Circular Podcast – Season 3 Episode 3
Welcome to season three of Circular with Katie Treggiden, in which we’re exploring what it takes to cultivate a creative practice that enables you, your business and the planet to thrive. We’ll be diving deep into the nuances, complexities and paradigm shifts that we need to embrace in order to bring about a just transition to a more circular economy.
In this episode, Katie talks about the idea of absolving yourself from guilt. The climate crisis is not your fault, but it is your responsibility, and you have an incredible opportunity to bring about change.
Katie talks about:
- The idea of absolving yourself of the guilt that comes with the climate crisis
- How the energy industry has not only contributed the vast majority of the carbon in the atmosphere, but has also worked really hard to curb regulations and undermine public understanding of climate change
- How the climate crisis might well have been resolved before you were even born!
- How we are the last generation that have the opportunity to do something about this
- That there are no magic bullets, tech is not going to save us
Below is a transcript of our conversation. Find the full episode available to listen on Spotify here.
Welcome to season three of Circular with Katie Treggiden, in which I’m exploring what it takes to cultivate a creative practice that enables you, your business and the planet to thrive. I’ll be diving deep into the nuances, complexities and paradigm shifts that we need to embrace in order to bring about a just transition to a more circular economy.
So a report published in 2017, found that 71%, that’s almost three quarters of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, could be attributed to just 100 fossil fuel producers. The energy industry has not only contributed the vast majority of the carbon in the atmosphere, but has also worked really hard to curb regulations and undermine public understanding of climate change.
In this episode of Circular with Katie Treggiden, I am talking about the idea of absolving yourself from guilt. The climate crisis is not your fault, but it is your responsibility, and you have an incredible opportunity to bring about change. So listen up, and let me know what you think.
MAIN PODCAST – PART 1
So in this episode, I want to talk to you about something a little bit controversial, I always seem to get a little bit of push back on Instagram, when I talked about this. In episode one, I talked to you through the making design circular framework. And if you haven’t listened to that episode, already, go back and have a listen it’ll just give some context for what I’m talking about here. So the first pillar of the first circle of the making design circular framework, and that will make more sense when you’ve listened to episode one is absolve. The idea of absolving yourself of the guilt that comes with the climate crisis.
So there is a statistic that gets bandied about a lot in sustainability discussions. It’s usually credited to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. And the statistic is that 80% of the environmental impact of an object is determined at design stage. And that’s true, right? From material choices to end of life considerations by the time an object goes into production from a sustainability point of view, its fate is largely sealed. But if you’re a designer maker, if you’re somebody who works in the design industry, how does that statistic make you feel? Because I think for a lot of designers and craftspeople and makers and artists, what they hear is not 80% of the environmental impact of an object is determined at design stage. But 80% of this mess is our fault. 80% of the impact that objects have on the environment is the fault of the design industry. And that’s not true. If you’re a designer maker, if you’re a crafts person, if you’re an artist, the climate crisis is not your fault. It’s just not.
A report published in 2017, found that 71%, that’s almost three quarters of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, could be attributed to just 100 fossil fuel producers. And that’s like the tobacco industry before it, the energy industry has not only contributed the vast majority of the carbon in the atmosphere, but has also worked really hard to curb regulations and undermine public understanding of climate change.
In 2015, and investigation by Inside Climate News found that Exxon had conducted cutting edge climate research decades previously, and then pivoted and this is a quote from that report, “..to work at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed”, right? So you’ve got these fossil fuel producers, producing the vast majority of the greenhouse gases that are going into the atmosphere and working really hard to undermine the science that suggests that that’s problematic. So that’s one thing.
