I attended a public screening of the excellent film Age of Stupid last night. Between the film and the discussion that followed, two things really struck me.
1) The impact of globalisation
2) Our sense of "entitlement" in the developed world coupled with the aspirations of those in developing nations.
In the film, the Nigerian woman living in the polluted Niger delta, dealing daily with the consequences of our unquenchable thirst for oil and Shell's unquenchable thirst for profit, wanted to live in an American house like an American. The Indian low-cost airline entrepreneur was inspired by EasyJet. Our culture, which rides on the back of multinational corporations like Shell and McDonalds, is exported around the globe as "the good life," to the point that impoverished women all over the world buy manufactured baby milk – despite the fact that they cannot afford it – because it is more “civilised” than breast-feeding. Views of the world which differ from the current western norm are deemed “primitive,” "unrealistic" or "radical" and are marginalised or demonised. People who live in self-build houses made from natural materials in the developing nations are objects of appalled pity and often even scorn: those who live in similar houses by choice in the developed world are generally regarded as certifiable extremists.
We in the developed world are living at an unsustainable level. Our consumption of resources is vast and we seem to take it for granted. For example in my local Tesco there are organic strawberries from Spain, blackberries from Mexico, organic apples from the USA and organic bananas from the Caribbean. My organic sea-salt is from South Africa and my organic, fairtrade coffee is "produce of more than one country". We take all this and more (our bread, chocolate, cars, toilet paper, washing machines, gravel drives, computers, cotton clothing and mobile phones...) for granted. At a more basic level, our "right" to constantly available hot water and clean drinking water and 24-hour heating for our homes in winter goes unquestioned and we barely consider the impact that this has on the planet. Even "green" consumption still uses resources. Wind-farms still need concrete, steel and the energy to manufacture them, and organic veg box schemes still deliver bananas and oranges shipped from across the world.
We need to examine the fundamentals of our society and, as individuals, to examine our way of life. To reconsider the values and ethics which are the foundations of our lives both individually and communally.