Eco Worriers Christmas Special
The Eco Worriers Christmas Special was made five years ago and it’s interesting to note how it references things that were very contemporary at the time but which rarely get mentioned today – peak oil is the most prominent of these. Is peak oil still a relevant concern? What is the latest science on this? Similarly, how are we doing on ethical trading? Do we still give goats and acres of rainforest or have things become more subtle?
I think the point is that while we may think of sustainability as a philosophy embedded in sound empirical science, it is a part of human expression and as such will morph according to fluctuations in other life elements: it has its fashions and its eras. The fundamental concept does not change – there will be a day when we run out of oil, we do need to consume less, sharing and recycling is better than gobbling up primary, finite resources – but what does change is the focus of the rhetoric.
Five years ago there was far more emphasis on the role of the individual consumer but now the emphasis seems to have shifted more to the role of the corporation and in Wales – the organisation – as the Well-being of Future Generations Act moves closer to becoming a daily reality for 44 public bodies.
With Christmas adverts seeming to start the day after Halloween this year, there seems little evidence that the corporations who try so hard to produce convincing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability reports want us to consume any less. I was heartened however by news that across the UK, the wind whistled through empty shops that had opened for Black Friday madness – had the British consumer seen sense and stayed away? Apparently not – they had just done their shopping online.
So have we transferred the responsibility of sustainable development from the consumer to the corporation? In 2011 I went to a seminar in London organised by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development that sought to identify the characteristics of ‘sustainable consumption’. We were told by a senior executive of Pepsi Co that we were not there to question ‘consumption’ which was the basis of the capitalist system but to identify how we could go on consuming but in a sustainable way. It’s not as dumb a question as it first seems but we are still a long way from finding the answer.
In 2015 I think that poor old Stinky Stevens is still in a significant and committed minority and that Boyd Saint (what a ridiculous name for that character) will still be cynical and uncaring where his Christmas gifts come from as long as they are shiny and impress the receiver.