Now here is a quote, I would love to share this with you and while you’re listening, see if you can work out who said this. This is a quote from a speech given in 1989. “It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. The environmental challenge that confronts the whole world demands an equivalent response from the whole world, every country will be affected and no one can opt out. Those countries who are industrialised must contribute more to help those who are not.” That was Margaret Thatcher speaking in 1989, and none of those arguments were new, but coming from her they gained traction and went mainstream. But unfortunately, she backed down from that position. And actually, in her autobiography credits three books in particular for the reason that she backed down from that position, and all three books were members of free market think tanks that were receiving funding from the fossil fuel industry. And part of her U-turn and part of her kind of not taking that position anymore, was policies that led to urban sprawl that have threatened biodiversity in the UK, prioritising investment in roads over rail and bus services that could have all helped us to reduce our carbon footprint, right how many of us would rather get public transport but struggle because we live in rural areas that are not well served. And the privatisation of the water companies that have resulted in the polluted rivers and oceans, to this day that surfers against sewage are still fighting against. But actually her influence in the Global South was even more profound. So under her leadership, Britain together with the US led the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation moves that forced more than 100 indebted countries to undertake what were called structural adjustment programmes that are now widely discredited. And those included the deregulation and privatisation that paved the way for global farming, mining and forestry companies to exploit natural resources on a global scale. So had Exxon acted on that research, acted ethically on that research, instead of trying to bury it, had Margaret Thatcher stuck to her guns instead of being lured by the temptation of free market economics and had the momentum she created continued, the climate crisis might well have been resolved before you were even born.
So when you feel guilty about this, I just want a moment you to hold that thought that this could have all been sorted before you even born and it wasn’t. And that’s not necessarily to get angry with the people in the past, I once was interviewed by somebody for a podcast, and the person hosting the podcast kept trying to get me to point the finger of blame at somebody. And most notably, his parents. He had a thing that it was all the boomers fault. And I wouldn’t do it because I don’t think it’s helpful to point fingers but what I realised was that what he was actually saying was tell me this isn’t my fault, tell me as a producer and maker of furniture, that this isn’t my fault, and it’s not. So hence a little bit of finger pointing to some very big structural issues.
I think the other thing to remember is this stuff didn’t all happen in the past, right? There are very big online retailers selling and shipping 1000s of dollars worth of products every second, with business models that are built on what Greenpeace describes as greed and speed. Many of those items by the time we turned up, we sort of think I’m not sure I really needed that, or I don’t think I want that anymore. And so often, we send them back, and they’re getting destroyed, they’re not even getting redistributed.
So all of this is to say that if you’re a designer and maker, a crafts person, none of this is your fault. Not the climate crisis, not the waste crisis, not the sewage in our oceans. If we’re looking to apportion blame, let’s look to massive globalised companies, and global leaders who are not doing their bit to make the big changes that they could make.
But there’s a beautiful phrase which I first heard from the wonderful Ray Dodd, which is “it’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility”. And the reason I think it’s so important to articulate the fact it’s not your fault is that guilt and duty are not the soil in which creativity thrives. Right? That person who interviewed me on that podcast was so focused on getting me or somebody or anybody to tell him it wasn’t his fault, that he wasn’t actually making big strides where he could be in becoming more sustainable. So I think there’s something quite interesting here and by saying, it’s not your fault, my intention is not to let you off the hook and that’s usually the criticism I get on social media and I talked about this so if someone would be like that they still need to do something about it. Of course we do. We are the last generation probably that have the opportunity to do something about this, so it’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility.
AD BREAK WITH INHABIT
We’re going to take a short break now to do three things. One, I want you to hear from Inhabit the brand partner for this season of the podcast. They’re actually the hotel I stay in when I’m in London, because they are super sustainable and absolutely gorgeous. I reached out to them and asked them if they would be interested in helping me make this season of the podcast happen and I’m delighted that they said yes, so there’s a short word from them. There’s a short word from me about making design circular, the membership group that I run, and I also want to talk to you about Surfers Against Sewage.
So I am a member of 1% for the planet, which means that every year I donate 1% of my turnover, not profit, to an environmental charity and the charity I’ve chosen to partner with is surfers against sewage, which is a grassroots environmental charity that campaigns to protect the ocean and everything that the ocean makes possible. It was created in 1990 by a group of Cornish surfers fighting to clean up the sea that was making them sick. Now surfers against sewage campaigns on everything that threatens the ocean. Plastic pollution, the climate, emergency environmental exploitation and water quality by taking action on the ground, that triggers change from the top.
