More change, please!
MUNDU held a meeting about the SDG Target 4.7 and sustainable consumption in September and our intern Elena has written her reflections from the meeting.
By Elena Camelia Mitru
I had the chance to participate at a Bridge 47 meeting in Copenhagen as part of my internship under MUNDU. The themes discussed included: how to create a more sustainable society, mapping of activities related to sub-target 4.7 in Denmark and how individuals and institutions can create change.
Thomas Kamp Damgård, a researcher for MUNDU, started his presentation by stating that the new SDGs have brought an increasing attention towards Global Citizenship Education (GCE). The action in educational institutions is being driven by students like me, who actively demand it, and teachers who take up global education of their own accord.
However, many are confused on how to involve SDGs in other areas besides the climate crisis. There is still room for improvement as Danish teachers need to be more involved in the development of the SDGs, and new strategies on how the teachers can bring in new information are needed.
Moreover, there is always the risk of “greenwashing”, meaning that municipalities and local governments claim they support the SDGs, but do not propose any plan for action. However, several Danish municipalities have started their own initiatives, which create the opportunity for citizens to have direct influence over the process. In spite of this, more political involvement and action is needed. Simultaneously, consulting firms and companies need to be better informed about the role of the Global Goals for businesses.
Overall, there are valuable measures which are being taken at the local level. A great interest about the SDGs can be identified, although there is a lack of knowledge and guidance. State leadership and initiative are also lacking. In the future, we can expect the drivers behind sustainability to be made up of students, citizens and consumers.
As a student of International Studies, I found Kate Power’s presentation on “Scaling behaviour change for sustainable societies” to be really valuable. We now stand at a unique point in the history of our planet, one where we must all share responsibility both for our present wellbeing and for the future of life on Earth.
For this to happen, we need rapid, drastic and systemic changes in all aspects of society. The demand for energy needs to be reduced; the carbon footprint needs to go down to 1 ton per capita by 2050. Kate highlighted that we live in a “consumptogenic” society. In other words, our ways of life are negatively pushing us towards high levels of consumption.
She suggested that we should focus on activities which bring us happiness and have a very low percentage of energy intensity, such as sex, socializing, relaxing, meditating, instead on continuing to promote lifestyles which are unsustainable.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that policy change and systemic change are not the same. Looking at the total emissions of CO2 for the period 1850-2030 (see the article by Wolfgang Knorr), it can be seen that they have continued to grow, despite several policy changes which have been made throughout history. As a result, the system needs to change and halt its focus on economic growth which leads to higher levels of consumption. Instead, it should aim towards sustainability in order to preserve the long-term viability of the people, the planet and profit.
The greatest challenge of modern society is that while today people are enjoying the comforts of economic development, the future generations are most likely to be confronted with scarce natural resources and a polluted environment. Our main responsibility should be to leave the planet as a self-sustainable system which provides equal opportunities of survival not only for our future generations, but also for all other species co-habiting with us.
To sum up, we have realized that change starts with each of us, and we can all contribute to the bigger picture by firstly taking small, doable baby-steps in our personal homes and lives. Individual change is important as it can have a domino effect, leading to shifting behaviors at the normative level.