22nd April is Earth Day and with the recent incident in Dorset, where 200 barrels of oil leaked into Poole Harbour, the irony is not lost on me that the first Earth Day back in 1970 was inspired by an oil spill that took place in California.
The theme this year is Invest In Our Planet, recognising that to stop the damage to the environment we have to be more pro-active; it’s not enough to just assume someone else will do it or suggest that big polluters – or big polluting countries – have to act before our actions will make a difference.
When you invest, you put in your own stake. You accept that you have something to lose if things do not work out. Many sources, including Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, commentary from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and films by the likes of David Attenborough make it clear that time really is running out for us to prevent the planet warming by 1.5 degrees – which has been noted as the tipping point for ecosystems and for global ice melt.
In our recent What Has The Environment Ever Done For Us (WHTEEDFU) podcast we interviewed Baroness Kate Parminter. She chairs the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee who recently published a report on behaviour change. This discussed the need for political leadership and improved communications to effect community level behaviour change to meet the Net Zero objectives set by Government.
No-one invests to make themselves poorer, and typically when entering a new market individuals and organisations need to feel excited about the potential. I remember when my own family heard about the opportunity to buy shares in Eurotunnel and in Euro Disney – as it was then called – back in the early 90s …not only did they seem like good financial investments, but they both conjured up an optimistic, exciting vision of the future.
Two years ago, Cratus invited Jonathan Smales, the former director of Greenpeace to be our guest on the first environment webinar to talk about Environmental Hedonism. The term stuck with me, and I often repeat it. It is about demonstrating that a future that protects the planet can also be a future full of pleasure.
To encourage people to change their behaviour we need to move away from the dystopian vision about what will happen if we do not act and towards one where the air is clean, nature is abundant, food is plentiful and healthy, and lives are fulfilled.
In fact, it takes me straight back to Disneyland – a hedonistic vision of nostalgia and futurism rolled into one…’the happiest place on earth.’
The all-American street takes you back to simpler times when trams ran down the middle of the road and shopkeepers stood in the doorway of their stores; litter removed as if by magic; the smell of delicious (though rather unhealthy) food wafting through the sparkling clean air; flamingos relaxing on islands ablaze with colourful flowers; captivated children and beaming grandparents enjoying a slower pace of life without cars and lorries cluttering the streets.
Of course, Disneyland is about suspending belief but capturing some of that idealistic lifestyle could be the way to get people to invest and if people are personally invested in this vision of the future, then businesses will want to follow suit.
It’s not a new idea, 150 years ago wealthy industrialists recognised that happy, healthy employees living surrounded by green space would be more productive back with the development of communities like Port Sunlight and this was taken further with the development of Garden Cities in the 1920s – Welwyn Garden City designed to be the ‘perfect town with the benefits of city and countryside life’.
Of course ideas have moved on, and we know that nature isn’t best served by the ‘perfect’ but a 21st century garden village can provide the opportunity to live in harmony with nature, to build a community of the size where people feel they belong and where everything needed for daily life is on hand and where the impact on the environment is minimised.
Which comes back to investing. If we want this future to become a reality, we need to invest in it with our actions – supporting businesses that do the right thing, turning away from those companies who put profit over planet.
The time is now, the need is urgent and although it might seem like a drop in the ocean every action we take as individuals or as companies to invest in a clean, green future helps others to move towards that too.