The other night on a phone call to my Nan she described the recent news as ‘awfully apocalyptic’. Now, to be fair my Nan does have a tendency to exaggerate. She once said she had seen David Beckham in her toast. However, much to my surprise I was amazed by the triptych of stories that had led her to such a dramatic conclusion. They were the humanitarian disaster in Somalia, the America’s debt crisis and most remarkable the UN’s recent discussion on the creation of a ‘green helmet’ climate security force.
Ever since John Elkington coined the phrase ‘triple bottom line’ it has been used to explain the three pillars that underpin sustainability. People, planet, profit; social, environmental, economic; however, you define the pillars all three must be valued to truly understand society’s progress towards sustainability. And unbeknown to my Nan her three stories had these sustainability pillars at their core.
In my Nan’s mind the three stories that had so upset her were all interconnected; ‘there’s not enough stuff’ is how she defined it. Now, I don’t think my Nan is particularly Malthusian but her armchair observations from her Leeds’ maisonette that management of the world’s resources underpinned these three stories were astute.
The humanitarian disaster taking place in the Horn of Africa has at its root a mismanagement of resources, land and assets. Somalia’s years of conflict coupled with increasing environmental extremes has led to the scenes that we now see. The American debt crisis although resolved (for now) has led Obama this week to tell America to ‘live within its means’. And the UN decision to explore the use of a climate security force has been sparked by the ‘Arab Spring’ which amongst its many trigger factors was the sudden rises in food prices.
John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK described it as the ‘perfect storm’ when food shortages, water scarcity and energy poverty would collide leading to violence and unrest. While my Nan descriptions of apocalypse maybe slightly alarmist her wrinkled wisdom in connecting the sustainability dots beneath the recent news gave me some hope that people do understand the challenges that face us.
One question, however, still remained for me: where had my Nan’s sudden interest in current affairs arisen? Like many I knew my Nan had recently lost her weekly Sunday newspaper so where was it coming from? The answer was of course simple her ‘new didgeribox and that nice Welsh boy.’ My Nan has recently made the switch to digital so now has access to 24 hour news and she has always had a thing for the dulcet tones of Huw Edwards.