Words by Georgia Cameron Art by Kaye Simonson
Rapid technological growth and globalisation are major features that define our current lives.
Not only has this allowed us to connect with people across the globe, we now also have access to seemingly endless knowledge at the touch of a button. In mere minutes, we can begin to learn a new language, teach ourselves concepts we may have never known about, understand foreign cultures and access global news. But, our world and environment are greatly at risk from our growth and convenience. With access to so much knowledge, people are becoming more aware of the current state of the environment. This is helping drive the initiatives to help prevent and start to repair the damage we have caused, by utilising knowledge in communities and using traditional trade skills to make change for the better.
Some of the major issues facing our environment and way of life are deforestation, pollution, and overpopulation. According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) the number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years. This is a result of human interference in the forms of deforestation, or habitat loss and exploitation. Since 1977 the size of the Amazon rainforest has decreased by 20% due to deforestation, this is made even more devastating by the fact that the Amazon is believed to be home to 10% of the known species on earth. The WWF estimates that more than a quarter of the Amazon biome will be without trees by 2030 if the current rate of deforestation continues.
Not only are forests and rainforests in danger, but our oceans are also at risk. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world, and is located between Hawaii and California. It is estimated to be 1.6 million square kilometres in size – for context, that’s three times the size of France. Closer to home, The Great Barrier Reef has also lost 51% of its coral cover over the 27 years from 1985 to 2012.
This loss of natural habitat, pollution and overpopulation is a devastating concept for not only the Earth, but for us. With adverse risks to human health being the result of current environmental issues, not only are we at risk from air and water pollution, but things such as microplastics are now being found in the fish we eat and bottled water. Although the situation is dire, there are many ways to make a difference in our environment and there are many individuals and organizations taking it back to their roots to make this change for the better. These people are taking on traditional trade skills and indigenous knowledge to try and change the environment’s current course.
The fashion industry is a major contributor to waste and pollution across the globe; in just one hour, Australians throw out 36 tonnes of textiles that are sent to landfill. The creation of brand-new clothes come at great environmental cost even before they hit the shelves. According to WWF, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton T-shirt. Lately however, there has been an increase in interest for upcycling fashion, especially with a large online community committed to teaching themselves how to sew. One online influencer, Annika Victoria, is a YouTube creator setting out to combat fast fashion by promoting and teaching the skills needed to create or upcycle clothing. Many people are taking on this skill in an attempt to limit not only the amount of waste we create, but the amount of resources needed for fashion. Annika also promotes the idea of thrift shopping. In recent years, buying things second hand has become a fashionable way to combat the waste produced in the fashion industry.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is one of the many organizations promoting the idea of using indigenous knowledge to create a more sustainable future. According to UNESCO, indigenous knowledge is “knowledge passed from generation to generation, usually by word of mouth” and impacts many facets of life, including the environment. With the promotion, education and understanding of the folk knowledge of many groups from around the world, it may be possible to have a better understanding of ways to improve the environment. In Australia, local knowledge has been used to improve national parklands, such as in the case of Kakadu where the use of Aboriginal knowledge for fire management has improved the wetlands of the area and encouraged biodiversity.
With ever-growing globalisation and technology, the lives we live are incredibly fast-paced. But, through the soaring popularity of minimalistic lifestyles and fashion, it is evident that simplicity is something more people are craving. As a result, we have seen a rise in small capsule closets and reusable items such as KeepCups as a way to combat environmental pressures and making it easier to make more environmentally conscious decisions. While the idea of minimalism has been criticised as a fad for the privileged, it’s a concept that is not new. With roots in Japanese Zen-Buddhism, the idea of minimalism shuns clutter, complication and excess. Minimalism has gained traction throughout the world, and while not fitting into traditional counterculture, it goes against some of the global norms such as consumerism and over spending. This minimal lifestyle leads to forgoing items with excess waste attached, such as plastic-wrapped vegetables. The idea of minimal to zero waste has become so influential and such an easy way for the everyman to help the environment. Even entire cities are making the effort to become waste free, such as the city of Kamikatsu, Japan, who hope to be entirely waste free by 2020, with 80% of their waste being recycled, reused, or composted already.
If these minimalist trends continue and we increase initiatives to promote recycling, reusable items and reducing waste, our world would change for the better. We could all learn a traditional skill, reduce waste, adopt a capsule-closet or get a KeepCup and make small changes to make a big difference.