Our life as we know it

– Peter van Nes , S7NLA (EEB3), 16.03.2017

It is a fact we cannot deny. We are destroying the planet we live on, faster than most of us expected. Some might even say we already have destroyed our planet, to the point of no return, as we have lost more than half of our wildlife mainly due to habitat degradation. How will we save us from ourselves?

There is substantial evidence that it might be too late to save our world. We have displaced around 100 tonnes of material per square kilometre in order to build huge cities, warm our houses, make new land and transport goods around the world, scarring the planet for good. Moreover, a decline in CO2 and other harmful gas emission will only have effect after 20 years. However, for the sake of this article, I will assume, that we still can save our planet, and that it is not too late for complete restoration of ecosystems and landscapes. I will also assume that we all agree on urgency of this matter, as it is proven by numerous scientific researches that global warming will, in fact, mean the end of the world if we continue.

The following question remains: how on earth can we change so drastically to protect the environment? There are a few possible solutions, some more realistic and probable than others.

The first possible solution is by changing the lifestyle of the majority, if not all, of the world population. This is, of course, an impossible task, as we all know that most humans have no long-term vision and will only react once it is too late. However, over the last decade, a community of vegetarians and even vegans has developed and eco-friendly transport and products have become more popular. Nevertheless, the change in lifestyle would have to be in all social classes, not only the top layer of society as it is now.

A change in governmental policies could also have major positive effects on climate. Ideally governments would implement subsidies for bio-products and invest more in green energy. However, political policies that focus more on sustainability instead of national wellbeing are not popular amongst voters, despite them being heavily connected. This is once again due to the lack of long-term vision. Therefore, mainstream politicians often shy away from these policies, as they could possibly cost votes. Thus, a change from government perspective can only result from a change of priorities of voters, which brings us back to the previous paragraph.

There is also the easy, lucky solution to this global crisis. We can hope that the magic of technology will save us with a wonderful new invention that takes all the worries away. Something around the lines of an infinite power source or genetically modified livestock would surely let us continue our lifestyle without all the fuss about the climate.

There are two main problems with this effortless approach. Firstly, the invention of a miracle contraption is very much based on luck. Even though science is in the spotlight more than ever before, it cannot guarantee anything. Secondly, scientific research is expensive, and requires large investments of government or businesses, once again without guaranteed result. In 2016, only 6% of America’s government budget was used on research. So even though scientific research has shown to bear its fruit, investment remains on a back burner.

It seems that we have embarked on a high-speed train of which the brakes of human common sense and long-term vision are malfunctioning. This train leads us to the irreversible destruction of nearly all natural biomes and ecosystems. However, change has come from a party of which we least expected, namely the business sector. Many businesses have taken matters into their own hands and are striving for zero emission industry.

Nike, for example, has heavily invested into sustainable innovation and has come up with a new technology that makes it possibly to spin plastic bottles into threads, which are then used to make their products. DSM is a independent global research company that “delivers innovative solutions that nourish, protect and improve performance in global markets such as food and dietary supplements, personal care, feed, medical devices, automotive” and many more. DSM produces many food additives in an ecological fashion instead of the chemical factories with polluting by-products.

The realisation of companies that they are also responsible for environmental impact has many effects on society. It raises awareness in all levels of society and provides an opportunity for consumers to participate in reducing pollution, and thereby slowly changing public opinion. Furthermore, companies can also influence government policies through campaign funding and advisors. On top of that, companies like DSM are a major source of technological development.

The ecological crisis we face is arguably the most challenging hurdle we have to overcome. The solution involves drastic change in lifestyle, as we have come to realise that the lives we currently follow leave an impact too large for the world to cope. As governments and the people themselves are not able to step up to the responsibility, companies have taken the frontline in the ecological revolution. The real solution, however, lies in the hands of individuals, either in the proletarian choosing for vegetarian options, or of the CEOs of large companies choosing for an eco-friendly approach. So really, its up to us to make a change, as we will be CEOs in the future.

– Peter van Nes , S7NLA (EEB3), 16.03.2017

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