Over the course of its seventy-year history, ISO has undergone a remarkable transformation, keeping pace with, and redefining its role in, a fast-changing world. But how have personal attitudes and responsibilities changed over the same time? We go family-style on a big platter of environmental issues.
More often than not, it’s the simple things in life that give us reason to pause and consider how lucky we are. Last Sunday, after getting up early (thanks again, Baby James) and busily chopping, mashing, seasoning and roasting my way through the morning, I experienced this small gratitude-filled hiatus at the sight of three generations of family gathered around my kitchen table.
I zone back to the present when a friend’s five-year-old points to the kitchen tap that I’ve left running over a lettuce in the sink. “Turn it off ! Water is precious !” He’s right, of course. Even in Switzerland (whose green and grassy landscape is adequately rained on all year round), water is a resource that needs to be conserved, like any other. I smile and shut off the tap, as my father-in-law affectionately rolls his eyes at me. “I don’t know where they get it from. School, I suppose. They’re so eco-conscious these days.”
The theme of the environment, and how our relationship to it has changed over the years, gives us a lot to talk about as plates are passed around and glasses filled and emptied. I reflect on the story of ISO and its own evolution toward standards that touch all aspects of our environment, from reducing toxic substances to sustainable growth. How have society’s ideas about ecology influenced standards from their industrial beginnings to becoming a benchmark for protecting the planet?
Mum knows best
The journey begins in 1947, with my mother. She was born just after the War, and came into the world at a time when loss and destruction were slowly being ousted by progress, reconstruction and, above all, hope.
It’s no coincidence that this was the same year that ISO was founded. Re-growth simply couldn’t have happened without a coordinated effort, and all the rebuilding had to begin with factories, jobs, houses and infrastructure. The role that ISO had to play was clear.
Mum explains how, looking back, “we were growing up in a new time of plenty. So shutting off taps, switching off lights, and the gloomy, make-do austerity of the war was maybe forgotten. We had labour-saving gadgets and white goods, the miracle of television, unheard-of leisure time and affordable travel”. If the world’s resources seemed inexhaustible, it was understandable: 70 years ago, the world population was just 2.4 billion. That’s less than the combined population of India and China today.