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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why are Canadians caring NOW?

Why do people care more about international social and environmental issues than ever before? I’ve thought about this question a lot in the past year.

I posed this question to one of my brilliant professors who lives and breathes sustainability. I shared her answer in a paper I composed in my last year at Ivey, and now I would like to share it with you.

There are 3 reasons why global concern over finding sustainable solutions to global crises has exploded in the past decade:

1. Limits to growth
We have reached the world’s limits to growth. For the first time in our lives, we can visibly see the effects of climate change. And climate change is not an isolated issue— it is a confluence of issues; carbon emission is related to ocean acidification which is related the quality of air we breathe, and so forth. People can see these issues and business professionals are beginning to understand how their operations push these limits to growth. The business model is broken and companies must find ways to replace it.
2. The Internet
With the endless pool of information and real-time advantage the internet provides, people can actually see world issues as they occur and instantly connect with one another. This real-time connection affects people emotionally. When huge global issues affect people emotionally, they want to see solutions. Thus, the internet has sparked a desire amongst individuals to instigate change on a scale that did not exist fifteen years ago.
3. Wealth
The future generation of business leaders generally grew up without knowing scarcity. The oil boom is the primary reason for this wealth and has provided energy products that no generation had before. Therefore, because individuals of the new generation have not experienced poverty, they are looking for another kind of experience elsewhere; they care because they have the liberty to care about serious issues currently affecting others.

I think my professor’s opinion is very compelling; she illustrates a realistic picture of how socio-economic and technological trends are affecting people’s mindsets toward sustainability. I remember sitting in her office listening to her answer and being extremely affected by reason #1. For the first time, I was genuinely scared about climate change and the human impact on the environment.

My professor is right. We really can see and feel the effects of climate change now… in weather trends, the frightening increase in natural disasters, the ever-growing deforestation that exists on every continent. I personally see it in the little things, like when I cough from a running car’s exhaust emissions or watch people deliberately throw their garbage on the street. We’ve done a real number on our earth, and I am so grateful for the recent surge to reverse the damage done.

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