Exceptional times must not become the new normal
What does it mean to consume only for your needs and where is the line for over-consumption? I am thinking about times when I have found t-shirts on sale that could be team shirts for the organisers of the next guild event. I think of moments when I thought I needed a new dress for the next annual celebration. I remember board meetings of various associations where I have designed shirts or accessories wearing the name of the association, which could be ordered to strengthen the sense of community and the identity of the association.
This spring, the whole world has lived in exceptional times. The corona pandemic has shown how the state leaders are able to quickly implement restrictions that significantly change our lifestyles when actually needed. Society has faced a profound and serious crisis. On one hand, people are adapting to the changed daily life and, on the other hand, they are waiting for their lives to return to normal.
However, in terms of impact and severity, the corona crisis loses the battle to ecological crises – such as climate change, biodiversity loss and over-exploitation of natural resources. Ecological crises are predicted to change or even collapse our global societies in the near future. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have ten years to take action to reduce emissions, but in reality, we do not know where the limit for climate feedback is and when something will change irreversibly. In the corona crisis, we are now eagerly awaiting a return to our normal daily lives and ways of spending time, but what will we do if the environmental crisis is the next to materialize. Exceptional times of crisis become recurring and what we now call “the ordinary life” begins to mean past habits.
It is usually more comfortable to change your lifestyle at your own pace and choose the length of the steps you take. Of course, sometimes a person needs new goods or clothes, and some things need to be purchased new. However, I claim that we can still use greater discretion when considering whether we really need something or whether it is just a nice addition. The domesticity and ecological nature of brands does not change the fact that the majority of our consumption is part of the over-consumption that weakens our ecosystems.
Instead of identity accessories, could we just order association logos, which could be sewn into items you already have? In student culture, we already have a good example of this – you can sew as many logos and patches on your overalls as you like, and one pair of overalls is sufficient for all your study years.
Just a few months ago, tremendous amount of land burned down in Australia. The winter with no need for snowploughs in Helsinki has just ended. The ecological crisis might mean that global trade will reduce, political conflicts will increase, and the price of food will increase when the yield decreases. The current state of the economic system must be looked at critically, and preferably before the crisis strikes at full force. The layoffs and the distress of entrepreneurs caused by the coronavirus show that a more humane way to repair the economic system would be to do it in a planned and controlled manner, instead of letting it crash down when the crises strike.
The solving of all crises requires new ways of solving problems and adapting to the new. I would like to live in a world where buying goods would no longer be a way to create social connections. I would like to live in society where only zero carbon services and physical goods are consumed only when recycled and recyclable.
I hope we students show the way towards a more sustainable future to the entire society. We will find out about future crises and take them seriously. We are not left alone with difficult emotions. We make the necessary changes in our lifestyles. We do not feel too much guilt when choices are not made according to the ideal situation, and we do not make others feel guilty, but encourage them to take suitable steps towards the better future. We act now to ensure that exceptional times do not become the new normal. And if they do, we had the time to get prepared. We can change the game.
Member of AYY Board
Responsibilities: Sustainable development, social affairs, municipal advocacy, sports