Urban sprawl is seen around the world as a by-product of our growing populations and corporate-run, capitalist economies. We have more cities than every before and the cities themselves are expanding to keep up with our growth at huge cost to the environment.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve lived in an urban environment at least once in your life. You might be sat at a computer next to a window plagued by pigeons while sirens scream by in the distance as you digest this very sentence. But if, like me, you found it all just a bit too much and decided to retire somewhere less dirty and crowded, you now read this from the quiet confines of the countryside where you can hear the trees sway and the birds sing.

It’s a shame really, because cities really do have so much potential. So much excitement and opportunity. But often there’s a dark side in the form of smog, noise, light pollution and quite a lot of loneliness.

We’re faced with an interesting challenge as we cruise on through the 21st century. In the western world, old folks are living longer than ever before. We’re also seeing a decrease in infant mortality and overall a better quality of life than we saw in the 1900’s. That’s not to say that we don’t now face a different set of problems (cue: climate change, air pollution, loneliness, depression, obesity etc.), but in terms of years spent alive and roaming the planet, there has been a definite increase.

And that’s great. And inevitable. We humans are thrilled with a project; a conundrum; a challenge. If there’s a way we can find a cure for something and make our lives better in some way, we’ll damn well persist until we’ve achieved it. It’s a beautiful thing, really. The forever quest to utopia.

But the problem is that we’re not improving our habitats as quickly as we need to, in order to support an increasing and ageing population. By habitat I’m referring to that which we – humans – live in. Our neighbourhoods. Our communities. We’re running on old-school logic in a modern world that needs more and better. And what does it come down to, at its most basic level? The economy. That’s the crux. That’s the awkward thing that no one wants to talk about, so of course I’m going to touch upon it here. It’s what I do.

A capitalist economy worked for a while. It got us to where we are today and in many ways I’m incredibly grateful for that. But it’s also limiting in so many ways. At its core, a capitalist economy is based on the owning of resources. Every business is created and run with a profit motive, offering goods or services in exchange for monetary gain. The problems come when the distribution of important resources required by the masses are controlled by only a select few. Sometimes we refer to this collective as “the 1%”. We might be dealing with a free market, but wealth distribution is anything but even throughout society. This, of course, is what results in a class system. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single good thing that comes from a class system.

In this current, capitalist regime, the emphasis is on jobs. Everyone’s got to have a job they can work at so they can make an income to spend on those things that they need, along with (wait for it) those things that corporations convince us that we need (cue: advertising). The more we spend, the more debt we find ourselves in, the more money we need, the harder we work, the more we spend to comfort ourselves. It’s an almighty viscious cycle.

The rich get richer and the poor die trying.

In a capitalist economy, the ulimate goal is to maximise profits – at whatever the cost. This may have worked for a while. But the thing is, it’s now 2018 and we’re at crisis point with our environment (you know, that thing that GIVES US LIFE?!) We’ve supported economic growth without considering the repurcussions. It’d be easy to put it down to a lack of education which, sure, was indeed the problem 100 years ago. But we have a whole host of incredibly bright and competent scientists around the globe throwing the figures at governments to no avail.

By this point you might be like, “OK, yadda yadda yadda Kat, what alternative is there?”

To which I respond, “Well, DUH, a resource-based economy!” (Cue: The Venus Project)

In a resource-based economy, the highest levels of technology are fully utilised and the resources we need distributed to all. At present, the very best technology to increase efficiency of transport, housing, crop growth, education, healthcare and all other areas of society only have one barrier between being put to use and remaining in a research facility: capital.

I’m not saying it’s an easy feat. It sure as hell isn’t. To breakdown everything that we’ve come to identify as normal and replace with something that isn’t such a struggle is bound to induce messy transition period. But it’s an absolute necessity worth striving for if we are to have any hope of a happy and healthy future.

The result is a city lifestyle that isn’t bathed in toxic air or filled with money-driven crime. It doesn’t have sky-high rent rates or inefficient public transport and endless traffic jams. The result is cities that are actually, well, pleasant, because there’s no pressure to own anything and have status because the concept is redundant. They boast all the perks of living in such a high concentration of people: the culture, the cuisine, the opportunities and amenities, but none of the cons.

I don’t know about you, but that’s an environment worth striving for, I think.

If this sounds like something you want to work towards too, I suggest starting here. And when you’re done with that, consider focusing your time and effort on living as sustainably as you can while operating in our current economy. Reduce your waste. Support businesses striving for circular economies. Work towards financial freedom so that you can make better decisions. And above all else, talk about it! Share this information with others and educate yourself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Brush

A little while ago now I wrote this post about my decision to only use cruelty-free beauty brands from that moment on. In a world where we’ve got China giving brands a massive demand for their products, but only on the condition that they are each tested on animals before retailing in the country, there was this ethical melt-down that happened a few years back; brands that had started in Europe and North America on pillars of excellence including no animal testing were re-evaluating their ethics all in the name of earning serious dollar in the East. That’s not cool; but I guess no surprise as business is often ruthless, regardless of how ‘beautiful’ the product being sold.

So I made this switch. It meant having to bid farewell to some old favourites, but I didn’t care – luckily there are plenty of incredible brands out there who put ethics before economy and for me that puts their products in a brighter light. One thing I must say though is that I’m still struggling with my moral stance on the sustainability of packaging, which is what this post is about today.

