Solvatten: You are the author of the book ”Your Agenda 2030”. Congratulations!
Parul Sharma: Many many thanks!
Solvatten: Why did you write it and who should read it?
Parul Sharma: Because sustainable development is or should be every one’s business. However, today I fear that frameworks such as Agenda 2030 or sustainable development generally is viewed as something politicians or UN people talk about. One main purpose to write this book is to create engagement and participation. Many people are losing hope due to climate change and do not see the individual possibilities to contribute. My book has a couple of hundreds of tips and suggestions for how you as a citizen, consumer, parent, teacher, student, pupil, employee, employer can contribute on a daily basis. I have given social, environmental and climate sustainability the same focus and tried to demonstrate the interlinkages between these three through over fifty interviews with experts, activists, business, civil society and many more sectors. Each interview has a solid set of recommendations.
I hope this handbook will help people go from hopelessness to action. When citizens stop to engage or participate, or have fear of engagement, or feel action be unnecessary – it will affect democracy as a whole. Not everyone will be interested, passionate or informed enough to drive change – but the purpose of my book is to trigger some interest for everyone.
For instance, sustainability is not just about adopting the latest energy-efficient technologies or turning to renewable sources of power. Sustainability is the responsibility of every individual, every day. It is about changing our behaviour and mindset to reduce power and water consumption, thereby helping to control emissions and pollution levels.
Solvatten: What is personal sustainability?
Parul Sharma: To me personal sustainability is a matter of self-care, health at many levels, physical, psychological and emotional. I usually say that unless we maintain our own personal sustainability we will not be able to progress planetary sustainability. There are clear connections between our individual health and consumption for instance. Research shows how shopping is a result of a nervous reaction. Something temporary to still a nervous mind, even referred to as “retail therapy”. Shopping addiction is more predominant in depressed women with low self-esteem and anxiety. Frequent visits to malls may act as an escape mechanism for them to cope with unpleasant feelings. Moreover, societies are constantly aiming at making us become buyers and consumers, this in itself stresses us out, a constant buzz to engage in temporary pleasures which are harming our planet. Sweden for instance is one of the world’s most advertisement intense countries in the world. This is collision and contradiction to the fact that Sweden wants to lead in the area of sustainable development.
Solvatten: Why is it important that we centre climate action in climate justice?
Parul Sharma: A wide range of our human rights, such as right to life, health, food, water and an adequate standard of living, are adversely affected by climate change. The evidence of this is seen with each new extreme weather event and the devastation of death and the destruction of crops and property. For the sake of our human rights further action against climate change is acute, or it will continue to devastate people and the planet, and the most marginalised communities even more. Climate change is, and will increasingly become, a factor behind migration and scarce re-sources, which can in turn lead to conflict. From a human security perspective, long-term effects of climate change are as much of a security threat as war and armed conflict. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to these threats, as for example with respect to sexual and gender-based violence. Hence climate action needs to take a centric role within the reality of climate justice. Here innovations and solutions also need to have climate justice as a core.
Solvatten: “The business of business is business” is an expression, but does it still hold?
Parul Sharma: No not anymore, well it didn’t hold in the past either and that’s why we are faced with climate change. There are effective dis-choices and investments that can be made to move towards development paths that are more synergetic. Hence the leading question for all stakeholders concerned with sustainable development should be “do we have the business leadership required for sustainability?” Until we can give this question an affirmative yes business has to be challenged into change.
Solvatten: Is hope the most beautiful thing in this world?
Parul Sharma: Hope can indeed be a trigger to action and reaction for development, and hope is extremely important to uphold human rights and democracy. Each person is a powerhouse and can start a movement, small or big for change and sustainable development. Hope can indeed illuminate these powerhouses.
Solvatten: Do you agree that access to safe and hot water using a renewable energy source should be an indicator to include in the next revision of WHO/UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) or similar institutions?
Parul Sharma: Yes, I agree. The linkages between water and energy are increasingly recognised across businesses, governments and the public sector, but the understanding and investments need a much heavier focus. The world has a water problem. More than 2.1 billion people drink contaminated water. More than half the global population – about 4.5 billion people – lack access to proper sanitation services. More than a third of the global population is affected by water scarcity, and 80% of wastewater is discharged untreated, adding to already problematic levels of water pollution.
Solvatten: Thank you so much for this interview, Parul Sharma!
Parul Sharma is a Human rights lawyer, sustainability professional, opinion leader and author.
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