If like me, you’d like to support surfers against sewage, head over to https://www.sas.org.uk/ and I will leave you now to hear a short message from Inhabit, a message from me about the membership, and then we’ll dive right back into this episode.
Inhabit hotels, located in the Bayswater area of London, offers restorative environmentally and socially conscious places to stay in the city. Wellness and wellbeing also play a major part in the brand’s ethos Mindfully designed for the modern traveller everything at this new hotel has been considered with a genuine commitment to environmental initiatives and meaningful community partnerships. To find out more please check out our Instagram at inhabit_hotels.
If you’re a designer maker, here’s what I want you to know. None of this is your fault. Climate change, ocean acidification, falling biodiversity levels, none of it. But you do get to be part of the solution. And the best part that gets to be creative, collaborative, and filled with wide eyed curiosity. Remember that? Visit www.katietreggiden.com/membership and leave your eco guilt at the door. Find a community of fellow travellers clear actionable steps you can take today and all support you need to join the circular economy. Visit www.katietreggiden.com/membership. I’ll see you there.
MAIN PODCAST – PART 2
Think about the last time you had a brilliant idea, solved a problem, came up with a beautiful design, you probably weren’t feeling guilty or overwhelmed or hopeless, because that’s not the soil in which creativity thrives. So I want you to get excited about this responsibility about this opportunity. Because the soil in which creativity thrives is curiosity, optimism and collaboration, all impulses, I’m guessing that drew you to our industry in the first place. Right? So we need designers to stop feeling guilty so they can reconnect with those feelings of curiosity, optimism and collaboration and tap into their creativity to become part of the solution.
The climate crisis is a wicked problem. And that’s a term that was coined by design theorist Horst Rittal, and I do hope I’m saying that right, to describe social or cultural problems that seem unsolvable because they’re so complex, so interconnected and because there’s a lack of clarity. And because they’re subject to real world constraints that thwart attempts to find and test solutions. In other words, there are no magic bullets, tech is not going to save us green energy is incredibly important, but on its own, it’s not going to save us. In the same way it’s no one person’s fault, there’s no simple solution. But previous generations have kicked the can down the road, hoping that some future technology would save us, we don’t have that luxury anymore. There’s no more road to kick that can down.
So if you’re a designer or maker or a craft person or an artist, what I want you to know is none of this is your fault. But it is your responsibility. There is an opportunity that you can choose to embrace and get really excited about. To design is to solve problems. And this is possibly the biggest problem humanity has ever faced. We have a unique and perhaps the final opportunity to tackle this issue head on and do something definitive. But we can’t do that mired in guilt. To overcome the climate crisis we need to design not from a position of pessimism and shame, but in the mode in which we all do our best work. When we’re driven by curiosity, and excited by a future that together we can help create.
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed what you’ve heard, follow me on Instagram @KatieTreggiden.1 And if you’re a designer maker who’s interested in sustainability, DM me a little recycling symbol and I’ll add you to my close friends group, which is especially for sustainable designer makers.
You might want to sign up to my E-newsletter via the link in the show notes. And it would be amazing if you could follow or review the podcast in whichever platform you’re listening on, that really helps other people to find it, so that’s super helpful.
I want to say one last thank you to Inhabit my gorgeous brand partner for this season who have helped bring it to life and I also want to give a shout out to the Ko-Fi supporters from the initiative that we did in series two. So Kathryn Kernow, Bob Shankley, Eleanor Burke, Vicky Pulter, Leslie Curtis, Val Muddyman, David Clarke and Nolan Giles all bought me a virtual coffee to help with the production of season three.
And last but not least, I want to say a huge thank you to Kirsty Spain whose production skills you are listening to as I speak.
Thank you so much for listening.
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