China has recently emerged as one of the economic powerhouses of the world. Not only does this status continue to redefine what was considered to represent a somewhat “backwards” society, but plenty of employment opportunities await. This has also given rise to several interesting trends. From the growing number of Chinese classes online which cater to foreign migrants to increased international investment, the future does indeed look bright.
It is also important to mention how China has begun to capitalise upon innovative solutions in the hopes of reducing the impacts of climate change. One interesting example can be seen in the use of bioenergy as a viable substitute for traditional fossil fuels. What are some current trends to note and are there any challenges that will need to be addressed in the coming years?
Many readers will be surprised to learn that up to 80 per cent of raw biomass materials are now being used to generate power throughout China. Considering the population of this nation, it only stands to reason that such sources of energy abound. Furthermore, the implementation of biomass will help to reduce China’s reliance upon outside nations. This provides a much-needed economic boost and promises an impressive long-term return on investment (ROI).
Such a pronounced trend is at least partially due to a younger Chinese generation that has now become well aware of their role in stemming the effects of climate change. Another undeniable benefit is the simple fact that bioenergy now represents a niche employment sector; providing plenty of opportunities for those with the appropriate skill sets.
What Challenges Await?
While all of the observations outlined above are rather promising, we also need to remember that there are some downsides attributed to biomass in relation to energy production. One potential issue involves industry competition as well as to decide how the resources themselves should be allocated. Wealth distribution could also come into play considering the role that corruption may play in terms of profit margins.
As this summary highlights, another possible sticking point could instead involve operational challenges including:
Other problems such as retooling existing factories in order to support biomass energy production can be rather complicated and expensive.
So, what might the future of bioenergy in China have in store? Most experts agree that relying upon fossil fuels alone as a source of electricity is no longer a viable option. So, it stands to reason that the Chinese government is looking carefully at how biomass can be used as an alternative. Officials also appreciate that many other nations have already curtailed their use of fuels such as coal and natural gas.
The main takeaway point here is that much like any other emerging industry, bioenergy is associated with undeniable advantages as well as some logistical challenges. Still, China should be able to rise to the occasion with planning and foresight.
Climate change and environmental damage due to human activity is now an accepted fact. Thankfully, investors and financial organizations are finally recognizing the importance of changing our ways and investing in sustainable technologies. This type of green financing is allowing them to recognize the environmental and financial benefits of these new technologies.
Today we’ll cover how green financing can be used to encourage sustainable development on the company and individual scale.
What is Green Financing?
Green financing at its most basic is the use of public money, personal loans, and micro-lending to support sustainability. The goal of green financing is to encourage change in favor of environmentally friendly actions.
It can be everything from large scale investment into tools to fight climate change all the way down to small personal online loans next day for consumers. This allows everyone to do their part to help promote sustainability.
Most green loans are tied to specific metrics. They can cover everything from large companies to the type of washing machine you purchase.
These VC firms search for early-stage startups with a focus on the environment. They combine their financial goals together with their vision of what the planet should be.
By far the largest subset of their focus is on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and fighting emissions. On the individual scale there’s lots of focus on lowering your carbon footprint.
Lots of loans are specifically put in place for people to buy green friendly products.
What Qualifies as Sustainable Projects
There are tons of early to middle stage startups with a sustainability focus. These are all key examples of large scale green financing.
Many of the projects are receiving the most funding focus on clean power and the use of renewables. Think electric vehicles, charging stations, battery enhancements, solar and wind energy, etc.
Another major sector is advancements in water purification, desalination, and ocean cleanup. These also include interesting projects like advanced agriculture and reducing the overall reliance on irrigation.
For individuals most green financing is related to their home or vehicle. There are lots of online loans same day available for things like energy efficient appliances or vehicles. These often combine with tax credits as a way to encourage people to reduce their overall energy consumption habits.
One of the biggest uses of green financing by individuals is to buy an electric or hybrid car. This reduces the often high price of these advanced vehicles and makes it more attractive to drive one.
Another big one is to finance green renovations to your home. If you want to improve your home’s insulation or add on a solar power system there’s ample funding available. These often combine with tax breaks and utility buyback programs to make it an even more attractive option.
Turnaround Time for Financing Decisions
With venture capital the around time for high-quality opportunities is often very rapid. If you have a great model for your business and can show a clear return potential they’ll often respond within just a few days.
For green financing other factors come into play. Most green venture capital funds have very specific requirements on what they’re looking for. Do your research before contacting them and make sure you represent what they’re looking for.
How much you should reasonably expect to receive depends on how far along in the process you are. Seed stage companies generally receive less than $1 million. Series A and Series B can receive more but still much less than more mature companies with proven revenue and a customer base.
For personal green loans the turnaround is often much faster. Many companies offer instant or at least same day approval for well qualified borrowers. This gives you the freedom to begin making your plans immediately after receiving funds.
