What happened in GAP-mission related news in November

Climate change, biodiversity and globalisation

Climate change and health 

A study published this month by The Lancet explores how climate change is already affecting health. A global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius felt by most people worldwide has already started to contribute more cases of heatwaves, weather-based disasters, and mosquito-borne diseases. There’s a glimmer of hope in the study: the use of coal around the world has slowed down, and possibly even peaked in 2013.

COP23 commitment for the UK on phasing out coal power generation

Claire Perry, the UK’s climate change and industry minister, committed to phasing out coal power generation in the UK by 2025 at COP23 this month with 18 other countries.

Emissions and consumption

As GAP is exploring the kind and levels of environmental impact Brits’ consumption patterns are having on the planet, a report published 8 years ago on the carbon emissions related to consumption in the UK is proving to be quite interesting.
Contrary to popular opinion, instead of reducing our UK greenhouse gas emissions by 14% between 1992 and 2004 in line with the Kyoto Protocol (as referenced in almost any UK case study on meeting carbon targets), the report argues that actually, the figures didn’t include shipping and aviation (which would reduce the overall emissions savings to 9%). In addition, if we were to take into consideration people’s buying and throwing away habits (including production, exports and imports emissions), the story is actually very different. Overall emissions relating to consumption in the UK ballooned by almost 10% between 1992 and 2006.

Why is this important to GAP's mission? If our consumption footprint is still growing at a steady pace (and there’s no indication to say it wouldn’t be), and if government, funding institutions and business are serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, then here’s evidence that it is of utmost importance for us to undergo a deep cultural shift. To end social injustice and environmental meltdown, we fundamentally need to change our relationships with things.

Consumption, trends and buying behaviour

How to beat the spiral of getting new things - The Diderot Effect

Why is it that when we buy a new shirt, we are more likely to buy a new jumper or trousers to go with it? Enter the ‘Diderot Effect': stating that getting something new “creates a spiral of consumption which leads you to acquire more new things. As a result, we end up buying things that our previous selves never needed to feel happy or fulfilled.”

Why is this important for our new mission? Our natural tendency is to acquire more and upgrade, rather than reduce, simplify and get rid of what we have. A downgrade feels uncomfortable. Yet in order to tackle excessive consumption, we need to address this spiral and question it when it appears in our daily lives.

5 tips to avoid the Diderot Effect day-to-day:

  1. Reduce your exposure to triggers (e.g. avoid high streets, get an ad blocker)
  2. Buy things that fit with what you have, not what you aspire to
  3. Set a spending limit and keep to it
  4. Don’t buy anything new for a month (e.g. share or rent instead)
  5. Realise that the feeling of ‘wanting’ will never fully go away.

How to buy less stuff and save the world

Check out this Guardian article, written by the author of Curing Affluenza: How to buy less stuff and save the world, describes the need for GAP's mission. Here is a taster: 

“Whether people see access to consumer credit as a source of convenience or as a cost to their lifetime spending will be determined by culture. Whether they see brown spots on a banana as a signal to eat it straightaway or a signal to throw it away will be determined by culture. And whether buying goods that need to be disposed of each year is seen as a source of status or a source of shame will be determined by culture. While no one is in charge of culture, there is no doubt that some people, companies and countries put far more effort into shaping it than others. Those who want to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, reduce deforestation or increase the ability of people to spend quality time with their friends, families and communities will need to spend as much time thinking about the cultural drivers of the problems they seek to solve as developing policy solutions to them.”

London shop selling packaging free-food

There’s a new shop selling packaging-free food in London, making the zero waste lifestyle that bit more attainable for east Londoners. Check out Bulk Market if you find yourself on Kingsland Road, and don’t forget to take your glass jars or reusable bags to fill up with goodies if you plan to make a trip.

Are the Amish right about new technology?

This piece by Oliver Burkeman explores Amish communities’ relationship with technology. Far from shunning post-18th century innovations, they basically assume they don’t need an aspect of tech until they agree that it sits in line with their values. So while the car doesn’t sit well with Amish values – because it helps people stray far from home – PCs, the internet, card machines do. Burkeman asks whether we could take a ticket from their book and reflect on how our values are enhanced as a result of acquiring and using a new piece of tech – not just “adopting new things simply because they’re there”.

Why is this important for our work? Firstly, it’s interesting to consider how different cultural drivers impact the way we consume – and not blanket assume that everyone, everywhere values stuff in the same way. Secondly, it’s a nice reminder to align what we buy with what we hold to be really (intrinsically) important in our lives.

The ethics and philosophy of consumption

“On average, houses in America contain more televisions than people. In 2010, the average number of televisions per household was 2.93.”

Quarterly mag New Philosopher has dedicated its new issue to the theme of stuff. It’s all about the ethics and psychology of consumption. Check out Tim Kasser’s interview and also don’t miss the facts and quotes in there (9) and also see a collection of videos they’ve put together here.

Black Friday round-up!

Amazon workers in Italy and Germany announced a strike, and George Monbiot, a weekly round-up stalwart and massive proponent of ending our throwaway society, has written a piece that isn’t really about Black Friday at all (even though it’s titled that way). It’s on how necessary it is to revolutionise our economic system.

A taster from the article: “When you hear that something makes economic sense, this means it makes the opposite of common sense. Those sensible men and women who run the world’s treasuries and central banks, who see an indefinite rise in consumption as normal and necessary, are beserkers: smashing through the wonders of the living world, destroying the prosperity of future generations to sustain a set of figures that bear ever less relation to general welfare.”


Amsterdam - an example of planning excellence

Amsterdam is a beacon of urban cycling for the rest of the world, but what’s so special about it? This article explains 5 ways in which planning and infrastructure have made it into the bicycle haven it is.

Air Quality

Sadiq, we hope, is making good on his promise to pedestrianise Oxford Street – the world’s most polluted stretch of road (at least it was a few years ago…). Visit tfl.gov.uk/oxford-street to find out more about the proposed plans (including maps of where all the buses are going to go!) and respond to the consultation.

Soon, London lamp posts won’t just be lighting our way, they’ll also be powering our engines . The lamp post charging scheme hitting the Big Smoke is looking to meet growing demand for convenient and accessible charging points.