Hintergrund zu unserem Nachhaltigkeitskonzept Sir Mittens

Trigger Warning ;-)

In this blog post, we'll go into more detail about why we chose a sustainability concept.

What is written in this blog post is not pleasant but necessary. I would also rather have funny cat content here. But before you leave: It's worth a read. Because further down it says how we can do better.

We think it's important that we start, albeit unfortunately much too late, to start an honest dialogue about the climate crisis and we should implement solutions that do exist - away from "this can't be done" to "this can be done". This full-length blog post aims to lay out why we can't just close our eyes.

The blog post is largely based on A Life on our Planet by David Attenborough. Nothing has impressed us in a long time like these one hour and 23 minutes. So smart, so on point, so eye-opening. This should absolutely be a must-read for young and old. So, alternatively, you can just fire up Netflix. It's more colorful. But it also consumes more CO2 ;-)

The main thing is, you are open to the topic. Thanks for that!

The Extent of the Global Crisis

The word is getting out more and more in civil society that the climate crisis is a real threat to our existence. One of the main problems, and this too is now well enough known, is the rapidly increasing amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.

Too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have been a feature of all five previous mass extinctions each time. What took up to a million years "back then" due to volcanic activity, we have accomplished in just 200 years by burning living organisms (in the form of coal and oil). You have to imagine that.

Until the 1990s, global air temperature were still relatively stable. In the meantime, science found that this was only the case because the ocean absorbed much of the excess heat - until finally the upper limit of capacity was reached.

From then on, the equilibrium got out of joint and the average temperature rose - meanwhile by one degree in the past 90 years. That's a lot, and it's comparable to a fever. With fever, every degree decides between life and death.

Example: Our Forests

Rainforests are the prime example of our destructiveness. But we are not only damaging tropical forests. Our domestic forests are also in a miserable state. "Just one in five trees in Germany is still completely healthy. The green lungs are on the verge of collapse," according to a Tagesschau headline from 21.03.2021 - the "Day of the Tree".

Droughts, storms and pests take their toll on trees. Once the substance of a healthy forest has been attacked, the trees weaken in rows - a chain reaction. The aid money from the federal government for forest owners and foresters is a drop in the bucket. We are doing far too little to strengthen them sustainably.

In recent decades, we have already directly or indirectly destroyed around 50 percent of these "green lungs". That's three trillion trees. The reason: It paid off in seemingly two ways. We were able to use the wood and sow the freed-up land with monocultures (e.g. oil palms), which brought us even more profit.

List of a Huge Screw-up

  • The amount of summer ice in the Arctic has been reduced by 40 percent over the past 40 years.
  • 30 percent of fish stocks are so overfished that the numbers are critical.
  • We cut down over 15 billion (!) trees every year.
  • We have reduced freshwater populations by 80 percent through pollution, damming and over-extraction of rivers and lakes.
  • Half of the fertile land is now farmland.
  • 70 percent of the birds on Earth are farmed poultry - mainly chickens.
  • We account for over one-third of the weight of mammals on Earth. Animals we raise for food make up another 60 percent. For everyone else, the wildlife populations, only four percent remains. That's all there is. Or where do you still see insects? There aren't any on the front radiator of my imaginary BMW Z3. There was definitely more going on there 20 years ago after 200 imaginary kilometers.
David Attenborough, the renowned nature filmmaker who, at the age of 93, once again sat down in front of the camera for A Life on our Planet, his Witness Statement and Vision for the Future, draws this sobering conclusion (excluding the Z3 story, editor's note).

"Catastrophe" is absolutely the right word in light of these numbers. This goes out to all of you who think that Fridays for Future activists are exaggerating. Nope, they are not. And given the apathy of the world community, I want you to panic was also a perfectly understandable demand. It's so evident, and yet we do our best to minimize or even ignore this catastrophe.

Attenborough's conclusion of our "accomplishments" so far is:

The world is not as wild as it was. We destroyed it, not just ruined it, we have completely destroyed that non-human world. The human beings have overrun the world.

