by Abdul Basit
With the economic crisis that has gripped the world nations due to euro zone and the new report of US State Department of Energy stating that the carbon emissions in the environment have vastly increased in 2010, the world is passing through a critical stage. At the recent ECOQ exhibition and conference on environment in Qatar, Jean Audouze, President of UNESCO in France said that at the beginning of 19th century, the planet had only 1billion human inhabitants. It is estimated that by next month there will be 7 billion people on Earth (which we have already attained this October), and by 2050 there will be 9 billion. “If every human being wished to live with the standards of American people, we would need seven Earths to support this amount of people. If every human being wanted to live in the same standards of a European, we would need three Earths to support all those people.”
With the growing population and developing countries emulating the path of developed countries in unsustainable and exploitative economic development, we will soon find ourselves in a situation where this planet is not enough for fulfilling our consumerist desires. Hence, how can we save the humanity and this earth from the greed and consumerism and ensure a balanced, sustainable and eco-friendly economic growth. This thought hounded me and resulted in the development of a new concept, ‘Recycling Earth’.
We have hitherto heard of waste management system by waste hierarchy of 3 R’s namely, reduce-reuse-recycle (there also two additional R’s that are incorporated recently like recover and rethink). The aim of this waste management hierarchy is to extract the maximum benefits from the used materials and reduce the amount of waste to minimal. As for recycling which is the third aspect, it is the process of converting used materials into new products to prevent the wastage potentially useful materials. These materials include paper, glass, plastic, metals, electronic...etc.
By the concept of ‘Recycling Earth’ we can include the following three aspects:
1) Recycling land, water and air
2) Recycling Humanity
3) Recycling Economy
Recycling Land, Water & Air
Being the only habitable planet in the universe, our earth, which is blessed with vast and varied landscapes and bio- diversities, should be protected in all respects to ensure the existence of the humanity and well-being of the future generation. Hence we have to preserve the land, air and oceans and prevent it from damage and pollution. Following are the brief details of how we can recycle land, water and air.
a) Land: Growing population, spreading urbanization, deforestation, industrialization, desertification, disposal of waste and unsustainable method of agriculture: have all negatively affected our land. Many of the islands and coastal areas are in the brink of disappearing due to rising sea levels and melting glaciers. The climate change has affected the carrying capacity of this planet and erosion and soil degradation are widespread. Taking into the consideration these factors, we have to find ways to recycle or reutilize the land that has been negatively affected and at the same time preserve the forests and other natural resources from extinction. We must also try to retrieve brownfield and superfund lands (these are terms used in US for unused and contaminated lands). Many new techniques have been developed to clean up the contaminated lands like soil vapour extraction, bioremediation, in situ oxidation and phytoremediation. However, further research and development is required to develop more sophisticated methods. Immediate actions must also be taken to save many islands from rising sea levels.
b) Water (which includes all the water bodies like lakes, rivers, seas, oceans and underground water): Almost 97% of the earth’s water resources are salty water and only 3 % is fresh water (this includes glaciers, polar ice and ground water). Although a renewable resource, fresh water supply is steadily decreasing with increasing demand and rising population. With a population of seven billion, the consumption of water for human, industry, urbanization and agricultural purposes has increased many folds. This will lead to water stress. To overcome the water stress due to depleting fresh water sources and increasing demand, we have to develop the concept of Water Recycling. Water recycling includes waste water management, water treatment programs targeting industries, households and business sectors, leak reduction, preserving and safeguarding existing sources of fresh water, promoting cheaper desalination process and developing sustainable agriculture (that uses less water for irrigation).
c) Air: The air we breathe and which we have taken for granted has been polluted by many factors including emissions from industries, refineries, power plants, automobiles and other modes of transportation, pesticides and fertilisers used in agriculture, fossil fuels , wild fires, chemicals from household and different types of disposed waste. Air pollution includes the discharge of chemicals, biological matter and particulate matter in the atmosphere that causes harm to living organisms including human beings. Most of the air pollutions started to occur after the industrial revolution and improvement in manufacturing. Many of the lung related diseases among people are due to air pollution. There are existing methods to reduce air pollution like pollution control technologies, waste management and land use planning strategies. There are also different types of devices like baghouses, particulate scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators to reduce pollution. Recycling of air includes promoting usage of clean and renewable energies like solar and wind energy, regulating the emission of chemicals from industries by imposing fines and taxes, creating green belts around industries, power plants and refineries, promoting usage of eco-friendly automobiles and household items...etc. We must develop new mechanism and technology to clean the polluted air in industrial parks.
As we all know there is a natural system of recycling that is going on in our planet ever since its existence. It is the process of birth and death. It was best mentioned by Steve Jobs in his speech to Standford University commencement address in 2005 “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
The recycling that I mentioned here is not the process of birth and death. This recycling comes between birth and death. In other words, it deals with the ‘code of conduct’ of humanity when it arrives in this planet as a new born baby till the period of departure through death. We must live the life in this world with the realization that we are only travelers for a time being and we must maintain the sanctity and preserve the natural resources of this planet by ensuring a bright future for new arrivals which will be coming during and after our departure.