Make Changes Today
The clock is running down on our ability to head off the effects of climate change. Green financing is one of the best ways to make changes in the world and your life. It funds the technology that may save humanity and allows individuals to make changes to their home and car to reduce their own carbon footprint.
Climate change involves and impacts every system within the planet, from ecosystems to fresh water distribution. It’s infinitely complex. But while many causes are still unknown, we do know that the earth’s temperature is rising and that human activity is contributing to the temperature spike noted since with the Industrial Revolution.
While common climate change culprits include increased use of fossil fuels and rising levels of CO2, other causes are lesser known. For example, methane gas from biodegradable waste is a major greenhouse gas. Scientists now say biodegradable waste in dumpsites is contributing more methane to the atmosphere than they thought. Identifying contributors like this helps us make smart choices when it comes to things like waste management.
It’s been found that human overpopulation and climate change are scientifically linked. As the influential political economist Robert Malthus noted, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” In other words, it’s much easier to make new humans than it is to support them. The increase in population brings more demand for natural resources, more land dedicated to farming, more deforestation, and elevated carbon emissions. Population growth and climate change are a perfect feedback loop.
But the implications of maintaining this system are disastrous for the planet and human civilizations. The demand for natural resources to support 7.5 billion people already exceeds what the planet can provide. Experts estimate that humans currently use the equivalent of 1.7 earths worth of resources. That means it takes 18 months for the planet to regenerate 12 months worth of resources. This situation is untenable.
And the challenges to population control are staggering. Most industrialized nations like the U.S. balk at the idea of implementing population controls. But allowing numbers to grow will only meet an inevitable confrontation with fewer resources. Without addressing overpopulation, climate change will continue. And with it, we will see an increase in migration, war, displacement, crime, poverty, disease, and shorter life expectancy.
Climate Warming is Changing Our Oceans
Oceans are big regulators of the planet’s temperature. They absorb and trap heat from the atmosphere — acting like a giant sponge that protects the planet from overheating. The oceans’ layers heat at different rates, with the top layer being the warmest. But over the last 50 years, climate change has increased the temperature of our oceans by 0.3°F. And the ocean’s top layer is now warming at a rate of .2°F per decade.
But what happens when our oceans get too warm? Well, quite a bit. For one, warming oceans increase the rate of melting glaciers and ice sheets. The runoff contributes to rising sea levels, which is already making the consistent flooding of coastal cities and towns a new normal for residents. Less habitable coastal land will bring massive property losses and increased migration by displaced people.
Warming oceans also threaten critical ecosystems like coral reefs, which provide habitats for millions of the world’s aquatic life. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is already seeing massive “bleaching” effects from warming oceans. And experts predict coral reefs may become all but extinct by 2050 if current trends continue.
Another climate change threat to our planet’s oceans is from increased “acidification” — the rise in acidity from dissolved carbon dioxide. Like heat, oceans also absorb CO2 from our atmosphere and produce half of the oxygen we breathe. Since the Industrial Revolution, increased CO2 emissions have raised the levels of ocean acidification by 30%. Higher acid levels affect calcified shellfish like clams, oysters, and corals by eating away at their protective layers. Any threat to these aquatic species could destroy the entire ecosystem — a system that supplies 15% of the protein intake for 4.3 billion people.
Climate Change is Affecting Your Health
Climate change brings an increase in the severity and frequency of climate events. More flooding, stronger hurricanes, longer heat waves, and rising pollution are a few consequences of global warming. These heightened weather phenomena also raise the risks to public health in the following ways:
Less freshwater supplies
A warmer climate means melting glaciers. The roughly 150,000 glaciers around the world store about three-quarters of our freshwater supply. As more glaciers near the earth’s poles retreat, their abundance of fresh water runs into the oceans, becoming undrinkable salt water.
Less freshwater will lead to contaminated water supplies and waterborne diseases like cholera and dysentery (already responsible for 3.4 million deaths each year). Rising sea levels will cause sewage backups and water contamination for coastal cities, exacerbating the situation.
A rise in disease-carrying insects
While warming climates will devastate some species like polar bears, it will be a boon for others like mosquitoes, ticks, and crop pests. Stagnant water and growing populations of insects will spread more mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria and the Zika virus. And more insects means hardier diseases that mutate to become resistant to treatment.
More drowning deaths
Larger and more frequent flooding events will lead to higher losses of life via drowning. Floods are the leading cause of death among all weather-related disasters that happen in the U.S. Drowning while driving is a big problem, specifically for flash floods. People desperate to make it home or to safety too often take the chance to cross flooded areas in their cars. But it only takes 18 inches of water to lift a vehicle, roll it over, and trap the victims inside. Flash floods will be a hallmark of climate change, as sudden and violent downpours will inundate populated areas near river valleys and coastlines.