When I’m looking for a new product, I tend to mostly go for brands that I’ve done thorough research on first. It’s either that or looking for the leaping bunny symbol that indicates to the consumer that no animals were harmed in the making of that product. More than the issue of animal-testing though, I’m also highly interested in where the brands source their ingredients and therefore the quality, where the products are made, and how environmentally-friendly their policies are on waste. I would say there is a marginal correlation between brands refusing to retail in China and their ethical standpoint on the aforementioned points, but generally you’re looking at just the same amount of choice in good versus bad quality and care about the sustainability of packaging. This is an area that we need to move forward in – by bunny leaps and bounds, one could say.

So we’ve got the cruelty-free thing moving in a good direction. Like I said, there are loads of brands available to consumers who don’t want animals to suffer at the expense of putting mascara in their makeup bag. There could be more, but we’re moving in the right direction at least. The area we are lacking in – however – is the packaging. Black hard plastic (HDPE), the classic material used for that compact you’re holding is much harder to recycle than a standard PET. The result is that almost nowhere will take it to recycle and thus it ends up in landfill.

Why are we doing this? I understand that the marketing team of all these brands wants the product to be as aesthetically-pleasing as possible to the consumer. It’s unfortunate, but packaging is important to most consumers and that shiny metallic compact that looks chic in your handbag is going to consistently win more brownie points than a more environmentally-friendly alternative. This particularly applies to products in the more ‘luxury’ market. If you’re paying a good chunk of money for the product, you expect the packaging to be of a high calibre too.

But what if the demand changed? What if the consumer wanted a high quality product with protective, yet minimal and recyclable packaging? This would decrease the need for wasteful one-use plastics. The creative minds who enjoy packaging design could still do their thing, but this time bearing in mind the importance of the end of life for that packaging, whether it means making a material that can be transformed into something else when the make-up runs dry or something that is easily recyclable. If the consumer is paying a high price anyway, you have the luxury of getting creative with making the most environmentally-friendly, chic packaging you can! This is uncharted territory here!

That being said, when you’re buying paints for a canvas, it doesn’t matter what the tube looks like. The purpose of that paint is to make its way onto a blank canvas and transform it into a piece of art. Why shouldn’t makeup be considered the same? The packaging is what you see first, but the point of the makeup is to make its way onto your skin and transform you. I really think that we can learn to shift our perspective and priorities. All it takes is for one strong contender to take a leap and get some influential beauty bloggers on board. Big things can happen and I’m going to start pushing for it.

 

Photo: Flickr

 

As some of you know, it was Earth Day earlier this week. I’ve been thinking that whilst we can indeed make changes like saying ‘NO!’ to plastic bags and buying local produce, we need to move away from the idea that in order to be more environmentally-friendly, we must go back a step. Living by candle-light and refusing to drive a car are behind the times. That’s like giving a new mother an all-singing, all-dancing hi-tech, lightweight stroller, only to then take it away from her and give her a massive, heavy, wooden one that she is expected to push her twins around all day in whilst running errands. Elaborate analogy, but I hope you get my point. With the incredible advances in the technology of renewable energy resources in recent years, why can’t we have our cake and eat it too?

Earth

Open your eyes and see that human beings undergo mental expansion at a phenomenal rate. And it is only becoming more rapid. Talk to any teenager around now and it is likely that he or she is way more switched on than you and I were back then. With this evolution comes the capacity to improve the way our society functions, provided the cognitive skills are used beneficially.

When I am feeling my most frustrated and hopeless, a good friend of mine tells me that I am ‘like a dog chewing on the furniture again’. This is the perfect analogy for what happens when we are not encouraged to create. I don’t mean this in the surface-level artistic sense. You don’t have to be a musician or a painter to be an artist, and you certainly don’t have to be either of those to create. Designing an expandable shoe which can offer sole-comfort to a child for 5 years is a practical masterpiece. Being a key player in making renewable energy resources ‘the norm’ is incredible. And a chef trying to make eating insects more palatable to the ‘western world’, quite frankly deserves a gold medal. My point is that when we are playing to our strengths, we are able to create the seemingly magical.

I am not hating on celebrating the Earth, doing a beach clean-up, hosting a sacred ritual of the trees in the forest or living without any electronic devices for a week. By all means, clean up the six-pack rings that kill marine life, take your shoes off and walk in the dirt and focus on your writing for a week – pencil and paper like the old times, should you wish to! I am simply asking: why don’t we progress beyond what John McConnell proposed back in 1969 – a day that we could all stop and focus on peace and respect for the Earth – and make it daily practice? Why can’t we look at all the issues we have causing the global scale scum-production in the first place and alter them before we have to run around picking up the litter and planting more seeds? Do you understand what I’m saying? As any skin cancer specialist will tell you: wear sunscreen as prevention is key. The same thing applies here. Don’t spend one day a year trying your best to clean up the mess we live in, only to revert to old bad habits the other 364. Don’t accept that things have to be this way.

Every single person that reads this is talented in one way or another. A society which tells us there is no cap on our growth and potential is one which benefits us all. I encourage you to lobby for the changes that we so desperately need. And work on those ridiculously farfetched ideas you have that seem unrealistic. Nurture those dreams, play with every detail and start to think of who could help you make them happen. Someone out there will appreciate what you have to offer; usually more than you initially think. All hail global communication please.

I think what I’m really trying to get at here is that we must change the way we do things. Think radically and dream big because nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it. I love John McConnell for his dream back in the 60’s, but think that now we’re in 2015 we need to go a step further. Speak up for the global-scale changes that need to be made and let yourself create that next great thing.