That the world population is constantly growing and that we are depleting natural resources (water, soil, minerals, etc) faster than ever to fulfill the demand from this population might not feel like news. But that the population is expected to go from about 7 billion to around 9.6 billion by 2050, according to United Nations forecast, puts everything in a new light. In other words, we would require two more planets to supply additional natural resources to maintain the current consumption pattern for our current living requirements. The adverse impacts of our consumption are already pronounced in the nature and environment, but it is still beyond our imagination to discover more planets to supply all the resource requirements for the projected global population.
On our planet, we have less than 3% of fresh water to utilize for drinking, cooking, washing, and even running industrial machinery (UN, 2018). What if I told you that 2,5% of this water is contained as ice in the Antarctica, Arctic, and glaciers. Feels pretty hard to solve the equation, right?
So, the available fresh water is about 0.5% and still, we rely on it for all those purposes previously mentioned. We are consuming this available fresh water faster than nature can recharge it and the increasing global population means that we will have to feed more people with less water when more than a billion people do not even have access to fresh water yet.
As if that was not enough, we are polluting the already very limited water resource through our unsustainable consumption pattern.
We are living in the age of plastic. The widespread plastic consumption is posing a great threat to the fresh water ecosystem such as rivers and lakes. Researchers have found that about 4 million tonnes of plastic waste pass through the river water every year globally (GrrlScientist, 2018). Another research investigated that billions of people worldwide are drinking water contaminated with plastic fibers (Carrington, 2017). Through daily debates, social media, news, and the European Union’s recent regulations e.g. we are made aware of the severe consequences of our consumption. However, we might not think about other water-polluting industries, still hidden in the shadow. For example, the leather industry uses various harmful chemicals such as Chromium which is causing water pollution and can cause severe health conditions for the people working in production.
So what can we do about it?
It is time to replace traditional consumption patterns with sustainable consumption practices to protect our natural resources and environment. The United Nations came to an agreement on 17 global goals to address all the global challenges, including environmental degradation, in 2015 (UN, 2018). One such goal (goal number-12) calls to ensure responsible consumption and production patterns by transforming the way we produce and consume goods and resources. The aim of this goal is to achieve global economic prosperity in such ways that will reduce our ecological footprints and keep our world safe from environmental degradation, faster depletion of natural resources, and climate change. Hence, we are observing increasing numbers of governments, businesses, and social initiatives that go in line with this movement. The European Union has decided to ban single-use plastic to reduce plastic contamination (Shoot, 2018) and an increasing number of Start-Ups are also offering environmentally friendly services and products around the world.
The article was written by Mohammad Azim. The writer expressed a special acknowledgment to Lisa Stedt for her support.
Shoot, B., 2018. EU parliament votes to ban single-use plastics, including plates, cutlery and straws. Available at http://fortune.com/2018/10/24/eu-ban-single-use-plastic-pollution/. Accessed January 1, 2019.
Carrington, D., 2017. Plastic fibers found in tap water around the world, study reveals. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/plastic-fibres-found-tap-water-around-world-study-reveals. Accessed December 24, 2018.
Ayer, D. and Merino, V., 2018. The invisible plastic particle in our drinking water. Available at https://www.earthday.org/2018/03/23/the-invisible-plastic-particles-in-our-drinking-water/. Accessed December 28, 2018.
GrrlScientist, 2018. Microplastics contaminate half of all freshwater insects, study shows. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/09/29/microplastics-contaminate-half-of-all-freshwater-insects-study-shows. Accessed December 29, 2018.
UN, 2018. About the sustainable development goals.
https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/. Accessed December 27, 2018.
UN, 2018. Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/. Accessed December 27, 2018.
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