There are many things you can do to help combat and adapt to climate change. Take part in recycling campaigns, use public transportation, turn off your electronics when you’re not using them, and eat less meat. But one of the most effective things you can do is share what you know. Find reputable information and spread the word to your family, friends, and anyone who will listen.
It takes a high level of data analysis to predict the effects of climate change and the implications of our actions to stop and adapt to it. Often, scientists have terabytes of data, but not the computing power to make sense of climate issues like hurricanes. But this level of analysis is possible with artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, AI may be the best weapon we have to combat and adapt to the effects of climate change. That’s because it can analyze large chunks of data from past events and make accurate predictions about future ones.
Today, AI is helping to monitor and predict everything from glacier retreat to commercial waste management. As innovations in “deep learning” march on, AI’s prescience will help inform scientists about climate impacts and policymakers on the most prudent steps for adaptation. Here are some critical ways AI is helping to preserve our planet.
1. Smarter Home Energy Use
AI is helping save the planet by assisting homeowners through energy-efficient smart homes. The Internet of Things and today’s “smart devices” let homeowners control their energy use and lower their monthly bills. Smart thermostats can adjust temperature settings for specific rooms in a house. Smart water sprinklers can change water usage based on weather forecasts. And smart security systems can cut down on false alarms calls — so fewer gas-guzzling trips by first responders. The automation, connection, and prediction power built into these smart devices allow homeowners to lower their carbon footprint.
But smart energy use is not just about conservation — it’s also about the best time to use energy. Peak energy hours like evenings are higher-demand, higher-cost times. Smart devices can automate energy use for low-demand hours. Plus, off-peak times like mid-day are when alternative energy sources like solar and wind contribute the most. Therefore, smart technology promotes renewable energy.
2. Soil Conservation
Soil degradation is a problem often overlooked in the media. But it has serious consequences for humanity’s ability to adapt to and survive climate change. It takes a millennium to generate only three centimeters of topsoil, and soil degradation is happening at a much faster rate. Chemicals, deforestation, erosion, and global warming are major contributors to soil degradation. And if the current rate of degradation continues, the planet’s farmable land could disappear within 60 years, according to United Nations officials.
But farmers and scientists are using AI to help conserve the soil by marshaling complex algorithms along with robots and drones to detect erosion and monitor soil health. For example, one company has developed an agricultural app to help farmers identify nutrient deficiencies within their soil. And farmers are using machine learning to predict the best times to plant, irrigate, and harvest crops based on weather changes. Accurate predictions mean less need for pesticides and fertilizers, which degrade the soil.
3. Exploring and Protecting Oceans
Scientists watch and test the health of oceans because they’re the best indicators of Earth’s health. Microplastics, increased CO2 levels, and ocean acidification are changing the surface of the planet. The key to protecting oceans is exploring and monitoring them for changes. Climate scientists and oceanographers are using AI technology to drive autonomous marine vehicles to the deepest depths. And some companies are developing autonomous garbage collection systems that would help remove plastics and floating debris.
Another emerging technology — blockchain — is helping to track fishing and identify illegal behavior. Blockchain is the same technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The technology acts as a transparent ledger for transactions. Blockchain is a decentralized system, which means it operates autonomously and isn’t subject to misuse and abuse. Trust is critical to international treaties that regulate fishing quotas and manage overfishing. Blockchain technology can record each fish (e.g., tuna) with a scannable code uploaded to the ledger. Therefore, retailers, customers, and regulators can confirm that fish are legally caught.
4. Air Pollution Detection
AI is becoming an invaluable tool for tracking our air quality and identifying sources of pollution. During accidental emissions, city air quality officials need to identify and respond quickly. Some European cities are using leak sensors and AI to help create emission maps, predict mortality rates, and estimate financial costs of emergency responses. These data points give decision makers a more accurate view of the air pollution along with more targeted remediation.
In addition to monitoring air pollution, AI is also cutting tailpipe emissions. AI manages self-driving cars to make getting from point A-to-B more efficient. Self-driving automobiles can cut oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2% to 4% annually. AI and global positioning systems operating driverless tractor-trailer rigs will make deliveries non-stop, faster, and less costly to the planet. Complex algorithms, sensors, and traffic lights are directing traffic flow in some cities. These systems are currently reducing travel time by 25%, braking by 30%, and idling time by 40%.
5. Evaluating the Efficacy of Action
AI is bringing powerful ways to monitor and predict threats to our environment. Synthetic thinking adds value for scientists, officials, and policymakers by giving them deeper looks into current environmental situations. Perhaps, more than anything, AI’s biggest potential lies in figuring out where solutions hit the mark and where they miss. It’s counterproductive to invest resources and time into bad solutions. But that’s highly likely, given the complexity of climate change and adaptation.
