Environmental Aspects of Sustainable Development

   The Earth is what we all have in common.

Wendell Berry, environmental activist

Last week we talked about the social aspect of sustainability following our introduction to Sustainable Development, in which we covered the main aspects of sustainable development and how societies are involved in sustainability decisions.

This week, we will look at some key aspects related to the environmental side of sustainability.

Why care about our effects on the environment?

There has never been more evidence and awareness of the harmful effects of humans on the environment.

Ozone depletion – plugging the hole in our behaviour

If you were old enough during the 1990s, you probably would remember how the world got together to act on behalf of our ozone layer. The message was clear, stop using several types of gas and use more sunscreen to protect yourself from the effects. Today we see the results of these actions and there is evidence that the hole is now shrinking.

It is this globalised action such as this that has been making a positive change for our environment, essentially helping to protect our subsistence.

Water – flowing in the right direction?

Water is the single most important element on our planet, without it no life can survive. It is estimated that only 2% of the water on our planet is available for us to access, with much of it stored in oceans, rivers and within ecosystems. We must take care to preserve it, ensure we have access to clean, safe water to drink, wash and cook with, yet we still use potable (drinkable) water for many industrial processes, limiting it’s availability for people and ecosystems.

We currently still have a great deal of systems pumping pollutants into the atmosphere, which return to the earth with the water as rain, bringing the particles into our ecosystems, affecting our food, our drinking water, and the wildlife around us.

Today, one of the most important and talked about subjects in relation to water impact is wastewater treatment. The consequences of untreated wastewater are vast: on one side, it is linked to child mortality, and is responsible for 88% of diarrhoea-related deaths; and on the other, it leads to further environmental deterioration from watersheds to coastal ecosystems.

In the 2017 United Nations World Water Development report, the UN shows that through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) wastewater treatment is an undervalued resource, therefore, one of the top priorities. It calls for global collaboration for the development of improved wastewater management which is critical for green growth. This collaboration has begun to move forward projects for better and greater wastewater treatment across the globe, and hopefully will continue to do so.

Air pollution – a breath of fresh air…?

Today, the media is constantly reminding us of the consequences of air pollution to human health. London has a remarkable proportion of green spaces to built areas, yet certain portions of this city still fall behind minimum safe levels. However, there has been an impressive improvement in comparison to the black fog of 1952.

They key is to continue to improve by tacking air pollution through all possible angles, from governmental intervention to business action through improved sustainability principles.

Climate Change – divide and conquer!

For centuries, through forest depletion, burning of fossil fuels, and throughout our life-cycle processes, we have been constantly increasing the Earth’s average temperature with extreme consequences to humans and local economies.  The effects of climate change affect us locally as expressed in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 and globally as beautifully exposed by the Film4Climate contest winners.

Unlike Ozone depletion, climate change requires a much greater effort. We have been gradually increasing the amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and fluorinated gases (eg HFC, PFC etc), which are generally caused by burning coal and other fossil fuels, deforestation, livestock and intensive fertilised farming.

Seeking to act on almost every human activity all at once is overwhelming, for this reason, the current trend within experts is to act on smaller and easier to comprehend projects, so that the overall sum of these result in a globalised movement to fight climate change.

Other major effects on nature include loss of biodiversity, overfishing, land use, acidification, amongst others, of course we can only cover a few issues here. View our blogs on Bigger Fish to Fry…? and Acting on World Environment Day.


This post was prepared by Felipe Gaitan-Mejia, Environmental Strategist here at Catalicity. Follow @Catalicity on Twitter and sign up to our mailing list to keep up to date with all our blogs and news! 

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