This video takes a brief look at some of the issues surrounding a world built on fossil fuels, like environmental destruction and economic instability. Alternative energy sources have not been able to replace fossil fuel due to technology and existing infrastructures that were purposed to support fossil fuel consumption. It asked an important question regarding the sustainability of the current model of economic growth.
Here are a four points that were suggested:
-Learn to live without fossil fuel
-Relook at our current economic model of growth
-Stabilise human population to 7 billion
-Mitigating the negative human impact on the environment
Even with the technological advancements in the field of alternative energy, humans will still have to find a way to live within nature’s budget of renewable resources and at the rate at of natural replenishment for a more resilient future.
“Resilience – the ability to absorb shocks and keep going”
Check out other interesting videos on Post Carbon Instiute's YouTube channel too.
Water scarcity is like the lesser known cousin of the other environmental issues that are more prominent in the media, for example global warming and decreasing oil supplies. In part, the lack of attention may also be due to clean, safe water being readily available to residents in modern cities at low cost (relative to oil). This documentary tells the story of three different places facing two kinds of water management problem.
In the Everglades, Florida, urban developments are hindering flow and supply of water into the Everglades, resulting in record low-level in water level. Furthermore increasing water demands from nearby region contributes to the decreasing water supply. One of the possible environmental consequences is salt water infiltration into the aquifers, which will alter the eco-system of the Everglades and decrease freshwater availability.
Lake Mead in Nevada faces a similar issue with low precipitation and over consumption because of increasing population and water demand downstream. The water level in the lake has decreased drastically and 25 million people depend on the lake as fresh water supply.
Hebei in Northern China is facing droughts from over consumption by nearby cities such as Beijing. In addition it also faces the problem of pollution from untreated sewage and careless disposal of toxic chemical waste which is quickly making its remaining water sources unusable.
However ordinary citizens are beginning to realise the importance of water conservation and they are coming up with initiatives in attempts to mitigate the problem. In Florida, an environmental group tries to slow down the rate of development and in Hebei, citizens are taking it upon themselves to analyse and monitor their local water resources. In addition to that, local Non-governmental Organisations in Hebei set up a publically available database which monitors the water quality of freshwater sources. Water treatment technologies for both domestic and industrial waste are already available. If environmental laws were to be put in place and duly enforces, further degradation to the water resources is possible.
Water is an integral part of life, making up an approximate 70% of a human body weight. But the social and environmental impacts of freshwater extend far beyond, biodiversity; agricultural activities; industrial operations all hinge on the availability of water. The society as we know it depends greatly on this resource.
“When we were young the environment was beautiful, but we damaged it. So we have to do something about it now for the sake of the future generations"
Mondragón Worker-Cooperatives Decide How to Ride Out a Downturn
If the economy is any indication, it should have prompted us to rethink the economy as it is currently. From its stubbornness to recover from a slump to the increasing polarization of wealth distribution between the rich and the poor (source: Key Household Income Trends, 2010), it should have provided good motivations to look at alternative economical models to the usual top-down management.
In comes the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC). It is a consortium of worker-owned companies that is worker-centric. The business is driven by egalitarianism: workers are each given equal voting powers on issues; all workers are subjected to distribution of profit and loss because success is a result of collective efforts.
MCC’s innovation in doing business ensured that workers were safe unemployment during the global economical downturn, furthermore generating revenue of $24 billion in 2007. Their success should give even the toughest of sceptics enough reasons to take a long hard look at MCC’s business model.
“Mondragón is proof that a commitment to the common good is not an obstacle to commercial success. Instead, a dedication to innovation and training at all levels can bring forward the best of the community. That quality of life continues outside the workplace, multiplying the benefits for those who choose a cooperative path.”
Now we can all discuss the possibility of social equality without the tough sell of forgoing commercial success.
Further reading: The Old Economy's Not Coming Back. So What's Next?
This video documents how manufacturers shift from the making quality products that were designed to have a long service life to deliberately shortening life of products to drive consumption and economy. Product engineers were made to adopt different values and objectives in their designs while consumers had to accept this newfound disposability as a norm. In a modern context, new products are made available to consumers at a rapid rate, enabling consumers to retire and replace their products unnecessarily.
The documentary also explored one of the potential environmental and social impacts of careless electronic consumption. As computers and electronic devices are disposed, a significant portion of the waste is shipped off to developing regions such as Africa. The electronic waste contains toxic components such as lead and cadmium and they are liberated when locals try to obtain scrap metals using primitive methods. Therefore causing health problems and polluting the environment surrounding the electronic waste dump.
While the manufacturers have created the consumer’s society as we know now, there is an increasing awareness of the finiteness of earth’s resources and the need for sustainable development. Some people are taking a step towards improving the sustainability of the consumer’s society. From consumers working to help other consumers bypass predetermined time for failure in an electronic device, to filing lawsuits against corporations that have unsustainable policies, to manufacturers taking a different approach to production design.
Perhaps we could all then take a moment before retiring our phone for the spanking new one that we have been coveting.
“It’s not like there is a green world and a business world, I think business and sustainability go hand in hand is actually the best basis to build a business on. And the only real way to do that is to factor in the true cost of the resources that have been used and also look at the energy consumption and also the indirect energy consumption of transportation. If you factor all that in to all the product that you manufacture, then there will be huge incentives for manufacturers to entrepreneurs all over the planet to make products that last forever” – Warner Philips (Lemnis Lighting)
Here's an intriguing case study of an environmental lawyer helping villagers fight a lawsuit against an ore mine owned by the provincial government in the Yang Chow village, China. Villagers in nearby areas are affected by the lack of treatment of mine effluent; the villagers crop's yield and quality have been affected, as well as their health.
It was reported that the river water contaminated by the mine effluent is high in some heavy metals (i.e. lead and cadmium), however existing technologies are capable of removing them from the effluent wastewater. One of the common methods of heavy metal removal is chemical precipitation, in which precipitants are added to raise the pH of water decreasing the soluble portion of heavy metals, then the precipitated heavy metals can be removed by conventional solids removal techniques. This illustrates that the corporations are negligent to not provide appropriate treatments even though they are available and that authorities are not taking enough actions to enforce existing environmental laws. The corporation stands to damage its own reputation in addition to setting itself up for potential liabilities in the future.
The villagers and their environment are paying the bills accrued by rapid economic development while reaping none of its benefits. How much monetary value can be assigned to the human health and environmental damages caused by careless economic exploits?