Letter to the Editor – Volume 156, Issue 12: Who Wants to Talk about Sustainability?

Molly Farrell, Contributing Writer

 

It is no surprise that the United States has a lot to deal with, especially with the threat of ISIS and our economic state as a country. But what if I told you that the world cannot sustain our growth and our dependence on resources? Would you consider this a big problem? Yes, I agree it may not affect us right now, but what about when we are in our 50s and 60s and our future generations are bearing the brunt of these environmental crises? Because by 2050, many reports have predicted a pretty grim picture.

Here are the facts presented by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: By 2050 the world population is expected to grow to 9.1 billion people and we will need to use 80 percent more energy, which is a global energy consumption of 900 exajoules (EJ) per year. Air pollution will continue to contaminate water and the lack of sanitation will contribute to the rise of approximately 3.6 million premature deaths a year for those living in poor rural areas.

The more of us there are, the more natural resources, food, water, and shelter we will need. Climate change is predicted to increase the number of natural disasters such as floods and droughts and cause a more rapid decrease in food and water availability. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported in 2015 that food production needs to be increased by 60 percent. Without the necessary water, those in undeveloped countries will not be able to survive.

The good news for all these problems is that there are solutions. We have the land to produce more food, but a majority of farmers aren’t using sustainable farming techniques. We have the technology to reduce the amount of energy, but not the money within our current governments to make the necessary changes. The world needs to do much more than the reduce-reuse-recycle spiel. In August 2015, NPR reported that three-quarters of Americans favor a government response to climate change, but candidates and those who sponsor them differ in opinion on environmental issues.

This serious problem is not being addressed by the U.S. presidential candidates. Presidential debates are seen more as theatrical events than political debates. In the Fox News Republican debate, there were zero mentions of any environmental issues. Driven by money, many presidential candidates are not taking a stance on these problems. Many lobbying companies are willing to pay millions of dollars to support any candidate who opposes climate change legislation. For this reason, most of the candidates running are remaining quiet on the issue with the hope of avoiding it altogether.

Considering the water problem in California, we begin to enter an age of the commodification of nature.  The valued components of the natural environment become privatized by companies who abuse marginalized communities’ resources. Many experts have begun a talk about the “water crisis” not only because of the decreasing amount in certain areas, but also because water is becoming a privatized commodity.

The United States needs to promote sustainable development to cover overall growth. These critical environmental concerns aren’t going away. Our continued expansion for a global economy and industry will demand more from our natural resources and raw materials and our actions now will define the relationships that future generations will have with nature. When choosing a presidential candidate, pick one who you think conveys a plan for development in a sustainable manner and recognizes the environmental challenges our world, not just our nation, will face.

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