The current global economy is driven by material greed and consumerist culture. Individuals and societies are driven by money motivation and in pursuit of attaining extravagant lifestyle by sacrificing earth’s environment and natural resources. This is the main reason for the environmental degradation, economic woes and social chaos that humanity is facing. Although with the technological and scientific advancement, humanity was able to control air, land and oceans, as well as explore and conquer far off planets, these developments failed to control their minds and thought process. Instead of using these advancements for the well-being of humanity, they were used to create hatred, injustice and greed. These technologies were used for overexploitation of the natural resources, polluting the environment and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.
Hence it is imperative that at first the fundamental change must come in human mind and how he thinks. By ‘recycling humanity’ we must create this fundamental reform in the concept of life and lifestyle. When individuals change, society changes and when society changes the earth becomes a better place to live. Recycling of Humanity includes three R’s which are as follows:
Reform- Reduce- Reinvent
a) Reform: This process includes the basic transformation of the outlook and attitude of humanity to life and lifestyle. The dominant perceptions in the individual’s mind that the pursuit and desire for monetary and material earnings are the basic aim of life are the root causes for the environmental degradation and economic woes. We have to change and reform this concept and create awareness in the society about the negative impacts of frantic- economic activities and consumer life style. We must also help individuals in redefining the aims of life and in promoting simple, sustainable, balanced and eco-friendly way of life. At the social and national level, we must frame and implement laws to reduce and regulate unsustainable, pollution and wasteful activities. We must give preference to green activities over economic activities. This change also requires the transformation of the education system to prepare the future generation for conservation and sustainable living.
b) Reduce: This requires the change of consumer oriented lifestyle in order to reduce the consumption and prevent wastage of materials and maximum utilization of the available resources. It requires austerity measures in households, industries and business, waste management, conservation of natural resources and energy saving. At the social and national level, we require to frame strict austerity laws to control consumption and reduce wastage.
c) Reinvent: In this process we reassess and redirect the role of science and technology for the benefit of mankind. The technologies that have been harmful for humanity and planet must be reconsidered and rerouted for creating a sustainable, eco-friendly society which balances economic development and environmental conservation. Scientific and technological research must focus in developing new alternative renewable energy technologies, sustainable agriculture with greater yields, gadgets and automobiles that function on clean energy, biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and appropriate technology for rural development and community living.
The world is on the brink of recession and growing unemployment due to euro zone crises. According to a recent report of the ILO titled ‘World of Work Report 2011’, the global economy is on the verge of a new and deeper jobs recession that may further delay the global economic recovery and may ignite social unrest. The world leaders and economists are groping in darkness about the solution to overcome this crisis that has gripped the world community.
The current crisis is due to the wrong policies that were hitherto pursued by the developed nations, whose aim was to serve the corporate military establishment instead of addressing the crises as a whole. In the recession of 2008, the efforts of these leaders were to bailout the banks and corporate that paid huge bonuses and incentives to its executive at the expense of the taxpayers and common people. This is because the current economic system relied heavily on these financial institutions, corporations and Stock Exchanges. Due to this, there is also a great inequality in distribution of wealth and disparities between the haves and have-nots have increased.
To aggravate the situation, according to another recent report of the US state department of energy, the global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record. The world pumped about 564 million more tonnes of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009, an increase of six per cent. All the measures we have taken to reduce carbon emission and prevent climatic change like renewable energy, waste management, recycling, and promoting sustainability have failed to make any impact on the ground.
In order to activate the economy and create jobs, the governments will have to increase spending on projects, boost industries and activate the market. These measures will further result in increasing the greenhouse gas and carbon emissions in our atmosphere that will negatively affect our environment. Hence, when we go deeper into the different economic, social and environmental problems and malaise that we are facing, we can see that they are inter-related as they are part and parcel of a same systemic- disorder that has gripped our planet.
In order to ensure a sustainable economic development that provides equitable distribution of wealth and is environmentally viable, we must recycle the current economy in order to create a new economy. The process includes D-R-R
Dismantle- Restructure- Revitalize
a) Dismantle: This stage involves the dismantling of unproductive sectors of the economy like some of the failed financial institutions that has been draining the resources of the world. Trillions of dollars have been invested to rescue the banks and Wall Street during the last recession without any positive results to the economy and these trillions were wasted away. While dismantling these unproductive sectors, we strengthen and invest in real economy in building a sustainable and eco-friendly economy with equitable distribution of wealth that reduces the disparities between the haves and have-nots. Huge capital must be invested in developing people, health, education, research and creating environmentally sustainable jobs.
b) Restructure: In this stage we must discard the current economic and financial system and terminologies and formulate and implement alternative sustainable economic policies that will ensure equitable distribution of the limited and depleting resources and ensuring environmentally compliant, agrarian economic system as a replacement to exploitative, consumerist and polluted capitalist system. This includes conversion from a financial to a humanistic economy and implementing an interest free banking system. The localisation of economies by building self sustaining cooperatives and ensuring self sufficiency at the grassroots level will be one of the basic ingredients for the new economy and for building a sustainable society.
c) Revitalize: We must revitalize the new economy with moral values, ecological consciousness, sustainability, human solidarity and unity of mankind above all confines and barriers to ensure the well being of our planet and future generation.
To conclude, we have to understand that we have only one planet, in which our forefathers lived and we have to preserve this planet for the future generation.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|