Environmental Systems and Sustainability

Environmental Systems and Sustainability


Abstract

            Over recent years, one of the biggest headlines in the news almost every day is about how our world is headed in the wrong direction because of how we treat the earth on a daily basis.  We’ve become extremely careless with the amount of resources we’re using and how we prioritize them.  This goes from water, energy, all the way to our end waste for products have not been handled with care, and it is not only affecting us right now with global warming issues, but will prove to be one of the biggest concerns for our society moving forward. We need to make these issues our own, and not depend on others for a solution. We need to be a part of the solution!

Water

            The core to all human life, water, is currently threatening human survival and a healthy ecosystem if we continue down the same path we are on. Right now, with our consumption of water, we will most likely see a 55% increase in consumption, and 2/3 of the entire world’s population living in stressful conditions surrounding water by 2050 (UN).  This is a terrifying fact. Knowing that a fair amount of individuals throughout the world are already suffering from reliable or improved water sources shows that we really aren’t addressing this issue.  To make matters worse, our own country is having these types of issues in Flint, MI, and has been an enormous issue for its citizens since April of 2014.  The outcry of the citizens hasn’t been enough since they are still finding lead in the water- even though it has been deemed safe by the government, and all POD (point of distribution) centers for water have been closed.  When we are exposed to these types of concerns, should we just look to the government to take the first step? Or should we as citizens try to help where the taxpayer’s dollars cannot? It’s a very difficult situation since we are already taxed that everyone assumes this will be covered by state and federal money, but the reality is most of the time it won’t. It’s extremely difficult to have massive expenditures to pay for these types of things- as we are seeing in many underdeveloped/developing countries that don’t have hardly any financial resources for this. So how do we go about solving these issues on a global scale, let alone a national one? Should we expect our tax dollars to go towards helping individuals from other countries, even ones who don’t have really any funding from their federal government? In my opinion, it’s one of the most difficult questions to answer, and something that will create massive arguments from both “sides of the coin”.  I personally believe that it will require those with wealth to be able to lift those up who might not be able to do it on their own and give them that extra “boost”.

 

Energy

            Over the last century, the oil and gas industry has completely dominated the United States’ economy. It really originated with the Rockefeller family in the late 19th century, where he built the largest oil refinery in the world.  Since then, oil and gas have not only been a staple of the daily lives of the American people, but on a global scale.  The issue with oil and gas is we are using the earth’s resources at a pace where we will completely drain the fossil fuels from our earth’s core.  We are putting forth our priorities towards certain industries, which is really only a “quick-fix” in terms of energy reliance.  We continue to frack, drill, and mine making not only the ozone worse because of the emissions, but it’s harming many areas around them. For example, in “Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas- have reported deaths, serious illnesses and reproductive problems among wildlife, as well as horses, cattle, cats and dogs exposed to fracking infrastructure or wastewater” (Biological Diversity).  This is pretty frightening to know that we are actively harming the environment and ecosystem, but not really batting an eye about it. Thankfully, fracking does give us a short term benefit of cheaper fossil fuels, but we aren’t doing a good job of balancing our energy usage. 

            Over the last 5-10 years, we’ve started to look into some of the more emerging technologies that allows us to access alternative forms of energy.  One of the most well known ones throughout the United States is Wind energy, where we place wind turbines in more desolate areas, i.e. the Midwest and even over the ocean.  This does have drawbacks because it can restrict our views and can harm certain types of wildlife.  My personal favorite alternative energy source is solar power (Renewable Resources Coalition).  It’s gained massive amounts of popularity over the years because it is completely renewable, and something that each and every one of us can take advantage of. Not only that, it can be extremely cost effective from energy bills! There are actually projects that have started up where you help to pay to build solar power farms in the middle-east and Africa, like the Sun Exchange.  You pay to have these solar powered across these areas and are paid back through the money created by these “cells”.  

Food & Waste

            There’s no denying that we aren’t smart about how we use our food. We waste an enormous amount of food. Not only are we wasting the food we have in our homes, but the food going to US food aid is lost to waste as well. According to reports by aid groups, apparently “$500m of US food aid is lost to waste, inefficiency, and the profit margins of big American agribusiness” (Provost).  This is an alarming number. This could help feed an additional 17 Million people! Apparently the US helps out with about 50% of all the food aid around the world totaling to about $2B. The interesting fact with all of this is how all this food aid is required to be purchased and shipped via US ships, while we might have “cheaper alternatives” (Provost).  This could not only help feed more people throughout the world if these laws changed, but could cost US taxpayers less money! Sounds like a win-win situation to me. 