7 Tipping Points: Ticking Time Bombs

We are so close to the six so-called tipping points that from today's point of view it is hardly possible to stop the developments and prevent a climate chain reaction. These self-reinforcing chain reactions would further accelerate climate change and the consequences for us and our environment would be irreversible.
In the minds of business (and politics), on the other hand, this threat is still not real enough, even though we are pretty much on the brink of an abyss and the first effects have become noticable with the naked eye. Companies may discover sustainability as a clever PR trick and engage in greenwashing, or - even worse - they may not care about sustainability and climate neutrality at all.

What If We Just Do Nothing?

If we don't act because nobody feels responsible, then the following is going to happen within the next 100 years:

2030s: The Amazon rainforest falls.

According to forecasts, if the Amazon continues to be deforested, it will no longer be able to produce enough moisture by the 2030s and will degenerate into dry savannah. The result would be a catastrophic loss of species and a disastrous change in the global water cycle.

2030s: The Arctic becomes ice-free in summer.

Around the same time, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer. Without the white surfaces, less solar energy will be reflected back into space. The result would be an increase in the rate of global warming.

2040s: Permafrost soils thaw.

The permafrost soils in the north, for example in Siberia, have stored gigantic amounts of methane. If the temperature rises, they will finally thaw in the 2040s and release all the methane. It should be noted at this point that methane, a greenhouse gas, is many times more dangerous to our earth's atmosphere than CO2. Again, the consequence would be to accelerate climate change even more.

2050s: The oceans perish.

If we continue to take no or only half-hearted action, all coral reefs will be a thing of the past in the 2050s and fish stocks will collapse.

2080s: Food production falls into a crisis.

Soils will be depleted by the 2080s due to overuse and global food production will be in crisis. "Fun" Fact: Most wars have been caused by resource scarcity. Pollinating insects are completely disappearing and weather is becoming more unpredictable.

2100s: Parts of our Earth are becoming uninhabitable.

If the average global temperature rises by four degrees Celsius by the 2100s, large parts of the Earth will be uninhabitable. From that point on, the sixth mass extinction could begin. The stability of our age would be lost for good.

Right now, we're facing a manmade disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon. The longer we leave it, the more difficult it'll be to do something about it.

~ Davd Attenborough

So far, so gloomy. Whether the tipping points would actually occur is not completely certain. They are only forecasts that can change. But the possibility alone, and the uncontrollable catastrophe for our planet that would accompany it, should be reason enough to ensure that it never gets that far.

The Wrong Goal: Maximizing Profit

In our opinion, we have come to this point because we have not thought sustainably when it comes to doing business. Instead, it was and still is about maximizing profit at any cost. Thinking only in the short term and not pricing in what we are taking from nature has been a fatal mistake of the past decades.

We must do everything we can to restore our nature and ecological balance so that we can profit from it in the long run. Our present is worth nothing if the future of our successor generations is no longer worth living.

We consider it grossly negligent if every individual, but especially decision makers, decide to ignore or minimize the climate crisis. Those who do not even try to make a contribution are, in our eyes, complicit.

There. Now it's been said. That was the hard but fair climax. Now it's getting more pleasant.

So What Can Humanity Do?

It's quite straightforward. It's been staring us in the face all along. To restore stability to our planet, we must restore its biodiversity. The very thing that we've removed. It's the only way out of this crisis we have created. We must rewild the world.

~ David Attenborough

1. Acknowledge that we have a problem ... and then start taking serious action.

The first step is to acknowledge, without any blame, that our lives cost resources and have so far almost inevitably caused emissions. The crucial question for us is how each individual deals with this. Do we take responsibility and try to compensate for emissions or, better yet, prevent them from occurring in the first place, or do we ignore this fact and, against our better judgment, continue to produce avoidable emissions?

2. Stop population growth

Normally, populations have a natural cap due to limited available resources. But nothing limited us, and so our population grew dramatically in recent decades. By 2100, there could be 11 billion people.
We need to slow or stop population growth altogether before we are 11 billion.

Positive example: Japan has shown that birth rates fall when education and health improved because people had more expectations of their lives and opportunities in their lives. The number of children dropped from three to four in the 1950s to an average of two in 1975, and the population stabilized.

