Our first episode investigates how consumerism is causing many of today’s global economic, social and environmental problems. We uncover how over-consumption itself is not new, but industrialisation, disposable incomes and spare time have led to an exponential increase, as has built-in obsolescence.
"The isssue is that we are consuming more than this Earth can give us and there is too many people who are consuming beyond their needs… beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth", Prof Eva Pongracz, Faculty of Technology, University of Oulo.
We are at a point where consumption is no longer sustainable – and does not necessarily make us happy.
We explore how packaging, often pointed out as evil, is a symptom of our consumerism. We also look at the role and effectiveness of legislation at an activity, individual and country level, as well as the unintended consequences and loopholes. We zoom in on challenges brought about from fashion and vehicles discarded by the Global North, and the divergent views of two neighbouring countries, Kenya and Rwanda. We touch on how the Covid-19 pandemic has shown up the vulnerability of global supply chains.
“A way forward is a lot of community action, citizen action and education towards behaviour stabilisation or behaviour transformation”, Wekesa Zablon, regional co-ordinator, Africa Circular Economy Network.
As we move onto solutions, which must come from within, we discuss how cross-border extended producer responsibility, pooled resources, and environmentally-aware and ethical consumers are important.
Finally, the future lies in collaboration between the Global North, which must transition from excessive to smarter, more efficient consumption, and the Global South, which should be able to satisfy its needs.
Professor of Energy Systems and Environmental Engineering at University of Oulu, Faculty of Technology
Eva Pongrácz is professor of energy systems and environmental engineering at the University of Oulu, in Northern Finland. She has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and is a doctor of technology in environmental engineering. She is leading a research group focusing on research in smart energy systems, circular economy and sustainability. A special focus of her group’s research is in the Arctic aspects of energy technologies and resources management. She is also teaching energy and sustainability subjects in the international master’s degree programme of environmental engineering at the University of Oulu, and is responsible for the sustainable energy systems study orientation. In her 27 years academic career, she has advised 8 PhD dissertations, around 50 master’s theses, authored over 180 scientific publications, including 72 peer-reviewed articles and was involved in about 30 projects. She is passionate about sustainability, concerned about our current consumption habits, global inequality and the state of our environment, and is committed to raise awareness and make a difference through her research and teaching.
Regional Organiser at African Circular Economy Network
Wekesa Zablon is a designer in everything he does. He sees potential all around him. His strength lies in his broad knowledge on the circular economy, his never-ending perseverance and his enthusiasm which is contagious. Wekesa has a clear view on how his ideal society would look like, and he doesn’t hesitate to act on it. With his enthusiasm he involves all kinds of people to realize the promises that lie unexploited. Wekesa is driven by a heart full of love for his country and all the living creatures that it holds.