Where do we invest? Which coastline needs saving the most? What communities are at a higher risk? With dwindling resources and bigger dangers, we will face some hard decisions in the future about where to deploy our efforts. At some point, those decisions will mean life or death. We will need quick thinking and accurate data. Evaluating our options and predicting their implications is where AI will bring the most value.
There is a strong link between the serious humanitarian situation of refugees and lack of access to sustainable energy resources. According to a 2019 UNCHR report, there are more than 80 million displaced people around the world, the highest level of human displacement ever documented. Access to clean and affordable energy is a prerequisite for sustainable development of mankind, and refugees are no exception. Needless to say, almost all refugee camps are plagued by fuel poverty and urgent measure are required to make camps livable.
Usually the tragedy of displaced people doesn’t end at the refugee camp, rather it is a continuous exercise where securing clean, affordable and sustainable energy is a major concern. Although humanitarian agencies are providing food like grains, rice and wheat; yet food must be cooked before serving.
Severe lack of modern cook stoves and access to clean fuel is a daily struggle for displaced people around the world. This article will shed some light on the current situation of energy access challenges being faced by displaced people in refugee camps.
Why Energy Access Matters?
Energy is the lifeline of our modern society and an enabler for economic development and advancement. Without safe and reliable access to energy, it is really difficult to meet basic human needs.
Energy access is a challenge that touches every aspect of the lives of refugees and negatively impacts health, limits educational and economic opportunities, degrades the environment and promotes gender discrimination issues. Lack of energy access in refugee camps areas leads to energy poverty and worsen humanitarian conditions for vulnerable communities and groups.
Energy Access for Cooking
Refugee camps receive food aid from humanitarian agencies yet this food needs to be cooked before consumption. Thus, displaced people especially women and children take the responsibility of collecting firewood, biomass from areas around the camp. However, this expose women and minors to threats like sexual harassments, danger, death and children miss their opportunity for education. Moreover, depleting woods resources cause environmental degradation and spread deforestation which contributes to climate change. Moreover, cooking with wood affects the health of displaced people.
Access to efficient and modern cook stove is a primary solution to prevent health risks, save time and money, reduce human labour and combat climate change. However, humanitarian agencies and host countries can aid camp refugees in providing clean fuel for cooking because displaced people usually live below poverty level and often host countries can’t afford connecting the camp to the main grid.
So, the issue of energy access is a challenge that requires immediate and practical solutions. A transition to sustainable energy is an advantage that will help displaced people, host countries and the environment.
Energy Access for Lighting
Lighting is considered as a major concern among refugees in their temporary homes or camps. In the camps life almost stops completely after sunset which delays activities, work and studying only during day time hours.
Talking about two vulnerable groups in the refugees’ camps “women and children” for example, children’s right of education is reduced as they have fewer time to study and do homework. For women and girls, not having light means that they are subject to sexual violence and kidnapped especially when they go to public restrooms or collect fire woods away from their accommodations.
Rationale For Sustainable Solutions
Temporary solutions won’t yield results for displaced people as their reallocation, often described as “temporary”, often exceeds 20 years. Sustainable energy access for refugees is the answer to alleviate their dire humanitarian situation. It will have huge positive impacts on displaced people’s lives and well-being, preserve the environment and support host communities in saving fuel costs.
Also, humanitarian agencies should work away a way from business as usual approach in providing aid, to be more innovative and work for practical sustainable solutions when tackling energy access challenge for refugee camps.
UN SDG 7 – Energy Access
The new UN SDG7 aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. SDG 7 is a powerful tool to ensure that displaced people are not left behind when it comes to energy access rights. SDG7 implies on four dimensions: affordability, reliability, sustainability and modernity. They support and complete the aim of SDG7 to bring energy and lightening to empower all human around the world.
All the four dimensions of the SDG7 are the day to day challenges facing displaced people. The lack of modern fuels and heavy reliance on primitive sources, such as wood and animal dung leads to indoor air pollution.
Energy access touches every aspect of life in refugee camps
For millions of people worldwide, life in refugee camps is a stark reality. Affordability is of concern for displaced people as most people flee their home countries with minimum possessions and belongings so they rely on host countries and international humanitarian agencies on providing subsidized fuel for cooking and lightening.
In some places, host countries are itself on a natural resources stress to provide electricity for people and refugees are left behind with no energy access resources. However, affordability is of no use if the energy provision is not reliable (means energy supply is intermittent).
Displaced people need a steady supply of energy for their sustenance and economic development. As for the sustainability provision, energy should produce a consistent stream of power to satisfy basic needs of the displaced people.
The sustained power stream should be greater than the resulted waste and pollution which means that upgrading the primitive fuel sources used inside the camp area to the one of modern energy sources like solar energy, wind power, biogas and other off-grid technologies.
