Society is facing multiple challenges, but there is a plan for how to cope with them that might work if we all make an effort. Here is an overview of why it is important and urgent to start looking ahead, and how individuals, organizations and businesses can act to improve sustainability and make a change.
Perhaps you are a mountain lover as I am, gaining energy from mountain adventures and exploring new regions and challenges. Or perhaps you prefer to avoid challenges and are just curious about what kind of adventure I am referring to. Anyway, I hope that you will see the importance too and start planning how to act. Or perhaps you are already acting. If so, I hope you will join us and inspire others, share your ideas and highlight courageous efforts being made in order to help and trigger others to act.
What the issue is about – and Agenda 2030
Climate change is regarded as the most severe, long-term risk of them all1, but the list of threats and challenges is extensive and seem to expand every day. Ocean acidification and microplastics in the drinking water, accelerating over-usage of natural resources, deforestation and rapidly decreasing biodiversity etc.
To tackle the growing challenges, the United Nations (UN) has defined a set of Sustainable Development Goals in the so-called Agenda 20302. Agenda 2030 is an agenda for everyone, that is, for authorities as well as organizations and businesses operating locally as well as nation-wide or internationally. And for you and me.
Every single sustainable development goal (SDG) is by itself addressing a very important and urgent environmental, social or economic challenge. In addition, none of the challenges can be efficiently handled without targeting the other challenges at the same time. Because the challenges have become global, connected and increasingly complex.
Examples of what is happening today
A rise of global temperature within 2 degrees Celsius, compared to preindustrial times, implies some additional degrees temperature rise at high altitudes and in high latitudes. That is, in mountain regions and in regions with extensive ice sheets, causing severe ice melting3.
Probably 50 percent of the glaciers in the European Alps will be gone in 30 years4. Further on, there are two end-scenarios in the predictions for the end of the century. If we continue to increase our greenhouse gas emissions as we do now, probably 95 percent of these glaciers have melted and are gone by then. The other end-scenario, if we manage to break the trend and reduce CO2 emissions substantially soon, indicates that a third of the current glaciers in the European Alps may remain until 2100.
Of course, there are uncertainties with all predictions for the future, but the glacier melting in mountain regions, on Greenland and at the poles is obvious and is already taking place. The predictions are based on robust observations that you and I can do ourselves.
The melting of permafrost at high altitudes and in high latitudes causes increasing economic problems for inhabitants and the tourist industry, plus increasing natural hazard risks for mountain adventurers. Moreover, it triggers more emissions by the release of even stronger greenhouse gases like methane from the ground3.
The rapid loss of biodiversity is also identified as one of the major threats to our society1. Together with climate change, it is regarded as one of the planetary boundaries that may push humanity in a new direction5.
The advantage with acting upon these challenges – now
As a mountain adventurer you learn by experience that you withstand challenges for much longer, and enjoy your adventure much more, if you continuously analyse the situation and respond quickly to uprising threats. Before you head out on a mountain adventure you check the latest weather forecast, and you bring gear to be able to cope with changing weather conditions and multiple challenges. This proactive thinking makes the difference between failure and success.
Now you are in the biggest global adventure that mankind has ever experienced. The multiple threats around you are complex, connected, global and hence impossible to tackle on your own. Some threats are slow, some are rapid, and no one knows for sure how they will evolve and how they amplify each other. In addition, they have already started to move towards you and have a growing impact on you.
This is a completely new situation. You cannot escape just by moving to another region or neglect them and make ‘business as usual’. Because all potential spots are being affected and will be significantly altered, and perhaps damaged or destroyed, sooner or later.
Re-evaluate your pretexts and excuses
Here are some popular examples of counterarguments for not acting and why I believe they are not valid:
“The global challenges have nothing to do with me – I haven’t caused any of them”
All of us are part of the problem in one way or the other. We use transport and we consume gear and clothes, thereby using energy and natural resources among other things. In addition, there are more and more of us. Our total impact on the environment, that we enjoy and live by in various ways, is substantial and grows each day.
“My sustainability actions have no impact in the bigger context, and I will not personally benefit from acting more sustainable.”
Most of us influence others through our behaviour and actions, simply because human beings tend to mimic or adapt to each other’s behaviour. Your sustainability contribution, although very limited on its own, probably has a much bigger impact on your surrounding than you might think. If you are always on your own, or you don’t believe in that you influence others, then be selfish and identify the benefits for yourself. You will become more resilient the sooner you consider the threats and adapt to rapid changes in society, and you will most likely save money in the long term too.
“It is up to others to act first.”
If an avalanche, a rockfall or a flooding would be heading towards the spot where you stand, and you would have a much better chance to survive by moving to another spot, you would never wait for others to move first. Passivity has never been a successful way to tackle threats that require you to act.
