A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.
When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.
New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.
This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.
Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.
With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.
Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.
The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.
Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.
Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy
Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.
Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.
Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.
How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:
- They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
- They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
- They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
- They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.
Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.
Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use
The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.
Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.
Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers
Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.
Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.
Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy
Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:
- Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
- Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
- Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.
You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.