by Bob Taylor, STRI’s head of ecology and environment
The word sustainability is used so widely that its original context has been corrupted to the point of meaningless.
We talk of sustainability as though it is a part of our operating systems, we own its meaning and use it to secure our goals, feeling positive that we are not overstretching the earth’s resources.
However, the impact on the earth’s natural resources of over 11 billion people using little pieces of our natural resources each and every day has huge consequences. Every human activity has an impact, and we can no longer afford to hide behind blanket expressions, no matter how well meaning they are. We must act both in an individual and a collective capacity.
Sustainability initiatives should not be driven by personal needs, or for business gain – this is the wrong way around. We need to start managing in a sustainable manner for the sake of the planetary resources, be it ecological, mineral or environmental, and if we receive direct or indirect benefit from this, then so much the better.
Perhaps we should simplify our take on sustainable management and replace it with the word responsible. At the end of the day, that is all we can do, manage as responsibly as our work requirements allow. Responsible management gives credence and understanding towards the impacts of our actions, and to limiting adverse outcomes as best we can as individuals.
For example, if you are asked to manage a grassland area through cutting and collecting, then the following questions must be asked:
- To what end does the aim justify the extent of resources, energy and waste that will be an inevitable outcome of the work?
- Will the management offer better habitat than what exists at present?
Question two is slightly more difficult to quantify as we often mistake a good quality habitat for a tidy habitat, and we are all guilty of over tidying, especially within the golf industry.
How many times have you heard people around you speak derogatorily about a patch of scrub? Grasslands are multifaceted areas that support a myriad of animal habitat amongst the grassland plant species. How will management techniques impact on this, and does it matter?
Before you even start, think about what you are doing and why:
- Will the results justify the effort?
- Are you doing it for the right reasons? Will your efforts positively impact the immediate environment, or are you managing the area for purely aesthetic reasons?
I always find it interesting that people come together to oppose projects they believe to be harmful to their local environment, but do not contest similar projects taking place elsewhere.
For example, there are golf courses around our coast that are likely to be lost to rising sea levels, but the problem is not ours, and the cause is miles away in the arctic and all to do with climate change.
It was Tony Blair who once alluded to the fact that climate change is without a doubt the biggest threat facing society and the planet, but he and subsequent governments have been unable to make a dent in the issue.
It does fall to individuals to think and act locally to make change globally. As I write this I wonder is that even possible? We have to believe it is as our future is bleak if not.
We are starting to see green shoots of sustainability though responsible attitudes and responsible management. We recognise the impact of plastic, well some of us do. Should we be educating others when we see unnecessary use of plastic bags in supermarkets?
Perhaps if we are serious in our endeavours to be more sustainable in all aspects of our lives, and by acting individually, perhaps collectively we will make a difference.
If you have any questions or thoughts on the topics discussed in this article, then please get in touch with me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.