The Case That the World Has Reached Limits
- Pages: 6
- Word count: 1493
- Category: Population
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It cannot be denied that our civilization has gradually evolved, and we have reached a certain point of development, wherein to prolong our existence, we develop a system that manages our resources and knowledge efficiently. However efficiently, we are still careless, because we tend to make decisions that detrimentally affect our ecosystems, as well as our world and future.
This is why one of the issues often discussed now is sustainability, and how we will be able to secure the future of humanity. There are many approaches to sustainable development, and though it is easier to speculate on the aspects that affect our economic subsystem, we must also study other possible alternative sources of energy. Therefore, much focus will be given with the proper use of available fossil fuel and other alternative resources in achieving a sustainable economy able to alleviate poverty and offer crucial economic transition.
In July 1989, the United Nation’s Group of Seven major industrialized countries have called for adoption of world-wide policies that would be based on sustainable development (Goodland). To focus on these policies, the United Nations has turned to Brundland’s ideas and explored the possibilities of collecting ways and means of achieving sustainability for the future. Hence, based on Brundtland’s thoughts, we are able to see and check things according to their balance by exploring how to come up with answers to secure our future by the way we do things today (Goodland).
According to Brundtland, 60 percent of our global energy comes from fossil fuels and it is in such a depleted state that it is estimated that in less than 50 years, these sources of energy will run out (Goodland). This means that we must not be complacent anymore, if we want to have a future economy. In this case, we have to double our efforts to achieve sustainability by switching and adapting to some challenges.
As Brundtland computed, the size of the population must depend on the available resources within the economic subsystem in order to maintain sustainability; but since the global ecosystems resource cannot support the economic subsystem because of the continuous growth of the population therefore it is advised that we have to limit the size of the global economy according to the ecosystem’s capacity (Goodland).
As today’s world economy grows to $16 trillion and has reached five times from what has been recorded in the past few years, it was believed that the factor for sustainability has finally reached its regenerative and assimilative capacities (Goodland). This means that the environment is unable to support more people and their wastes, which the environment will have to absorb. This is because every year the world’s population increases its size and it is predicted that until the next century, the size of human population will also be doubled (Goodland).
The world’s population is the main consumers of the resources and to produce goods for these consumers, we have to rely on fossil fuels to power our machineries and equipment. This follows the principle that as the number of consumers increase, more products should be produced so these can be consumed by the consumers, therefore to be able to make more products, more energy sources are needed. But decades of deriving energy sources have indeed reduced the availability of the earth’s fossil fuels.
The use of nuclear energy to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels can also create problems on waste disposal. Developed countries are finding it harder and more expensive to dump nuclear waste on territories of developing countries (Goodland). Since it is not always advisable to rely on nuclear power source, relying on fossil fuels seems to be an unavoidable future economic catastrophe.
Therefore we have to make use of the renewable energy sources. However, something is wrong with the renewable resources and we have evidence to prove that they are not easily accessible as we have assumed (Goodland). The first evidence is the ecological imbalance produced from desertification and polluting of our aquatic ecosystems. Agricultural lands are being converted with industries and urbanization destroyed our ecosystem. On agricultural land, soil erosion and pollution from the chemicals stripped the soil of its productivity and made it useless (Goodland).
In a period of 35 years, it was calculated that man cannot sustain himself because of these delineating factors (Goodland). The second evidence is the effect now popularly known as “global warming.” Global warming is due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other gases that produce greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. This happens because of the ability of these gases to retain heat. Instead of letting heat through, these gases capture them, raising the atmospheric temperature. Some gases also destroy the valuable ozone. Greenhouse effect creates disruption of weather, temperature and climate and so we cannot make use up of 100 percent of the renewable energy we have (Goodland).
The third evidence of global limits is the rupture of the ozone shield (Goodland). The damage was detected in Antarctica in 1985 but it was also assumed that this hole may have appeared each spring starting in 1979. A second hole was discovered in the Arctic region, north and south temperate latitudes including Europe and North America. This implies that the global eco-system’s sink capacity to absorb pollution have been reached and exceeded and therefore created imbalance in the ecosystem (Goodland).
The fourth evidence is land degradation. Land degradation is usually caused by soil erosion, salination and desertification and contributes to the loss of fertility to the soil, thus decreasing crop production and dependability on the use of soil (Goodland). Ninety-seven percent of our food comes from the land and 35 percent of productive land has already been degraded by different means. The fifth evidence of limits is the decrease in biodiversity. Man and his economy have grown so large and fast that it overtook the rate of reproduction for fauna and flora in the ecological system. Most animals other than the domesticated animals were driven to extinction and 55 percent of the tropical forests where species of animals live have already been destroyed (Goodland).
But Brundtland advises us of four conditions for sustainability. First on the list is conservation, efficiency of labor, innovation of technology to speed up the production and recycling. One good example of a country that is apparently best in doing these tasks is Japan.
Second condition is the control of population explosion, the third is the redistribution of goods from the over-consumers to the poor and the fourth is the combination of all these conditions (Goodland). When these conditions will be met, Brundtland said it is very likely that we can easily achieve sustainability even though we nearly approaching the limits for available resources (Goodland). There will now be a transition from input growth in the scale of the economy to the regeneration and assimilation capacities to support every aspect of sustainability.
Developing countries are becoming more populous which accounted to 77 percent of the world’s total population and accounted for the 17 percent of total commercial energy usage. By 2020, their population will be doubled. There is, however, a solution to this existing dilemma and as Brundtland explained is through reverting to the scale of the economy (Goodland). This means that there must be crucial procedures to alter the population growth so that the use of the available resources will also be reduced and therefore the dependency on the use of fossil fuels during production will also be reduced (Goodland).
Brundland presented us the solution on not totally depending on the available resources that we have but rather it is to use our own discipline to make improvements (Goodland). His suggestions are not too late for us to consider; we can still take precaution according to his advice. Indeed, the size of the population is the greatest factor that have contributed to the alteration of our environment and altering the availability of our resources. It is only through perseverance and modification of our present situation that we can secure our future, alleviate poverty and repair what has been damaged.
Therefore as we exist in a world that is almost burning out of its available energy, it is time to follow Brundtland advise that since the poor countries hold the world’s largest population, the rich countries must support them to balance the political and ecological systems and support sustainability. If we are all secured through cooperation, mutual assistance and coordination, then we would be working on a balanced level and be able to communicate and do things to preserve our world and save the future generation as well.
Goodland, Robert. “The Case That the World Has Reached Limits.” Population,
Technology, and Lifestyles: The Transition to Sustainability. Eds. Robert
Goodland, Herman Daly, Salah El Seraly. USA: Island Press, 1992. 3-22