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HOW TO EXIST SUSTAINABLY

t专栏文章COLUMN

Illustration: Pichaya Puapoomcharoen

Illustration: Pichaya Puapoomcharoen

 The question is not if.

 
We can solve all problems to be able to live, but it will be then living in a way that cherishes our reality. The goal is to make our reality beloved so as to be able to wander in it, and trying to better understand it so that more knowledge grows and in so doing unravels the complexities. Are we going to fight the fragile human, the climate crisis, the politics of public space by understanding the problems and then solving them, or by enjoying and loving the climate, and its appearance so that we can live with it, challenge it, and provoke it to be even better?
 
What is a better climate? One that lived thousands of years before or the one of tomorrow? How do we deal with it, how do we behave with it, how do we understand it, and how do we give it a voice that makes us understand and be able to communicate with it? Could wesay that by understanding things better, we are able to change things, direct things? But if we want to direct, are we really sure where we want to go to?

 

 

 

What do we expect from our reality? To answer this we need to know where we are, who we are, what we see and what culture we want to live in.

 

 

 

Being sustainable means being able to live in balance with your environment – it is a way of living in which the human civilization is able to live in harmony with its resources, where technological developments enhance both current and future potential. In a properly sustainable situation, human needs and aspirations are met, and nature is able to keep up so that we can coexist and all survive.
 
Water plays an important role in this because it is the main component of the earth’s hydrosphere, the fluid of all known living organisms, vital for all known forms of life, but also a material our economy is fully dependent on. 70%of all freshwater is used for agriculture and the rest we use for making, cooling and heating in industry and homes. This inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odourless, and nearly colorless chemical substance is the source of all we are.
 
While I am sitting here in my room, looking out the window it’s raining. It’s dark and the day has to find its beginning. I started by going for a walk to a bakery for a small breakfast, a coffee with milk, orange juice, and a croissant.
 
Sitting here I am drinking my coffee while I am about to write an essay about sustainability. I start to wonder where would I be if I would live within the perspective of water. Imagine if I would have total awareness of water and would always see its amount via a system of subtitles that reveal the quantity used visually.
 
I use 109 liters a day, 39,785 liters a year, apparently exactly the same amount of rain that my apartment would catch in a year. It’s around 55m2 the size it needs to collect the rain that falls in a year that I use, which is 72 cm the same height as the table I am now writing from.
 
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 Illustration: Pichaya Puapoomcharoen

 
This would only cover the water we use from my tap for drinking, cooking, washing, and cleaning. There is a huge amount of water we are surrounded by that is totally invisible. All things need water to exist. So we need to get aware of how we want to live with water to beable to choose how and with what we want to build our daily life landscape. How do we want our awareness to grow? By the morals of living a good lifeor by taking care of a good life.
 
I take a sip of my coffee with milk ina paper cup. The cup takes 5 liters of water to produce and apparently we use 500 paper cups per year.
 
The coffee itself needs 130 liters to be produced and I am not counting transportation, the packing, the world of the shop nor all the accounting that comes with it. Imagine if I could feel the full existence of a single cup of coffee.
 

 

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Illustration: Pichaya Puapoomcharoen
 
If the full reality and existence of the life of water was clear and visible, my coffee would stand for 135 liters of water and even more if its political and social influence was included. I wouldn’t be able to carry it anymore. It would become too heavy, it would keep me awake at night, and not only because ofthe caffeine it contains.
 
My orange juice is responsible for 230 liters of water, my croissant 65 litres. If I would stand up, walk around and look in the mirror, I would see myself worried wearing my cotton underwear, my cotton T-shirt, linen trousers, woollen cardigan, and socks standing inmy leather shoes. If I would add up all the water my outfit has used, it would be 1500 liters, the weight of a car, half a 20-foot container full. When I would project that on the room I am in right now, my study room, the water would rise to my waist. If I slowly add all the other things in my room, the furniture, my computer, the study books I would probably drown.
 