Climate change is a pressing global issue and has only grown in the public eye. After many decades of suspicions and then confirmations of the negative impacts of humans on the environment, there are ever-increasing environmentalist movements that strive to bring awareness to the issue and try to stop and reverse these destructive forces.
The current generation is likely the most vocal and aware of the grave dangers of climate change. Because of the impact of the current environmentalist movement, increased education, and mainstream entrance, many young students are constantly thinking of ways that they can help the planet.
However, the weight of climate change remains heavy. Many young students report increased levels of anxiety and depression and cite global warming as a cause of their “climate anxiety”. Anxiety, especially climate anxiety, can be very harmful, and therapy or counseling as listed here may be a good option to help address it. Climate anxiety, and anxieties in general, should not be taken lightly.
Why are young students stressed about the climate?
For people who don’t experience climate anxiety or tend to think about the environment, it can be confusing and distressing to see young folks so distraught. Many people believe that young students don’t have much at all to be worried about, except maybe for school and their social lives, and so they shouldn’t be experiencing anxiety.
However, the truth is that this stress can show up in young people for a number of reasons, and should not be discounted. The feeling of responsibility for global problems many generations in the making can be intense, especially as many of the worse consequences of climate change are getting more obvious and are only expected to increase.
1. This is the first time they are learning about the environmental crisis
For many young students, this could be the first time they’ve heard about global warming or at least the first time they are truly aware of what that means. The crisis feels very imminent and scary to them. Science does not lie to spare feelings, and indeed an understanding of the gravity of the situation may be necessary to fight it.
2. Their brains are still in development
For any young person who is still developing, emotions may feel more intense. This does not mean that they are any less valid or that the stress is less founded in reality. This simply goes to show just how powerful the feelings of stress and anxiety can be for young students.
3. They perceive the impact on both their immediate and long-term futures
Many adults do not necessarily see the climate crisis as a large issue because the consequences seem as though they will only arise once their lives are over. This is not the case for young students who feel as though they will be personally impacted by the consequences.
What can we do about it?
Global warming and the anxiety and stress that individuals may experience surrounding it are not lost causes. Not only is it possible to develop coping mechanisms for the stress, but also to divert the negative feelings of stress and anxiety towards helpful practices that fight climate change.
1. Learn more about ways we can help in our daily lives
One major way for anyone to cope with anxiety is to learn and input concrete practices to counter that anxiety into their daily life. For climate anxiety, this may look like decreasing plastic waste, taking public transportation, or eating lower on the food chain.
2. Increase activism
Many young students look up to other youth activists, like Greta Thunberg, as role models in the fight against global warming. Allowing young students to participate safely in protests and strikes can help them to feel like they are part of the change. Parents can vocally support policies that aim to reduce the effects of global warming and may implement environmentally friendly practices and habits starting at home.
3. Attend therapy
Climate anxiety is a real aspect of general worry and can contribute to an anxiety disorder. Therapy can help young students establish personal coping mechanisms for their anxieties that can help them feel better in the long run. If anxiety does not seem manageable on one’s own, consider speaking with a therapist or setting an appointment for your child to do so.
Climate anxiety is a powerful emotion for a young student, but it is also a sign that this student is a caring, empathetic person. The awareness, engagement, and leadership visible in the next generation may in fact create a better world, free from global warming, for future generations. One must just remember that taking care of one’s own mental health is just as important as the health of the Earth, and self-care will make a more effective, long-lasting activist in the long run.
Waste management is an important tool for curbing climate change and for keeping our environment clean and healthy. Methane generated from biodegradable wastes is a powerful greenhouse gas, and when it’s not captured and used as a fuel it contributes to rapid warming of the atmosphere. Estimates suggest that biodegradable waste in dump sites and uncapped landfill sites are contributing far more methane to the atmosphere than previously thought. What’s more, urban food waste is predicted to increase by 44% from 2005 to 2025, and with no proper management in place, will significantly add to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Worryingly, 38 of the world’s 50 largest dumps are close to the sea, contributing to marine and coastal pollution. The accumulation of plastics in the marine food chain is causing global concern. While we don’t yet know how to clean the oceans, stemming the flow of waste into marine environments would be a step in the right direction.
40% of the world’s waste ends up in open dumps. These aren’t even what you’d call “landfill”. They don’t have any impervious lining to prevent noxious leachate from entering the surrounding environment, nor are they capped to prevent the spread of disease. In fact, in India, the Philippines and Indonesia, the health risk from open dumping of waste is greater than the risk of malaria[i].
3.5 billion people in the world lack access to proper waste management. That figure is expected to grow to 5 billion by 2050. Respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal diseases and occupational health risks add to the misery experienced by the 50,000+ people living from open dumps.