            Making matters worse, the pesticides and water pollution problems we have created has led to additional problems with our world.  “The use of fertilizers which pollute our water and pesticides [which] kill our bees” (Cameron). Since 2004, about half of the bee population has been completely eliminated. We need to realize this issue and change what is going on. Bees have a massive impact on our environment- they help with pollination, and allow plants to grow by fertilizing them, so they can then produce food.  Without bees on earth, we would lose many plants and food crops that we rely on to survive. Over the last couple years, this issue has been become more apparent to the point where the “Save the Bees” campaign started, and Planet Bees Foundation was created.  Awesome initiatives for this growing problem to help educate the masses about what’s actually going on, and the benefit of bees to our environment. 

            As we continue to develop the various nations around the world, one of the biggest growing concerns is something we rely on every single day- food.  With how fast the world’s population is growing, we are going to run out of meat and resources to be able to sustain our population growth.  This will either cause more world hunger, or the amount we will pay for meat will rise exponentially.  We need to change the way we eat, and the types of food we eat, otherwise we could see a massive increase in famine around the globe (Martin). 

Global Warming

            One of the most controversial stories of recent years has been the discussion of Global Warming.  We’ve seen political figures even call it a hoax, or fake.  The reality is; our environmental footprint is not sustainable.  The world is heating up at an alarming rate, causing polar glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise.  Sea levels are actually predicted to rise between “20-80 inches by 2100, [and] 3.7 million residents are at risk from flood waters” (Cameron).  All of the issues talked about previously culminate together to create this massive problem, and is something that we all need to overcome.  On the bright side, countries like China, who have massive issues with smog, are looking to combat these problems! They’ve actually started constructing the world’s first “Forrest City”, which will end up being “home to a community of about 30,000 people” (Lant). This “Forest City” will be “self-sufficient, running on renewable energy sources such as geothermal and solar energy. The city will also be entirely wired, and will include commercial zones, residential areas, recreational spaces, a hospital, and two schools” (Lant).  This type of initiative is incredible, and it’s really cool to just see different ideas popping up like this as sustainability is not only being seen as important in America, but other parts of the world as well! Hopefully over the coming decades we see this types of projects stemming as we will need this to survive on this planet going forward, otherwise we will be dooming future generations.


 

Conclusion

            Sustainability and how we treat the environment has never been a priority in the past, as we never really understood the lengths to which it could be a problem.  However, years of research and dedication to these issues have helped us understand the problem, and look towards different solutions to them. The hardest part about this going forward is educating the masses about the problems and how we can solve them.  In addition to that, we also need more people wanting to participate in this initiative, and not just depend on our federal/state governments to make that big leap forward for humanity.  This is something that each and every one of us needs to take ownership for, and know that it is our duty to help make the world more sustainable for not only our children, but also for future generations who inhabit the earth.  We are the change for the future!


 

Resources

Cameron, C. (2012, April 22). The World’s 6 Most Pressing Environmental Issues. Retrieved from inhabitat website: https://inhabitat.com/why-we-need-earth-day-7-most-pressing-environmental-problems-we-need-to-solve/

11 Different Sources of Alternative Energy. (2016, November 15). Retrieved from Renewable Resources Coalition website: https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/alternative-energy-sources/

FRACKING THREATENS CALIFORNIA’S WILDLIFE. (n.d.). Retrieved from Center for Biological Research website: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/california_fracking/wildlife.html

Lant, K. (2017, June 27). China Has Officially Started Construction on the World’s First “Forest City”. Retrieved from Futurism website: https://futurism.com/china-has-officially-started-construction-on-the-worlds-first-forest-city/

Martin, S. (2017, May 14). World will run out of food by 2050 thanks to population boom. Retrieved from Express website: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/803791/World-will-run-out-of-food-by-2050-population-boom

Provost, C. (2012, March 30). $500m of US food aid lost to waste and company profit, says Oxfam. Retrieved from Guardian website: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2012/mar/30/us-food-aid-lost-waste-profit

Water and sustainable development. (2015, August 9). Retrieved from United Nations website: http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/water_and_sustainable_development.shtml

 


Mark Anstead
Mark Anstead

Co-Founder of Numio


Global sustainable development
Global sustainable development

Topics involving sustainable development

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