Which challenges will be the most significant for humanity? If we talk about such challenges, the main one will be to survive and keep the world alive. And its existence today is in jeopardy. It is known that natural resources may be gone in the coming decades because of their ruthless exploitation. Entire industries are operated irresponsibly, and, in particular, there is no structured system for dealing with waste and refuse. Water and air pollution continues, endangering people’s health and lives not only in a particular region but throughout the world. Polluted air destroys the ozone layer. In its turn, it leads to more severe consequences, such as global warming, rising sea levels, climatic cataclysms as an increase in storms, hurricanes, rains, abnormal heat, changes in soil structure, extinction of entire species of plants and animals. In a word, the main challenge is the environmental one. It is a question of keeping the natural balance on the planet.
On an ever-more crowded planet, responding to sustainable development‘s linked challenges, the loss of nature and climate change is no longer an option. For humanity to survive and prosper, we must transition to practices that operate safely within the limits of Earth’s life-support systems. Recently, we saw the terrible consequences of not doing so. Catastrophes like the Australian bushfires and the COVID-19 outbreak remind us that human societies and our economies are ultimately dependent on the natural world, not the other way around. Unfortunately, we ignore this dependence at our peril. Rebalancing the relationship between people, nature, and the economy has taken on a sense of urgency as humanity’s growing impacts on the planet accelerate toward irreversible tipping points. According to the scientists, we now have less than a decade to undertake collective action to avoid the worst effects of climate change being permanent ones.
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Fortunately, there is a growing understanding that another path is not only urgently needed but possible. By using the best tools available, we can redesign our systems to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same. That is the very definition of sustainable development. We have to make the change on our planet visible, accessible, and actionable. We need to see and understand the change in detail, both time and space. Only then can we be more ecologically informed, effective, and making the right decisions.
Over 10.000 scientists from 153 countries together decided to offer the following environmental solution.
- Stop harvesting fossil resources,
- Stop harvesting forests and support more trees,
- Replacement of the eating meat,
- Decreasing population growth,
- Decreasing high-emission power generation.
Almost all politics forget the most important aspect: People.
Numerous options to apply our newest technologies to renewable resources like solar, wind, water, or geothermal. We can no longer reverse the human impact on nature. The average temperature on our planet has increased by 0.9 degrees since 1880, and more than two-thirds of the growth has occurred in the last 50 years. The primary source of anthropogenic influence on the climate is greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide. As the dynamics of the 20th-century show, the only things that reduce emissions for a short period are economic crises, epidemics, and wars. Emission reductions occurred during World War I and World War II, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the energy crisis of the 1970s. The last time emissions fell was during the global economic crisis of 2008-2009. But in each of these periods, as soon as the situation returned to normal, the curve continued to climb. And this is also what we saw in 2020 when global economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions went down dramatically.
We have been warned of what is happening and what to watch out for. How? By nature – pandemics, increased earthquakes, waterflooding, and similar disasters are nature’s ways to keep the balance. And as we can see, it’s bringing people to be more concerned about the environment. The climate change deniers are significantly diminishing. As shops and services have closed during the lockdown, people started to get out more into the countryside. And they discovered how many forests and other green spaces no longer exist and how scarce they are. People are also beginning to focus on being more self-sufficient because they saw how easily imports of goods could stop during a pandemic. The lockdown has given people more time to reflect on their current way of life.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) declared that humanity had exploited our planet in many ways and that we must make our relationship symbiotic. The global economy is slowly but steadily beginning to turn towards an ecological agenda to become an eco-economy. It is still unclear how much the necessary changes will cost and how much money and resources we will lose in the future if we don’t do something right now. However, already now, environmental awareness is becoming an urgent issue for many corporations. And the green economy could be the leading industry of the coming decade, attracting investments, start-ups, and significant technological breakthroughs. Generation Z, born between 2001 and today, represents about a third of the world’s population. While millennials were characterized by a “here and now” lifestyle, Generation Z is concerned about the future. Their attitude to themselves and the world around them is more practical. They care about the future in all aspects, including environmental ones – what will happen to nature and the climate if the current economic and political trend continues.