Waste is any material that is no longer wanted for its original purpose. The owner doesn’t have a need for it, and so discards it. Even valuable items can and do end up as waste purely because someone has thrown them away. The recent (and rather brilliant) BBC programme Hugh’s War on Waste shone the spotlight on attitudes towards disposable fashion. A look through the bins of a typical street uncovered a startling amount of clothing that had been thrown away, despite it still being in perfectly good condition. This highlights a simple fact: there is plenty of value in waste.
Estimates suggest there are 40 million people globally who are making their living from waste – half of these are working informally.
During the last recession in the UK, the waste management sector was one of the only industries to keep growing, resulting in it being termed the “Green Star of the Economy”.
Showing people how to turn a waste stream into something valuable isn’t rocket science. There are lots of examples of informal, community-based, grassroots recycling and upcycling projects that generate wealth for the poorest in society.
Internet is allowing simple waste processing techniques to be replicated all over the world, and helping make that information accessible is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my career.
“Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Show a man how to fish and he can eat for the rest of his life.” Teaching people how to make valuable products from waste is important. But just as important, is passing on the business skills to be able to identify a market, factor in costs, check out the competition, market their products and run a successful business.
Development work in the waste arena needs to address both sides of the coin, and in doing so will enable people to start up their own businesses, in their own communities, and generate wealth organically. That’s far more valuable than delivering aid in a ready-made package (which incidentally rarely works – there’s a great TED Talk on this topic by Ernesto Sirolli, called “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen”).
Why closing dumps isn’t a silver bullet
The proliferation of megacities, particularly in developing countries, is causing a health crisis. Decent waste management is an indicator of good governance – that is, if a council or government can collect taxes and provide a waste management service, then it most likely isn’t (very) corrupt. However, in many places where corruption or other forms of bad or weak governance prevail, top-down solutions are notoriously difficult to implement.
Often, when the world’s attention turns to an open dump, the government responds by closing it and the journalists go home. This is what happened with Smokey Mountain dumpsite in the Philippines (and many others around the world). All that happens is another open dump emerges nearby, and the scavengers move to the new site.
The problem is that if there is no alternative solution in place, people will discard of their waste in the only ways available – dumping it or burning it; and the poor will follow the waste.
Replacing an open dump with a government-controlled waste management system isn’t a silver bullet either. The losers, again, are the hundreds, and sometimes thousands of men, women and children who live from scavenging from the dump. It may seem horrific to many of us, but the truth is that if you take that opportunity to earn a paltry living away from the poorest in society, they will starve. Solutions need to be inclusive.
Power to the people
To close dump sites, you need to have a workable alternative solution in place. You need to have regular waste collection taking place, and you need somewhere to take it. Building materials recovery facilities alongside existing open dumps is one idea. Informal waste pickers who are currently working in dangerous conditions on the dumpsite can gain employment (or better still, form a cooperative) sorting recyclable materials and reducing the amount of real “waste” that needs to be disposed of.
For example, Wecyclers in Lagos, Nigeria employs people to cycle around collecting recyclable materials from households. In return for their source-separated waste, the householder receives a small reward.
In Bangalore, IGotGarbage has harnessed the power of phone apps to enable people who were previously waste pickers to be called directly to a house to collect the waste materials. Solutions like this work because they continue to provide livelihoods for people, while taking waste off the streets.
The need for appropriate technology
There will always be something left though: the stuff that really has little value other than the energy embodied in it. In industrialized countries, energy-from-waste incinerators have become popular. Seen as a clean alternative to landfill, these facilities burn the waste, release the energy, and convert it into heat, electricity and ash. Some of that ash (from the air pollution control system) still needs to be disposed of in specially-prepared hazardous waste landfill sites. The remainder, being fairly benign, can be used to make concrete building blocks.
However, incinerators are fairly technology-heavy, rendering them unsuitable for many developing country contexts.
A problem that we’ve witnessed is that waste management companies from industrialised nations try to wholesale their technology in developing countries. The technology is usually unaffordable, and even if the capital can be raised to procure a facility, as soon as something breaks down the whole solution can fall apart.
There is a need for information about simple waste processing technologies to become more open-sourced. Smart future-thinking businesses could capitalise on selling blueprints rather than entire prefabricated facilities. Most of the time it’s far cheaper to fabricate something locally, and also means that when something breaks it can be fixed.
The continuing need for landfill
The fact is that in most cases, a standard, lined landfill site with landfill gas capture is still the most appropriate answer for non-recyclable waste. Add to that a well-organised, low-cost waste collection service with source separation of recyclable materials and biodegradable waste, and you have a relatively affordable solution that is better for the climate, better for health, better for the local economy, and contributes to a more sustainable future.
Landfill may seem very unfashionable to those of us who work in the recycling sector, but nevertheless it will remain a necessity both in developed and developing countries for the foreseeable future.
