2015 is already shaping up to be a spectator sport on many fronts, I feel. The prospect of a general election hangs heavy in the air, with no real optimism that a new government – in whatever shape or form – will change things for the better. We have the doomsday scenario of an EU referendum waiting in the wings, spiralling oil prices, and a general fuzziness about what sustainability really means.
I often wonder about my place and role within the latter, given the rise of corporate social responsibility over the years. The advent of the inclusive business model is now here – brands helping us to ‘live better’, helping us to define our values and our sense of purpose in the world. It’s hard to know what type of butterfly effect is associated with purchasing a product these days. Does one individual make a difference?
I’m reminded of a joke I heard recently: How many sustainability experts does it take to change a lightbulb? One. But the lightbulb must want to change.
The system so often defeats us. Much of the challenge around the circular economy comes full circle back to this one point – that the global change we so hunger for requires synchronicity. And that we are so capable of organising ourselves, it takes a simple decision, yet we don’t have the mechanisms in place to drive that confidence, that decision-making, at scale. Social media is about the closest enabler we have right now.
I am no historian, but I am an observer. I have been writing about environmental issues for ten years – within mainly a specialist field, but a field that still requires you to absorb trends and signals on a much wider level. I see the amount of research pumped out that is so conflicting, reports even weeks apart, reaching opposing conclusions on the same topic. I know data can be fudged, especially if there is a vested interest behind it, but even so. How as a journalist or story teller are you supposed to make sense of it?
I think it is exceptionally hard to gauge what people are thinking, really, deep down. Market research is a fickle beast. We often end up surprising ourselves on a daily basis because our whims and thoughts are so changeable. I’ve often thought of myself as a walking contradiction and I’m sure others out there think the same.
I guess because there are no easy answers to solving sustainability, because – as one environmental expert I spoke to recently put it, “the further you go, the less you know” – it becomes a lifelong journey. An evergreen fascination. Even those working at the forefront of the circular economy admit there is no such thing as a truly 100% circular model. It exists only on paper.
The beauty is though, that you start on this path of good intention and you end up with a deeper meaning of what it is to question, to re-examine, to deconstruct and to hopefully build something a little better. It’s about finding a truth and acting on it to make a difference – and perhaps the degree to which doesn’t matter. Should I care about my butterfly effect, or just my immediate wingspan? It’s a question I will no doubt keep at the forefront of my mind over the next 12 months.