After going through the various PowerPoint’s, there are a handful of different issues and solutions brought up in the training modules. Some of the topics discussed have massive implications on how the world faces concerns with the way our society is headed. Some of the issues brought up are with biodiversity- a topic that isn’t discussed nearly as much as it should be- deforestation, stakeholder expectations and the issues massive corporations face with profit margins, as well as the world’s water supply. In past weeks, we discussed the issue with quality of water, most notably with Flint, Michigan’s crisis, but we are going to lean more towards the water supply as a whole in the world and how it is beginning to dwindle.
The topic of biodiversity is overlooked most of the time when discussing sustainability and different practices to keep the ecosystem within our environment functioning efficiently. Typically when we think of sustainability, we think of global warming and different “green” movements we can engage in to make this world a better place to live for not just ourselves, but all “beings” on earth. While we are the majority of living creatures on this planet, we are not the only one. In order to continue living, we must ensure the continued survival of a diverse wildlife.
What type of benefit will this give us though? By having high levels of biodiversity, you can have a few massive benefit:
1. A larger number of plants species [which] means a greater variety of crops.
2. “Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms”
3. “Healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters” (Anup Shah).
In my opinion the second is one of the more important because it really brings the scientific aspect and perspective into biodiversity. One of the reasons why certain species are able to survive is they mate and adapt, creating new species, and ones enabling for survival. This actually brings in the idea of “survival of the fittest”, originally brought up by Charles Darwin, which is the “idea that species and change by natural selection with the best suited mutations becoming dominant” (Phrases). One of the biggest issues we will encounter going forward with stronger levels of biodiversity is our agriculture and whether we can sustain those farms.
One of the large impacts we will encounter from this is through the decreasing supply of bees throughout the world. According to reports from CNN, “one third of all our food - fruits and vegetables - would not exist without pollinators visiting flowers. But honeybees, the primary species that fertilizes food-producing plants, have suffered dramatic declines in recent years, mostly from afflictions introduced by humans’ (CNN, 2000). This article from CNN was released nearly 20 years ago, and we are still dealing with a constant decline of honeybees! Honeybees are an enormous part of our ecosystem and one we need to address now rather than later, as this is a growing problem we are facing.
One of the biggest issues as the world continues to grow on a global level is we require more land for agriculture. This means we need to cut down trees and forests in order to create more space for farmland. Well, let's look at the bright side. Over the last 20 years, the amount of forests that are being destroyed has gone down immensely. However, the cumulative amount of forests that we are cutting down, especially in Brazil, are beginning to hinder the ecosystem throughout the world. The amount of forests being cut down is increasing over time. By the year 2020, it is estimated that 30,000 square km will have been cut down! This is an astonishing number. I will say, that it is heartwarming how many people are taking an initiative to plant new trees with the hopes of these areas flourishing with wildlife down the line.
While many of these rainforests and wildlife are being destroyed, there are still massive amounts of hope for the ecosystem to be rebuilt, while we’re continuing to hurt our wildlife. According to recent research, “newly grown rainforests can absorb 11 times as much carbon from the atmosphere as [compared to] old-growth forests” (Kinver). I’ve always lived by the motto “everything happens for a reason”. Maybe in this scenario, this will actually help our world to become more sustainable over time by enabling for our new grown forests to circulate the carbon emissions out of the air to create more oxygen.
What can we do right now as individuals and a community to help combat this though? We need to immediately halt all deforestation that is currently occurring throughout the world. We need to begin planting new trees and allow these areas to regrow. This will actually allow for wildlife to come back to these areas to flourish. Regrowth in these areas can be done by “actively planting but it can also be done passively (via natural growth)” (Kinver).
One of the issues with many large corporations is the expectation that they have from their stakeholders in the company. The company is expected to keep as high profits as possible while being able to expand/grow the company at the same time. With this in mind, companies are required to try to do whatever it takes to continue the work that they are doing to keep a positive relationship with investors. When not taken into close consideration with the ecosystem, it can be extremely troublesome. In the ArcelorMittal case study, we found how one of the world’s leading iron mining operations could possibly affect Liberia’s local mountain ranges and the ecosystems in the surrounding areas. These wet-zone forests are some of the few remaining in the West-Africa area. If some of these possible issues are not taken into extreme care, it can many ecosystems and the local habitats.
So how exactly did ArcelorMittal deal with this going forward to negate any possible issues going forward? The ArcelorMittal team put together a group of researchers to go out and study the countries in the area to get a better understanding of the biodiversity in the region. Doing this research allowed for the organization to understand how logging, agriculture and other types of operations similar to this could actually impact biodiversity and hurt them over the long-term. By doing so, it actually created an extremely strong connection with many of the local stakeholders in the company and got the government in the area to protect this environment from commercial logging. This is an amazing example of how a company can use it’s social power to help teach about the power of an ecosystem and how we can impact the wildlife, but how it can hurt us in the future as well.
One of the biggest growing concerns for the world going forward is with the supply of our drinking water. The scariest part about this is many wealthy people understand this issue and have actually been putting massive amounts of money into this niche. As people start to put more money into this field, which is something we don’t really put a dollar amount on - you can use tap water or water for agriculture for little to no money on the dollar. We’re soon going to be faced with a massive risk for freshwater as it continues to become scarcer.
When you look at the world and how many countries around the globe face this growing concern, it is extremely alarming. I think it hasn’t been a big issue in the United States as we have plenty of freshwater sources around the country, except the Southwest, causing many lawmakers and companies not to prioritize the problem since it doesn’t affect them directly. However, look at the rest of the globe, many parts of the Middle East, India, and all over Africa are facing massive water shortages, and some even in a “water crisis”.
The biggest question for America is how do we put this as one of the concerns at the forefront? We need large companies to understand this issue and bring up possible solutions for how we can deal with this going forward. The government can only do so much, but the power of the community around the world and in the US can look to find solutions to this!
It’s pretty alarming to me that so many of these problems are coming up and that we never dealt with them in the past. The big issue with dealing with these on a global level is how to convince countries with governments who are extremely corrupt to want to follow suite on these initiatives. A lot of these problems are ones that we all need to understand as many of the students at UDM and fellow college students around the world will be faced with many difficult situations involving these types of decisions.
For me personally, I most likely won’t be in a position where I’ll be making decisions that could negatively impact our environment since I’ll most likely be in the tech industry. It does, however, make me more concerned about how I conduct my personal life and those who I am close with.
Earth Matters: Pollinator decline puts world food supply at risk, experts warn. (2000, May 5). Retrieved from CNN website: http://www.cnn.com/2000/NATURE/05/05/pollinators.peril/index.html
Kinver, M. (2016, February 4). Rainforest regrowth boosts carbon capture, study shows. Retrieved from BBC website: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35492273
The meaning and origin of the expression: Survival of the fittest. (n.d.). Retrieved from phrases website: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/340400.html
Shah, A. (2014, January 19). Why Is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares? Retrieved from Global Issues website: http://www.globalissues.org/article/170/why-is-biodiversity-important-who-cares