 

 

 

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Illustration: Pichaya Puapoomcharoen
 
Our life as it currently is has created a world of freight containers. I guess the container is basically a box thatgot fully industrialized, without ever realizing how much it would influence our life of things. The largest containership existing can transport 24.000 containers, a block of steel withthe size of 400x60x36 meters floating over the sea to constantly bring us our needs. And make our lives we now live possible.
 
A 20-foot container can carry 36.000 t-shirts. Multiply that with 24.000 containers it would mean 864.000.000 T-shirts. Every cotton t-shirt takes 2600 liters of water to produce so 864.000.000 T-shirts multiplied by 2.600 is 2.300.000.000.000 liters of water.
 
2,3 Trillion by name. So the biggest containership arriving in Rotterdam filled with t-shirts. Just by its cargo, the ship would have a tail of water, being 60 meters wide, sailing into the harbor with a depth of 23 meters, with a length of 174 kilometers of water needed to produce the-shirts.
 
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Illustration: Pichaya Puapoomcharoe

In Europe, we have 741.000.000 citizens, so we need 741.000.000 sets of undershirt and underpants. Judging by the weights, a cotton undershirt weighs 160g and underpants weigh 60g, which equals around 1,15 of a 190g cotton T-shirt. As a result, the volume of 741.000.000 sets of undershirt and underpants will be close to the volume of 864.000.000 t-shirts, so we need one biggest containership of transportation just to invisibly dress us up for the day.

 

So imagine Europe divided into 3 timezones all waking up and starting todress in the morning. Just to put on underwear, a wave of three hours will move 2.33 trillion liters, the water needed to produce the cotton for it. A huge wave moving from east to west just to start our day, having done nothing yet. A wave of people getting dressed. So to produce the fabric for just underwear for all European citizens would need 2.33 trillion liters of water. That equals 8 cm of water covering the whole of the Netherlands and it’s the same volume as the Chinese Great Wall being 6,5 meters wide, 7 meters high, and 6400 km long.

Just to understand the number 2.33 trillion if we make them in seconds it takes 72.555 years to pass by. 72.555 years ago we were living in the Middle Paleolithic.
 
 
The middle Stone Age, which is the era in which we found the earliest evidence of behavioral modernity, that what distinguishes the current "Homo sapiens" from other anatomically modern humans, hominins, and primates. Characterized by abstract thinking, planning, symbolic behavior, music, dance, and technology including patterns of social norms, language, and cooperations. Humans also began to take part in long-distance trade for rare commodities and raw materials.

 

 

 

There were also several out-of-Africa dispersals of the modern humans via the so-called "Southern Route" spreading rapidly along the coast of Asia and reaching Australia.
 
It was around 70.000 BC the super volcano called Toba, on Sumatra, in Indonesia erupted blowing roughly 650 miles of vaporized rock into the air. So much dust hanging in the atmosphere blocked the sunlight from fully reaching the earth for six years. It reduced the temperature, creating a global "volcanic winter" with its 6-centimeter layer of ash covering bigparts of the land. This all caused a sharp reduction in the size of the population due to environmental events that followed the volcano eruption.
 
So we almost vanished, but now we’re back.
 
Are we going to become more sustainable through fear and morality, or are we going to change our behavior through understanding and developing a genuine culture of care? A new era inmodernity towards social intelligence and inclusivity in which growth is a mental and physical state of our being.

 

 

 

 

Text / Jurgen Bey
Director of Sandberg Instituut 
Founder of Studio Makkink & Bey 

 

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It was the birth of a project “Cleanliness is close to godliness” in which refined precious tools for cleaning was developed. Silk with embroideries ofstreet cleaners of all sorts, aprons with window cleaners, gloves with dust sweepers all to celebrate the art of cleaning. Porcelain buckets and mops challenging the cleaners how to move, how to behave and being gracious and caring not to break their tools. A higher level of their profession to be delicate and able to act as dancers and therefore challenging the intelligence of cleaning.

 

 

 

The project is also meant to cherish the water used for cleaning. It remindsus to stay aware of its beauty and preciousness and to get to know waterbetter, especially how commercial production almost abuses it. We need the skills to be more aware of the truth behind the façade. Sustainability is coexistence, not an act of solving problems, but a process that believes and sees every day care as an act of modern living.