Joining forces and stepping stones
The success of the Sustainable Development Goals and potential Climate Change Agreement depend on developed and developing countries working together. Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU climate commissioner, said the Climate Coalition alliance showed that developed and developing countries could work together with a common interest. “These negotiations are not about them and us. They are about all of us, developed and developing countries, finding common ground and solutions together. We urge other countries to join us. Together we can do it.”
Necessity is the mother of invention, and we are facing a waste crisis of unprecedented proportion. The potential for waste management in reducing GHG emissions has never been more pertinent. Waste and development practitioners, academics, technology companies, and entrepreneurs around the world are working together more and more to help bring about the change we want to see, which will benefit the billions of people suffering from poor waste management, and the rest of us who share a warming planet – and share the burden of climate change and poverty.
By sharing knowledge through platforms such as beWasteWise and ISWA, and through initiatives like WasteAid, WASTE and Wiego, we can start making a dent in this very large problem.
No silver bullets, but lots of small stepping stones in the right direction.
Note: The original and unabridged version of the article can be found at this link. Please visit http://zlcomms.co.uk/ for more information about the author.
Waste-to-energy has been evolving over the years and there are many new developments in this technology, moving in mainly one direction – to be able to applied to smaller size waste streams. Not only is it a strategy that has real importance for the current public policy, it is a strategy that will definitely present itself to additional areas.
More than 50% of waste that is burnt in waste-to-energy facilities is already part of the short carbon cycle. In which case, it has an organic derivative and it doesn’t add to climate change, to begin with. The long form carbon that is burned, things like plastics that have come out of the ground in the form of oil do add to climate change. But, they have already been used once. They have already been extracted once and what we are doing is taking the energy out of them after that physical use, capturing some of that (energy), thereby offsetting more carbon from natural gas or oil or coal. So, the net effect is a reduction in carbon emissions.
Waste-to-energy and recycling are complementary depending on the results of analyses of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, which are absolutely valid. One can decide in specific situations whether WTE or whether some type of recycling technology would be more appropriate. It is not an either/or option.
Waste-to-Energy is now widely accepted as a part of sustainable waste management strategy.
In Austria, it was possible to have an absolute ban on landfilling wastes exceeding 5% organic carbon. This is written in law since 1996. There were some exceptions for some period of time, but landfills of organic wastes are just banned, not just in Austria but also in other cultures similar to Austria – like Switzerland, Sweden and Germany.
Note: This excerpt is being published with the permission of our collaborative partner Be Waste Wise. The original excerpt and its video recording can be found at this link
The majority of properties globally waste water, and commercial properties are no different. According to EPA statistics, a single toilet can leak a gallon of water every two minutes; an unattended hose, 20 gallons every two minutes. This is a huge amount of water when you multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of businesses in every country around the world. For businesses, there is a moral and ethical imperative to save water – everyone needs to get involved in tackling climate change. However, there’s a business case to be made, too, starting with your bottom line.
Maximizing profits, minimizing waste
The impact of decreasing water levels and the rise of droughts is already having a serious impact on businesses. According to ABC, rising costs are inevitable, and that includes in traditionally water-rich areas such as Illinois, USA. Water can be lost through faulty plumbing, but also through business groundwork and premises. Too many non-water-retaining surfaces, such as asphalt, concrete and imitation lawns, can lead to water runoff, giving no benefit to the business and creating losses.
There is a clear business case for trying to trap this water. Studies have shown that huge savings can be made by installing infrastructure and policies that seek to retain water. Going in at the base level is a great place to start in generating real long-term savings.
Fighting water loss will also help to combat climate change, an area in which there is already untold damage being done to businesses. According to CNBC, the accumulated damage caused by climate change will cost businesses $2 trillion by the end of the century – every single year. This is a 7.1% loss in revenue in the USA alone. Businesses in less well protected areas of the world, especially around the equator, can stand to lose even more in the short term.
A proper climate change action policy is essential in getting involved in the fight against this, and that includes retaining as much water as possible – in the USA, and further afield, drought is already a major problem.
A sustainable generation
When it comes to business reputation, savvy owners know that it’s the opinion of their customers that really matters. The customer’s need trump everything else, and there’s a lot of evidence to back up just how much the customer really cares about the impact on the environment of the business they are purchasing from.
According to Forbes, 58% of consumers – all consumers, not just the typically more progressively-minded youth – will now pay more for products that come from companies with considerable green credentials. This is a massive opportunity for businesses to get ahead of competition and cement a long-term name in the industry.
As you can see, water saving policies aren’t only common sense – they’re a real action to take in the fight against climate change, and improving company profits. A business stands to benefit to a large degree from embracing pro-green policies.
