Welcome to our two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of articles to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
Waste is a huge and ever increasing problem, and waste management, an area that needs more urgent attention, has been addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed to replace the now 15 year old Millennium Development Goals. At the upcoming UN Sustainable Development Summit, world leaders will be meeting to formally adopt the SDGs, aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all. These new goals are set to be achieved over the next 15 years, and waste management is the focus of SDG 12, but also linked to many of the other goals. We need solutions to waste, and recycling is one such solution. It is also one of the fastest and cheapest ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Waste picking” is the main household income for many, and feeds the recycling industry. In urban areas, 1-2% earn a living this way, and it is key to reducing poverty.
One industry that is not well renowned for its waste management is the Fashion industry. Our next article is very revealing in its statistics – stating, amongst other startling things, that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world (behind oil), and that in the UK, 85% of clothes end up in the landfills. The quantity of water used in this industry is astronomical too. Once you read this article, you may change your views on following “fashion trends”.
You may also want to reconsider what cosmetics you use, as the use of plastic microbeads in facial scrubs is creating a problem with the waste going down the drain and into the sea – being too small for treatment plants to capture.
This, and all other plastic waste, is causing major problems for sea birds. The amount of plastic waste ending up in the sea is increasing proportionally with the increase in global plastics production, which is doubling every 11 years. It seems that 99% of all sea-birds will have ingested plastic by 2050.
Pollution in the sea is also affecting the levels of other marine life, along with overfishing, and the acidification of the sea. The number of fish in the sea has dropped 49% over the last 40 years, and some species have declined by 74%. The author of our next article urges the world governments to adopt the SDGs to stop this decline in marine life. Not only are there becoming fewer fish and less food, but many people also rely on fishing for their income.
A couple of stories now about some good news in the area of waste management. One global company is leading the way with introducing sustainability. Lego have started trying to find an alternative to petroleum based plastics for use in their toys and packaging. Maybe the process will find some environmentally friendly plastics that biodegrade more readily for packaging, along with reducing the use of oil. And maybe they will find a more “sustainable plastic” that could be used in other industries as well.
Another area of waste that is becoming ever larger is e-waste, and some creative inventors in Africa have found a way to produce 3-D printers from old inkjet printers and photocopiers, at very low cost. They have also found an inexpensive way to recycle old PET plastic bottles into the plastic filament needed to feed the 3D printers. The plans for the printers are available online, free of charge.
Recycling is becoming an increasingly important area of our lives.
In our next couple of articles we take a look at the green building boom. First to China, where green building space has grown to 320 million m2 (154 times the 2008 figure), and that country has taken the lead from the USA in terms of “green” gross floor area. This green building boom is certainly aided by government legislation and, as of January 2015, China had 2,538 green building projects under way.
It is getting to the stage where green building projects are really the new norm. We next look at ‘Green building growth outpaces overall construction growth’. In America alone, by 2018 LEED building construction projects will account for 3.3 million jobs, more than one third of the entire US construction sector, and will generate over $190 billion in labour earnings. Some big dollar figure! It’s not only employment opportunities in this construction sector that are improving, the market for green building materials is also, and will reach nearly $69 billion by 2019.
We turn our attention to an area that is getting an awful lot of media attention at present, the Syrian refugee crisis. Political unrest and various factions fighting in a pretty brutal armed conflict is not helping, but the ‘seeds’ of the current problems go back to 2006. Syria has experienced extreme drought ever since then. This has led to poverty and migration of people from rural to urban areas. The mismanagement by the Assad regime has contributed to the displacement of two million people in Syria. The internal displacement, due partly to the drought, may have contributed to the social unrest that precipitated civil war, as unhappy people tend to fight back especially when there is a perception that the government isn’t helping them. We could consider these refugees to be climate change refugees, not just refugees escaping conflict.
Closer to home, we have another climate change refugee story in progress, a Kiribati man and his family told they must leave New Zealand. Are Climate Change Refugees a reality?
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.