Feature written by Sara Rickards, Biomedical Scientist & Environmental Engineer.
I’ve spent the past few years working in higher education, trying to redesign degrees. I do this so that no matter what students choose to be when they grow up, they are equipped with the essential skills to sneakily infiltrate the system, like a sustainability ninja.
Check out my TEDx talk to hear my thoughts on what a sustainable future looks like.
But, it’s only in the past few weeks that this smashed me in the face:
It’s no longer about what you want to be - It's about who you want to be.
Touché’ a cliché’ I hear you say. Yet once we start to scratch beneath the surface a heap of murky proverbial shit starts to become crystal clear.
So, bear with me.
Were you asked as a child what you want to be when you grow up? Most likely.
I feel like we are preconditioned from a young age to believe that this holds our value. And you know what? I think this is actually the wrong question to be asking.
We need to start asking people who they want to be.
To create the greatest impact, we need to focus on the quality of questions we ask from the get go.
My “what”, a detail-driven engineer, has spent a tonne of time calculating eco-footprints.
Ecological footprinting in the simplest terms - measures how much we have, how much we use and who uses what.
The eco-footprint was co-created by these savvy dudes Mathis Wackernagel & William Rees back in 1994 at the University of British Columbia. The methodology essentially tells us that since the 1980’s we have been consuming way more than what Earth can regenerate. Year on year.
So wait a minute, for millions of years we’ve been doing “sustainable”, but since The Hoff brought down the wall, we’ve been bringing down the planet?
At present, we consume 1.6 planets per year.
Not only 1, but 1.6! WHAT THE SHIT? That’s 60% more than the earth can regenerate.
Can you imagine how stressed out you would be if you were spending $160K per annum on your credit card, while earning $100k? Not just once, but year after year.
DISCLAIMER** This methodology isn’t perfect – it doesn’t take into account a number of things such as wellbeing, non-renewable resources and other greenhouse gases (it only includes carbon dioxide). But you know what? It’s likely that we are under estimating how much we are exploiting our planet. So let’s just put the ego aside and acknowledge models are never perfect. Instead, lets use this for what it is - A snap shot of what shitheads we are.
So the 1.6 planets I mentioned before, that’s based on the entire worlds population.
If you’re an average Australian and everyone on the planet lived like you, we would be consuming 4.8 planets per annum – Go Straya!
Check out other countries below:
Crazily enough, the thing I've just realised is that the One Planet targets aren’t even the right targets! If we have been living beyond the planets means for decades, we need to take this to the next level and start paying back our debt. Like, right now.
More Clarity? Check out this mad dog Bill Reed who beautifully shows us the way:
Right now we are hanging out in the red degenerating zone. We have global agreements like COP21 trying to decarbonise our economy and aiming to push us closer to the “sustainable” zone. But you know what? "Sustainable" isn’t actually good enough.
We need to take this to the next level – Which brings me back to my cliché epiphany, about it no longer being about what you want to be – but who you want to be.
So I asked myself, Who do I want to be?
And that’s when I knew
I want to be a Fuckgiver – not a piss-taker.
As a Fuckgiver my focus has shifted from sustainable to regenerative, because it has become critical for us to pay back our debt to this planet, for the sake of ourselves and future generations.
Business is starting to agree.
In the past few years, a shift in the market has unfolded. CEO’s now increasingly rank sustainability as their top 3 strategic priorities. A recent international survey has also just revealed that 84% of students would choose to work for a company with good environmental practices, and to ice the cake 44% of recent graduates are even willing to make less money to contribute to the planet!
Once I started to connect all the dots – I realised we are truly evolving and our purpose is shifting.
We just needed to reframe the question, in order to see that it’s no longer about sustainability - it’s about being a Fuckgiver, and evolving as a species for the sake of our own flourishing.
Walh’s book, currently in print, Designing Regenerative Cultures holds the key to an understanding of how we can not only survive, but also thrive on this planet. Also, if you haven’t already, you should check out Vox Populi’s Thrivability Bible, which is also a huge step up in this space.
So, I casually had a melt down on Manly Beach yesterday… You know the kind where you can’t see through your tears and suddenly drown in liquid snot?
Just when I thought I was all over it and finally asking the right questions, Daniel Walh threw a spanner in the works and made me realise we need to go further upstream and ask ourselves why we are worth sustaining?
Albert Einstein supposedly said:
"If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask. For once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes."
I think if we all took some time out to ask ourselves:
Why should we give a fuck?
We would wake up and realise that our purpose is so much greater than our bank account, our job, our house or the number of "followers" we have.
This planet and our species is an evolutionary masterpiece. We are totally capable of creating the regenerative (re)evolution. In fact, it's happening. VOX POPULI is an example, with Fuckgivers uniting for the sake of thrivability.
Through disruptive design and bad-ass innovation, the future can be salvaged. Join me now and let’s get #Fuckgiving
Sustainability Ninja and Fuckgiver, is both a Biomedical Scientist & Environmental Engineer.
She is the Education For Sustainability Manager at Macquarie University, Co-host for the Un-school of Disruptive Design and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education.