The Circle of Life

Since beginning my MSt at CISL my life has completely changed.

I’d like to tell you it’s CISL alone which has made me stop and think, that I’m equipped with knowledge and wisdom I need, that I am a changed person and it’s all for the better.

But the truth is, it’s because on 17 September, I got a phone call at 4.30am from the other side of the world. I found out that my dear father, my best mate and my mentor had died unexpectedly

Every relationship between a parent in their child is different. I know I was more fortunate than many others. The flip side is that not much about my life, other than my family, has seemed to matter much since Dad died.

I am annoyed at how cliched this seems to type. That someone reading this may roll their eyes at my lack of understanding of my own privilege, or perhaps feel some sense of discomfort at reading such a personal note.

What I am most ashamed about is the painful truth that it took losing my own father to somehow really put everything into perspective.

And that perspective isn’t some sort of wisdom or purpose, it’s acutely painful.

Never would I have imagined that a pandemic would mean I couldn’t get home for my own father’s funeral, or that I would still be waiting for a potential repatriation flight to my home country two months later.

However, the painful reality is that Covid-19 and its consequences should have come as no surprise. Infectious diseases were in the World Economic Forum’s top quadrant of Global Risks in terms of likelihood and impact in 2020.

While the risk always existed, for some reason I didn’t ever think about it seriously, or how it might impact my life.

Yet in a way, lack of mobility and dislocation from family are just a few of the endless impacts we will need to accept and try to manage as sustainability related challenges, particularly Climate Change, will continue to affect individuals, families, communities and countries around the globe for decades.

Probably the strongest two statements in this vein that took me off guard at my first CISL workshop were:

  • I am in the richest quintile of the population, which has 93.8% of all global household wealth (80:20 Development in an Unequal World, Edition 6, 2012)
  • If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production (Pete Seegers, 1 Million Women)

These two statements have made me think deeply about my own ‘personal leadership opportunity’.

How can I use affluence to instigate actual positive change for sustainability through the circular economy during the two years that I am at CISL?

I have begun to think about potential areas in which I could volunteer my time and have reached out to a specific membership organisation which I believe is unlike most others. Instead of representing one industry, it represents all those companies that supply an affluent household.

As such, it provides an interesting model in which I could undertake research as to how a membership organisation could facilitate a more circular economy. In theory, resources could circle around this membership organisation perpetually, eliminating waste and leading to infinite eco-efficiency (Figge et al. 2018; Korhonen et al. 2018).

While my personal leadership opportunity is just beginning, the response from the membership organisation has been positive. They see it as an opportunity to connect members, deliver valuable knowledge and perhaps set the agenda of circular economy models in the future.

I hope my potential research will go some way to helping the circular economy become a new circle of life.

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