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next? Coronavirus is a political crucible, melting down and reshaping current norms. Will the new era be a “Fortress Earth” or a harbinger of a transformed society based on a new set of values? Whatever you might be thinking about the long-term impacts of the coronavirus epidemic, you’re probably not thinking big enough. Our lives have been reshaped so dramatically in the past year that it’s difficult to see beyond the next news cycle. But, in the same way, that Covid-19 is spreading at an exponential rate, we also need to think exponentially about its long-term impact on our culture and society. A year or two from now, the virus itself will likely become a manageable part of our lives — effective treatments will emerge, and a vaccine will be available. But the impact of coronavirus on our global civilization will only just be unfolding. The massive disruptions we already see in our lives are just the first heralds of a historic transformation in political and societal norms.
If Covid-19 was spreading across a stable and resilient world, its impact could be abrupt but contained. Leaders would consult together; economies disrupted temporarily; people would make do for a while with changed circumstances — and then, after the shock, look forward to getting back to normal. That’s not, however, the world in which we live. Instead, this coronavirus is revealing the structural faults of a system that have been papered over for decades as they’ve been steadily worsening. Gaping economic inequalities, rampant ecological destruction, and pervasive political corruption are all results of unbalanced systems relying on each other to remain precariously poised. Now, as one system destabilizes, expect others to fall in tandem in a cascade known by researchers as “synchronous failure.”
The first signs of this structural destabilization are just beginning to show. Our globalized economy relies on just-in-time inventory for hyper-efficient production. Supply chains are disrupted through factory closures and border closings. This leads to shortages in household items, medications, and food will begin surfacing, leading to rounds of panic buying that will only exacerbate the situation. The world economy is entering a downturn so steep it could exceed the severity of the Great Depression.
We have to make substantial changes to avert catastrophic visions for the future. These include:
- the abolition of the goal of constant economic growth;
- identifying the real cost of production so that environmentally harmful producers pay for its restoration, for example, by carbon pricing;
- accelerated elimination of fossil fuels;
- regulating markets by limiting monopolization and limiting companies’ undue influence on politics;
- reducing lobbying in businesses by political leaders;
- educating and empowering women in countries around the world, including the provision of information on family planning.
And what to do with the insufficiency of fertile soil? Again, we have the solution for this. We already have farms like Green Sense Farms that grow vegetables in vertical underground plants and simulate the sunlight with special LEDs. These farms use the resources for 90% and allow over 25 yields per year. These types of farms become more and more widespread every year. City type of farming is saving all resources – soil, land, and water as well. The freshwater usage is 90% less than with a conventional farming system. And all this without any problems with parasites and different types of chemicals from oxide pollution. Special sensors control every vegetable and optimally add water and pesticides; moreover, they consume 50% fewer pesticides than farming. We are witnesses of the new farming revolution. But there is also one weakness. Such vertical farms need a very high energy volume comparing to conventional farms, which get light directly from the Sun. Here we need to power lights with electricity sources. But suppose we solve the sustainable energy problem. In that case, these farms can be a solution to feed all the population with sufficient and healthy food.
We also have genetic engineering that’s pretty advanced with the analysis of the different vegetables to give a better yield with the same volume of resources to grow. On many plants like corn or wheat, we have already succeeded in increasing the volume of yield twice. If we talk about meat production, one of the primary sources of CO2, we already have many alternatives available. For example, in laboratories, animal cells are placed into a bioreactor and grow into meat. With the same taste, the same caloric value, without a side effect like parasites or medicine we are getting into our bodies from conventional breeding. All this without even killing animals. Selling meat from bioreactors in restaurants globally is in the plans of many companies. These technologies are processing huge fundings to develop the highest quality in conditions possible to replicate in every country. Such methods will free a lot of farming land. For example, in the USA, 70% of vegetables are produced for feeding animals and produce meat. If we look at problems globally, we will notice that almost 90% of the land is used for growing food for industrial animals. Moreover, a movement to alternative meat production and decreasing traditional animal farming may reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere by 90%. We can produce much more vegetable food on the free land, giving us some more time to feed the population during human education without destroying the planet.
And what to do with water? These days, the world working over the 13.000 water plants produce about 45 billion liters daily. These days it is still pretty expensive to transform seawater into freshwater. Only in high-economic countries like Saudi Arabia, 70% of the freshwater is obtained from the seawater’s transformation. But as we can learn from history, we can expect that technologies for transforming saltwater into freshwater become cheaper in the future. Company Lux Research performed a study stating that by 2050, we should trice water stations because of a growing population which will reach almost ten billion people. It’s pretty tricky but not impossible. We have enough human and physical resources to build these stations and secure freshwater, even for desert African countries. If we can utilize our seas as a resource and transform seawater into freshwater, we can shut this problem forever. Water in the ocean will not get exhausted even if we consume 100 times more water than we are now.