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Tackling the Plastic Crisis

Plastic pollution is by far the biggest threat to our oceans and this remains an incredibly tough problem to solve. Plastic credits could potentially serve as one of the much needed solutions for this crisis.

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The Scale of the Net Zero Challenge

The price of meeting net zero is estimated to be between $100-150 trillion over the next 30 years. Regardless of this cost, we need to reach net zero before climate change does irreversible damage to the environment and the economy.

ESG, Sustainability and Impact Jargon Buster

ESG, sustainability, impact… they all just mean green, right? Not quite. Despite being used often interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms.

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The Science of Climate Change

Climate change is no longer a distant threat or just a possibility, it is now a reality for all of us. In this pathway, Kevin Trenberth, a renowned climatologist, delves into the science behind climate change. He first introduces the climate system, its main components and forces.

Tackling the Plastic Crisis

Plastic pollution is by far the biggest threat to our oceans and this remains an incredibly tough problem to solve. Plastic credits could potentially serve as one of the much needed solutions for this crisis.

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The Scale of the Net Zero Challenge

The price of meeting net zero is estimated to be between $100-150 trillion over the next 30 years. Regardless of this cost, we need to reach net zero before climate change does irreversible damage to the environment and the economy.

ESG, Sustainability and Impact Jargon Buster

ESG, sustainability, impact… they all just mean green, right? Not quite. Despite being used often interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these terms.

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Overconsumption and Environmental Footprints

Overconsumption and Environmental Footprints

Richard Wilkinson

50 years: Social Epidemiology

In this video, Richard uncovers how economic inequality exacerbates environmental degradation. He also explores the significant environmental impact of the wealthy, from high carbon footprints to unsustainable consumption patterns. He also talks about why addressing inequality is vital for environmental sustainability, necessitating a shift away from consumerism.

In this video, Richard uncovers how economic inequality exacerbates environmental degradation. He also explores the significant environmental impact of the wealthy, from high carbon footprints to unsustainable consumption patterns. He also talks about why addressing inequality is vital for environmental sustainability, necessitating a shift away from consumerism.

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Overconsumption and Environmental Footprints

12 mins 10 secs

Overview

Economic inequality magnifies the consumption of status symbols, escalating environmental degradation. Wealthy individuals disproportionately contribute to CO2 emissions, establishing unsustainable lifestyle benchmarks. Tackling inequality is vital for environmental sustainability, emphasising the need for equitable and universally accepted environmental policies. This situation necessitates a cultural shift away from consumerism towards sustainable practices. The historical evolution from modesty to luxury glorification must be reexamined to combat the environmental crisis.

Key learning objectives:

  • Understand the consequences of the jet set lifestyle of the rich

  • Understand how inequality drives status competition and social comparisons

  • Outline how inequality is detrimental to the environmental crisis

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Summary
What is the environmental impact of the wealthy? 
The environmental impact of the wealthy is significant due to their extensive consumption patterns and resource-intensive lifestyles. This group's behaviour includes high usage of energy, frequent air travel, and a preference for luxury goods, all of which contribute to large carbon footprints. 

The wealthy often set consumption standards that are emulated by others, perpetuating a cycle of high resource use. This results in a disproportionate contribution to global environmental issues like CO2 emissions, climate change, and resource depletion, exacerbating the environmental crisis.

How does inequality impact consumption and sustainability?
Inequality significantly influences consumption patterns and sustainability. In societies with stark income disparities, there is an increased emphasis on material possessions as symbols of status and success. This leads to higher consumption of luxury goods and energy-intensive services, often by those who can least afford it. 

As people strive to emulate the consumption habits of the more affluent, resource use increases, and sustainability is compromised. Furthermore, the pursuit of status through material wealth creates a culture where sustainable practices, like reducing consumption or recycling, are undervalued hindering efforts to move towards more environmentally friendly lifestyles and sustainable societal norms.

Why is inequality detrimental to the environmental crisis?
Inequality is detrimental to the environmental crisis because it fosters consumption patterns that are not sustainable and increases the environmental footprint of societies. The desire to emulate the lifestyles of the more affluent leads to increased use of resources and higher emissions, even among those with lower incomes. This not only exacerbates environmental degradation but also makes it more challenging to implement and enforce policies aimed at reducing consumption and promoting sustainability. Furthermore, inequality often results in a lack of access to sustainable options for the less affluent, creating a vicious cycle where the environmental impact of consumption habits is intensified. Addressing inequality is therefore essential to creating a more sustainable society where resources are used responsibly and environmental impacts are minimized.

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Richard Wilkinson

Richard Wilkinson

Richard Wilkinson, emeritus Professor of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, Visiting Professor at University College London, and Honorary Professor at the University of York, has a background in Economic History and Philosophy of Science. He trained in Epidemiology, studying health determinants in populations, and has a research career focused on health inequalities and income distribution.

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