Building for the future: why we should consider sustainability over convenience


Since the dawn of humankind, we have been toiling away to make our lives more convenient. From the invention of fire to the invention of smart-gadgets, they are aimed at improving the quality of human lives. As countries are developed and new heights are reached, the question of sustainability have been raised over and over again.

7 million hectares of rainforests are lost annually, according to the Rainforest Action Network and that does not include other forests worldwide. There are many organizations and activists hoping to rectify the problem by raising awareness about the losses we are incurring: the loss of carbon sinks which expedites climate change. RAN reports that “twenty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from felling the world’s forests”.

Climate change is a rising concern as it directly affect lives all around the globe with flooding and wildfires. The increasing temperatures which are melting the ice caps are the cause for severe heat waves that claimed one thousand lives in Britain in just a few days. Said to increase 50-fold by 2100, researchers predicts that over 150000 people might die each year in Europe alone.

The Independent UK suggests governments to “get serious about making the switch away from dirty fossil fuels. Three quarters of existing coal, oil and gas has to remain unused if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change” and yet this has done nothing to prevent the UK government from “digging and drilling for more across the British countryside”.

The head of climate and energy at World Wildlife Fund insists that climate change “should be one of our top public policy concerns” because the lack of action will only cost more lives, and not just human lives but the lives of wildlife and plants.

With hundreds of species going extinct daily, it is hard to tell whether we are causing our own extinction by accelerating the natural order of background extinction, defined as the rate of extinction due to natural causes. However, when you think about it, 98% of animals which used to roam the planet have gone extinct and our plethora of animals still in existence stands at a whopping 2%. The other life forms which have departed were results of mass extinctions and none of them were caused by global warming.

If it is considered natural, why all the fuss? Furthermore, the most recent mass extinction gave humans a living chance, considering that a meteor wiped out the incredibly lethal dinosaurs. No tears were shed by Darwin over the loss of species, as he wrote in his book ‘On the Origin of Species’, extinction is merely evolution taking hold.

And yes, that is not the case, with human interference, it could be guilt that is nagging at every activist’s conscience. Why do humans have the right to life more so than the other life forms that inhabit this earth? Surely, the demise of some animals will impact human lives, if the ocean is devoid of fish, what would fishermen do? If predators have been hunted to extinction, that would lead to an overpopulation of prey animals that would spoil vegetation and make it close to impossible for a farmer to make a living.

For every stone cast into the pond, there is a ripple effect surmounting anything we could possibly dream of or even consider. If the oceans were to gain one degree in temperature, the whole world might not notice but it also might be a noose for the entire ecosystem. A single degree is capable of wiping out entire coral reefs as algae are unable to survive, and algae are crucial to the survival of corals as they have a symbiotic bond. This bleaching of the corals will lead to destruction of “fisheries, shoreline protection, tourism and medicine”. With everything so intrinsically linked, yes it matters because we do not know for sure which species do not.

Such are the effects of unsustainable human development, whereby farming and other industries are more preoccupied with making a profit than they are about keeping the industry alive for centuries to come with no harm to the environment. Since it is the environment that gives live to us, we too, should consider how to keep it alive.

In recent years, there have been breakthroughs that allow for feasible sustainability. Solar power seemed to be the world’s saving grace, a system that uses clean energy powered by the rays of the sun. However, the production of solar panels might prove detrimental to habitat loss and hazardous to water. It is promising that we are moving in the right direction, with the rise of many new technologies that might one day free the world from the bonds of forward-thinking to prevent further loss to the environment.

The popularity of 3D printer are contributing to the fight against further destruction, by reducing plastic waste. A company began their venture into repurposing plastic into “ink” for 3D printers, allowing poverty stricken settlements to earn from waste-separation for this eco-friendly operation. Even laser printers like Boss Laser could be utilized in developing countries by providing them with efficient technologies to help with development without the need of going through less environmental friendly processes.

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