There is a broad consensus that human beings have the right to enjoy an environment suitable for personal development. In reality, this right is also a duty since it requires for its viability that human activity itself does not impede the enjoyment of this right. It is moving from mere enforceability to the sphere of responsibility and duties.
But to enter into the logic of responsibility implies for those of us who are culturally conditioned to advance towards a cultural change.
In today’s entry, we will carefully analyze our responsibilities towards our environment and nature itself. To do so, we will analyze the different aspects of environmental law and our responsibilities to respect it. Here are the four most vital components of that law.
An ecological cultural change is nourished by our modern-day behaviors. Like in many cultures, welcoming the gift of creation invites us to continue to show the love that orients and promotes all lives. However, this gift allows and also demands respect for the equilibrium of the environment itself.
This balance is not only the fruit of a simple random and fortuitous evolutionary course but must be recognized as a gift that makes human life as a whole possible. A rupture of this dynamic is what scientists are warning about, the abuse of the environment. Introducing changes that break its balance, such as the current climate change process resulting from human activity and a cultural model that allows the abuse of resources. Thus, disrupting the natural balance.
Responding to this imbalance implies recognizing and practicing some duties that are marginalized in the present culture.
Our Responsibility of Conservation
The first responsibility is the conservation of creation. Today, witnessing the signs of the globalized ecological crisis throughout the planet, it is clear that the appropriate framework for “cultivation” is guardianship or conservation.
Without conservation, there can be no responsible and fair human cultivation. From this understanding, nature’s cultivation cannot lead to its “exploitation” because it cannot be abused, breaking its balance. A current concretization of this responsibility implies fighting against climate change and the various ecological disorders.
The signs of a development that has not always known how to protect nature’s delicate balances are evident when talking about air pollution. Before it is too late, severe measures must be taken, not only when writing an air pollution essay or article, but in real-life, to re-establish a strong alliance between man and the earth.
Therefore, we need a decisive “yes” to the protection of creation and a strong commitment to reverse the trends that could lead to situations of irreversible degradation.
The Responsibility not to Alienate Nature
The second responsibility that lies in our hands is to “respect the grammar of nature”. Nature is not an “untouchable taboo.” The natural environment is not only matter subjectively available to human beings, but an admirable work of nature itself that carries within itself a “grammar” that indicates purpose and criteria for intelligent, non-instrumental, and arbitrary use.
Today, many harms to development come from these distorted ways of thinking. Completely reducing nature to a set of simple factual data ends up being a source of violence towards the environment, provoking behaviors that do not respect the nature of man himself.
The latter, insofar as it is composed not only of matter but also of the spirit, and therefore rich in meanings and transcendent ends, has a normative character even for our culture.
Integration of Justice
Third, the need to integrate ecological justice and social justice. This need implies using resources that are respectful of nature and equitable with present and future human rights. Thus, the responsibilities we have towards the environment are related to those we have towards the person and his relationship with others. We cannot demand some and violate others. This is a severe antinomy of today’s mentality and praxis, which debases the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society.
For example, the desertification and productive impoverishment of some agricultural areas is also the fruit of the impoverishment of their inhabitants who suffer resource consumption damages. These have been crucial topics that show up regularly in a water pollution essay by environmental protection advocates due to the impact it causes in our occidental society. This impoverishment includes energy, air, and water pollution, which damage their natural environment (the effects of climate change on their lands, for example) and the inequitable consumption in its enjoyment and hoarding by influential minorities of humanity. The fruit of social justice must be held at peace among our societies and also with nature.
Social injustice is the occasion for social war and natural destruction. Many natural resources are devastated by wars. Peace among peoples and between peoples would also make it possible to safeguard nature more effectively. The hoarding of resources, especially water, can lead to serious conflicts between the populations concerned. Thus, a peaceful agreement on the use of resources can safeguard nature and, at the same time, the well-being of the societies concerned.
The fourth responsibility is to improve efficiency and sustainability when dealing with nature. Responsible governance of creation implies, among other things, improving energy efficiency and the search for alternative energies to reduce their harmfulness to the environment and the harm to humanity itself. But it has to be framed in a global project of relationship with nature in the key of “alliance between human being and a healthy environment,” which adequately weighs the path to the future. That considers the approach to be followed in each aspect.
This is a global responsibility: The international community and each government must know how to counteract effectively those ways of using the environment that is harmful to it. And the competent authorities must also make the necessary efforts to ensure that the economic and social costs arising from the use of common environmental rights and resources are recognized transparently and borne entirely by those who benefit, not by others or by future generations.
The protection of the environment, resources, and the climate require that all international decision-makers act together and demonstrate a readiness to act in good faith, respect for the law and solidarity with the weaker regions of the planet.
Responsibilities that can help us to assume our responsibility towards ourselves. Towards the present and future of humanity, and towards the whole of creation.
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