What are the top 10 green issues?

1.    Climate Change

Global warming has been concerning scientists for decades, but Al Gore legitimised the crisis with his controversial film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. From the melting polar ice caps to catastrophic weather and threatened ecosystems, not only is climate change real, scientists agree that humans are influencing climate change with our production of greenhouse gases (mainly stemming from carbon dioxide and methane). What can you do? How bad is it? Why do so many people still think climate change isn’t real? Is it real? These are just some of the issues worth exploring. The good news is that despite the urgency of the crisis, there are exciting technological developments as well as meaningful lifestyle changes we can make to help. For example: we can turn down the heating, wear warmer clothing and install loft insulation with the help of a grant.

2. Energy

Clean energy vs. dirty energy. Renewable energy. Energy independence. Petroleum. Biofuels. Coal. Nuclear. Wind power. Offshore drilling. Even Paris Hilton has something to say about energy. Energy is second only to climate change in significance, but the picture isn’t as clear as one might think. No single energy source is going to be the solution, positive developments toward a cleaner future are happening every single day.

3. Waste

With the immediate looming problems of climate change and energy, focus has shifted away from landfill waste, but this is a serious problem. The world has largely become accustomed to a throwaway lifestyle, but that’s neither healthy nor sustainable. Waterways are choked with rubbish and modernised nations ship their undesirable leftovers to the developing world where in some cases it is hand sorted by children. Fashion, fast food, packaging and cheap electronics are just some of the problems. The amount of waste the industrialised world generates is shocking. Water bottles are the defining symbol of this critical issue. Fortunately, people are becoming aware of the consequences of “fast consumption” and there are many simple changes we can make in own life to help significantly reduce landfill waste. For example, using reusable carrier bags and recycling all our waste is a good start.

4. Water

Clean water is in short supply. Our global reserves of drinkable water are a fraction of 1% and 1 in 5 humans does not have access to potable (safe) water. According to Wateraid (www.wateraid.org) 4,000 children die everyday due to water contamination. There are many potential solutions, some promising, others challenging. Desalinisation is an energy-inefficient, expensive option. But there are many things we can all do such as turning off the tap when brushing our teeth, taking quicker showers and less baths.

5. Food

Biofuels have turned into a global controversy – the idea that people may cause the starvation of millions in order to fuel their vehicles is not good. And yet that’s not the complete picture. Eating hamburgers has much more impact on the global food picture. And then there’s the whole issue of ‘food miles’ – at first, local seems logical, but the situation is more complex than that. It’s more about carbon usage, resources and efficiency using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). There are big questions: can we support the world without turning to vegetarianism? We know that the planet can’t afford the Western way of eating lots of meat and too much food generally. It would take 5 earths to support our current lifestyle. What about hunting – is that good for the environment? Fortunately, there are a multitude of tasty diets that incorporate greener values, so it’s not necessary to adhere to veganism, thank goodness!

6. Consumption

This is directly linked to waste. It is well-known that the industrialised world simply consumes in a way that is not sustainable. And the developing world is rapidly imitating the model. Sustainability in the most compelling sense is about long-term solvency. The way we live now is borrowing against the future. Reducing consumption, and smart consumption, are both necessary – and there are many ways to go about doing this. Some methods are pure geek, some are high tech, and some are just common sense. And once you start exploring, you’ll see that it’s actually fun. Car sharing is one example and another is growing your own vegetables.

7. Land Management

From desertification to polar ice melting to erosion and deforestation, existing land management choices are not serving the planet or its inhabitants very well. There is virtually no land left that is not subject to light or noise pollution. The modern green movement believes that in order to create a sustainable future, people will need to return to the conservation spirit of our relatives who survived two world wars. That’s a value system that includes meaning, adventure, and self-sufficiency.

8. Ecosystems and Endangered Species

The good news is that some species have made a comeback. The bad news is that many more species are now under threat, including indicator species and evolutionarily unique species. (When an indicator species becomes threatened, endangered, or worse, extinct, this means an entire ecosystem faces collapse.) The consequences can have global impact.

9. Public Health Issues

Our tomatoes have fish DNA? Killer bugs are on the loose? Superweeds are taking over corn fields? Wild animals are sprouting extra limbs? Autism is on the rise? What on earth is going on? From genetic manipulation and cloning to public health issues and food and drug contamination, get to know the new, strange, important and most interesting green issues related to genetic science, agribusiness, public health and more. What’s this about electromagnetic fields? Is all that exhaust on my commute killing me? Do mobile phones really cause cancer? Will soy milk give me man boobs? How much of our groundwater is contaminated? Is smog getting worse or better? How much acid rain is there? Why can’t I drink out of streams? These are just some of the questions I will be exploring in future blogs.

Did you guess the tenth issue? There are more issues, but these are the most critical challenges. It will take a combination of leadership, technological developments and lifestyle changes to address these challenges successfully. You wonder how we got into such a mess, but when you look at population growth and the drive toward mechanisation and greater productivity often using chemicals. You start to realise we can’t remain on this course.

This article was written by Ian (@portabud) who is a  Board Director of The Less Packaging Company

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