I normally write and ponder on things to do with communication and connectivity – since they are such central features of all that we need to do, as humans. However, with COP26 underway, in Glasgow, the Climate Crisis is rightly attracting attention from people across the world, threatening our survival.
Industrialisation is often pointed to as the source of our problems, having delivered affordability of many essentials and pleasures that many of us now take for granted. This technology-based achievement was great, but came at an environmental cost which has become much clearer. People in many countries have come to expect to be able to afford food, clothing and mobility which could only have been dreamed of in previous centuries. But the scaling up of the technology has now reach its environmentally-driven limits. Given the consenus that has emerged on limiting humans’ harmful effects on our planet, we must either consume less or consume more efficiently. The former is an economically (and therefore politically) unpalatable message to deliver and so emphasis now is on finding technologies that can deliver affordability and sustainability for the goods and services that we have come to value.
Industry has traditionally valued centralised scaling up as a means of achieving the greatest production efficiency and the largest profits. However the centralised scaling comes with environmental and other costs, often not reflected in the price tag displayed to consumers. The problem might be, at least partially, corrected through the imposition of taxes that reflect the otherwise hidden costs, but this would likely be a mammoth and thankless task. Another way forward is to enable more local production of goods. This is a trend we now see, particularly in food production where consumers are taking a greater interest in where their food comes from and in finding locally-produced items.
Industrialisation can still play a role, but this time in enabling platforms that facilitate efficient local production and distribution. Taken to the limit, we see people wanting to grow their own food in personal and communal spaces – leaving a good taste in the mouth, in more than one sense. Here on the Isle of Arran , not more than 50 miles from the COP 26 venue, the wonder and fragility of nature are easy to see. It’s also encouraging to see community groups taking initiatives to grow their own food and radically reduce their carbon footprint. The local Arran Eco Savvy* initiative has done much to raise awareness and build interest in more sustainable living. This so-called ‘Scotland in Miniature’ is a good example for communities everywhere to contemplate. Small communities such as this have much to teach us about alternatives to centralised scaling up. *