This stabilization can already be seen in many countries around the world. The fact that we are nevertheless becoming more numerous is mainly due to higher life expectancies.

So we will soon reach a population maximum for the very first time, and the sooner that happens, the better. The challenge is to raise living standards without further harming our environment. It's not impossible, as the following points show.

3. Use renewable energies

Our world lives from the sun. Every day, plants capture three trillion kilowatt hours of solar energy - about 20 times as much energy as we need. And that's just sunlight. If we finally said goodbye to fossil fuels, we could power our world entirely with natural energy. The energy is there in the form of sunlight, wind, water and geothermal energy, we "just" have to manage to use it efficiently.

Morocco is a positive example. The country used to rely on imported oil and gas. Today, it generates 40 percent of its own needs with a network of renewable power plants, including the world's largest solar farm. Because of its geographic location, the country could even be an exporter of solar energy around 2050.

In 20 years, renewable energy will be the world's main source of energy. It would be even better (and possible) to make them the sole source of energy. Energy would become more affordable and cities cleaner and quieter.

4. Let the oceans regenerate

The sea is an important source of food and a vast wilderness. The healthier the marine habitat, the more fish there will be. It would be a win-win situation.

Want a positive example? The Pacific island nation of Palau. They need their coral reefs for fishing and tourism. When the Palauans observed that fish stocks were diminishing, they restricted fishing. In many areas, fishing was completely banned. Protected fish stocks recovered so much that they moved to areas where fishing was allowed.

So by banning fishing in certain areas, fishermen benefited. And the coral reefs recovered as well. This is a great argument against our allergy to bans. Bans don't have to be bad things that are done to us out of spite. They help us!

Fishing-free zones in one third of the coastal waters would already be enough to cover our complete needs sustainably. In international waters, the UN is already trying to establish the largest of all fishing-free zones.

5. Reduce agricultural land and change diet

We need to radically reduce agricultural land to make room for wilderness. In our eyes, this is the most difficult, but at the same time the most important point. But it can also work - and we can do it by changing our diet.

High meat consumption means a high demand for land. In comparison, there are about 100 prey animals for every carnivore in the Serengeti. This is why large carnivores are quite rare on Earth: The earth simply cannot afford them.

With a vegetarian diet, we would only need about half the land we currently use. In this way, we could significantly increase the harvest of this land.

The Netherlands is a positive example: it is one of the most densely populated countries and there are many family-run farms without further land.

They therefore get the most out of every hectare - and that increasingly sustainably. In two generations, they have increased their yield tenfold while using less water, using fewer pesticides and fertilizers, and emitting less CO2. Despite its small land area, the Netherlands has thus become the second largest exporter of food.

With technically simple and more complex solutions, we can easily produce more food on much less land - vertically, indoors, in cities, even in the sea.

6. Stop deforestation, reforest and strengthen forests

Forest clearing must stop immediately. Crops such as oil palms and soybeans should only be planted where they were cleared long ago. There's plenty of that.

A comparatively quick and effective measure is biodiverse reforestation. In a small patch of tropical rainforest, up to 700 different tree species can exist - as many as exist in all of North America. In addition, there are millions of animal species, all of which play an important role in the "Circle of Life." The wilder and more biodiverse forests are, the stronger they are and the more effectively they absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

Positive example Costa Rica: A century ago, Costa Rica was covered by more than 75 percent forest. In the 1980s, uncontrolled deforestation reduced that forest to 25 percent. The government acted and offered grants to landowners to plant native trees. The forest has returned in 25 years and once again covers half of Costa Rica.

Globally, forests would absorb two-thirds of our current carbon emissions.

Nature will persist - with or without us

The secret is: We only benefit from our environment when our environment benefits from us. If we stop seeing ourselves on a higher plane and consider economic growth as the measure of all things, we could - with a good dose of wisdom - get to work.
When you think about it, we're completing a journey. Ten thousand years ago as hunter-gatherers, we lived a sustainable life because that was the only option. All these years later, it's once again the only option. We need to rediscover how to be sustainable. To move from being apart from nature to becoming a part of nature once again. This is not about saving our planet, it's about saving ourselves.
~ David Attenborough
March 21, 2021 — Florian Schulze