Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi famously said that there is enough on Earth for everybody’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed. He also said that “A certain degree of physical comfort is necessary but above a certain level it becomes a hindrance instead of a help; therefore the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and a trap. … Europeans will have to remodel their outlook if they are not to perish under the weight of the comforts to which they are becoming slaves.”
Despite those and many similar warnings, in the 1920s (significantly in the interlude between WW1 and WW2) a new concept found its way into manufacturing — “planned obsolescence”. This deliberate short-term durability became the norm. What made it even more powerful was that it was consciously morphed into a further even more powerful ‘delusion’ — that of “the obsolescence of desirability”. Advertising, as many people now take for granted, was used to inculcate a feeling of insufficiency or a personal sense of failure if the newest, latest, biggest, best product remained beyond our grasp.
Now, we find ourselves in that ‘trap’ and the effects of greed are clear enough to most thoughtful observers. The Earth is suffering and, as economist and author Jeffrey Sachs put it: “The world is hitting global limits in its use of resources. We are feeling the shocks each day in catastrophic floods, droughts, and storms — and in the resulting surge in prices in the marketplace. Our fate now depends on whether we co-operate or fall victim to self-defeating greed.”
The notion of sustainability applied as widely as possible to all areas of life is finally here. What started as citizens’ local projects which expanded to be accepted as a practical norm have gradually developed into policies as local, federal, national bodies are beginning to incorporate and implement them. The throw-away lifestyle is transitioning into what may one day become known as ‘post-consumerism’ with recycling, reusing, repair, mend and make-do as the key factors in a new relationship of responsible stewardship, and correct husbandry of the resources provided by our planet.
Slovenia has embraced the need for such change and is playing a leading role in the recycling and the waste management revolution. Its capital, Ljubljana, was named European Green Capital in 2016. Re-use of objects is also high on the Slovene agenda and the following interview is a small-scale but effective example of sustainability in action.