January 10, 2012

Older generations – the unsuspecting eco-warriors

Filed under: Demographics,Sustainability — by xrematon @ 11:24 am
Tags: ,

We live in a world where resources are scarce, and we cannot keep stealing [them] from our children and grandchildren.

Thus speaks Paul Polman, the current Unilever CEO. He is thinking about his responsibilities as the man in charge of a huge multinational company with the potential to have massive direct and indirect environmental impacts. As he observes,

In our own factories, we’re responsible for around three million tonnes of CO2. But if we add in suppliers and consumers, it’s around 300 million.

However, I would like to take the perspective of the ‘truffle hunter’ as oppose to thinking big and wide. Over the holidays, I was in conversation with an acquaintance who was despairing of the behaviour of a mutual friend – Des. Des is a retired gentleman, in his seventies, who in common with a number of his generation, has accumulated a fair amount of property assets over his lifetime, including a small holiday flat in the southern France. However, Des lives a distinctingly parsimonious life which, unwittingly, is likely to have a very low carbon footprint.

What are the details? Well, he doesn’t really heat his house much as he goes out for a walk and to the cafe in the morning and then visits a friend in the afternoon and early evening. He doesn’t put hot water heating on as he goes to the swimming pool for both exercise and to make use of the showers. He buys only second hand (and thus recycled) clothing. He doesn’t really eat much meat, often the biggest environmental blackspot when it comes to food, or if he does, it tends to be in cheap pies, where the actual meat content is generally pretty low and the animals may have been more intensively but also efficiently reared. And what about the holiday flat in France? He gets there by train of course!

I don’t think Des is a rare occurence. How he lives his life reminds me of my uncle – who similarly does not travel, eats tiny quantities of meat and is an extremely modest consumer of material goods. His particular forte is living in permanent semi-darkness as he does not like to waste electricity on lights. I admit this is rather unnecessary given the rise of energy efficient lightbulbs!

I am not proposing that we all follow this lifestyle – it would be pretty miserable – but it is useful counterpoint to the Abel and Cole veg boxes, free-range chickens, water pebbles in your shower, hybrid vehicles, going on holiday to African villages powered by solar panels and so forth.

Go for it Des!


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