Fortunately, a lot of preparation and action is taking place already. Agenda 2030 has already become a roadmap for several organizations, multi-national companies as well as individuals. Established businesses, looking ahead instead of backwards, have grasped the urgency and began to redefine their business plans and strategies according to the goals. Many new start-ups are focussing on solutions towards Agenda 2030 and an increasing number of customers and individuals make conscious choices, forcing the industry to act.
4 actions you can take right away
Let us use our experiences and skills as mountain adventurers and outdoor brands for something more than our own pleasure or short-term profit. Each individual and organization can do something, and together we can create a substantial improvement. Thereby being able to continue to enjoy our pleasure or live on our businesses, plus give our children a fair chance to do the same.
Here is a suggestion of actions you can start with:
IDENTIFY how you and your surrounding will be affected over time. Open your eyes and mind, and question your current believes. Re-evaluate your current sources of information and inspiration. Find a routine to get yourself updated regularly on new findings concerning the global challenges and what their consequences might be for you.
MAP your habits and your impact. Which Sustainable Development Goals are relevant for you or your business? Notice that each global goal has a set of part goals. Agenda 2030 consists of in total 169 such part goals. These part goals may help you to understand the intentions with the main goals and to identify the goals being most relevant for you. Moreover, there are several online tools for calculating your individual carbon footprint, for example. Trace the global impact of the products that you buy. Keep a record of your travels and your energy consumption.
DRAW your own scenarios and plans. How will you be affected if fossil fuel prices and the price on electricity double within 5-10 years? Is there a natural resource, product or service that you are extra dependant on and that may be affected soon? Your individual carbon footprint is probably at least 5-15 times higher than it should be 2030. How will you manage to reduce it until then in a controlled manner? How can you consume and travel more responsible year by year?
SHARE your knowledge and experience with others. Let your actions get a wider impact by informing and inspiring others. Collaborate with those who can help you and that may need your advice and assistance in return. If you have a competitive mind, share goals with others and try to win in terms of effort and impact, but don’t forget to be transparent. Guide your customers or clients. Your courage, endurance and passion for the outdoors give you an advantage in the transformation process. Use it wisely.
This text is primarily intended as an introduction and trigger for people and organizations to start acting in accordance with Agenda 2030. In coming blog articles, we will dig deeper into the four Sustainable Development Goals that we focus on at WIMA® . On our community pages and in our blog roll you find potential collaboration partners or initiatives to join, and good examples to get inspired by.
We hope to become one of your sources of information and inspiration in your transformation process, and potentially your future collaboration partner.
Further reading and references used in this text
1 The international and independent organization World Economic Forum publishes yearly Global Risks Reports. In the Global Risks Report 2019, five of the most severe long-term risks are environmental this year.
2 Agenda 2030 is the global road map to a sustainable and equitable world, approved by the world’s Heads of States and Heads of Governments in September 2015. The agenda includes all three dimensions of sustainability, ie the economic, social and environmental dimensions. They are summarized by 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in turn divided into 169 part goals and principles. The 17:th goal highlights the most efficient process for reaching all goals, that is, cross-border collaborations and partnerships. UN publish yearly SDG reports, that are easy to read. They highlight the status for each main goal on a global level and highlight specific target problems. I have used the SDG Report 2019 as a reference in this text.
3 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN’s body for assessing the science related to climate change. The latest large assessment report (AR5) was published in 2014. The next major report will be published in 2021. Meanwhile, there are several thematic reports being published, ie a special report on the implications of Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celcius and a special report on Climate Change and Land.
4 Zekollari et al (2019) modelled the future evolution of the glacier volume in the European Alps. Glaciers in the European Alps play an important role in the hydrological cycle, act as a source for hydroelectricity and have a large touristic importance. The unit of the quantities I refer to in the text are total glacier volume (not number of glaciers) compared to the recorded glacier volume 2017. The two emission scenarios I refer to in the text are RCP2.6. and RCP8.5, respectively. RCP stands for ‘representative concentrations pathways’ and refers to different scenarios on how the greenhouse effect evolves through time. RCP8.5 include increasing CO2 emissions until 2100. RCP2.6 implies a.o. that the CO2 emissions peak at 2020, thereafter declining, and that CO2 emissions are negative at 2100.
5 The planetary boundary (PB) concept, introduced by Rockström et al. in 2009, aimed to define the environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate. The concept has been developed since, for example by Steffen et al. (2015) Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet.
6 The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. The work constantly evolving, and you can follow the progress here. Several countries prepare for meeting the targets by e.g. changing energy sources, boosting energy efficiency and banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars within the coming decade.