Table of Contents
Heinberg & Lerch (2010) define sustainability as something that can be maintained over a long period of time. It therefore means that a society or a thing that is unsustainable will cease to exist when a certain period reaches. On this basis, the existence of mankind is under threat, if man engages in unsustainable activities that result to the destruction of his environment. This paper provides an examination of the global crisis of sustainability that the world is currently faced with. It examines how this sustainability crisis has emerged out of the global ecological problems, and the social and economic interconnections. This paper is also concerned with providing an answer to why human beings have allowed their environment to be destroyed, and have acquiesced themselves to the ideologies and inequalities surrounding our economic system.
The Global Crisis
The sustainability issues have emerged due to the global ecological crisis that the world faces. This global ecological crisis has resulted to environmental, economic and social problems, and it is due to these problems that the world is now concerned with sustainability issues. One environmental problem that has emerged due to engaging in unsustainability problems is environmental pollution that has resulted to the deaths of millions of people and their incapacitation. A good example of one of the cause of global pollution and environmental damage is TALCO.
This is a company that is seen as one of the greatest polluters of the environment. It is the largest industrial plant that is remaining from the Soviet era, and it is responsible for the production of aluminum. Note that, aluminum is an important metal that can be used to produce essential goods. These products produced from aluminum can be used to promote social activities, as wells activities that are essential for the survival of man. The effect of TALCO to the environment has been negative. The company is responsible for the conversion of raw aluminum waste to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen acids, which are harmful to the environment and human beings. In fact, approximately 1.1 million people have been affected in Uzbekistan, because of this environmental pollution. TALCO is a company that exists for economic purposes, and on this basis, it is possible to link economics with environmental pollution.
Note that, the activities of TALCO are a breach of the fifth axiom that is identified by Heinberg & Lerch (2010), which requires that a sustainable activity must ensure that any products released to the environment are not harmful to it. However, TALCO has released harmful gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides to the environment, and these have led to pollution. Furthermore, the extensive mining of aluminum is not sustainable in the long run, and this is because the metals cannot be replenished at the rates in which they are mined and used.
Another example of an environmental crisis that has raised concerns of sustainability issues is the 1967 Lake Karachai disaster. This was a disaster that created extensive environmental damage, and this is because of the release of toxic substances and waste into the lake. The wastes that were dumped into the lake emanated from the nuclear activities of the Soviet Union, and the damage was very extensive to the lake. Nonetheless, the 1967 drought that hit the region of Lake Karachai is one that was responsible for raising issues touching on the sustainability of the environment. The drought led to the exposure of the lake banks, making them to be dry.
This exposed the radio-active sediments that were found in the bottom of lake, lifting them up into the air. The effect of these radioactive substances into the air was very grave, and this is because approximately half a million people were vulnerable or exposed to them. In the view of Hansruedi (2015), this was an example of a nuclear disaster, triggered by natural phenonomen of drought. The results of this natural disaster/ nuclear disaster were grave on the health of people surrounding the region. Hansruedi (2015) asserts that there have been 21% increases on the number of patients, and an increase in birth defects.
Obviously, these would raise sustainability issues, because the survival of mankind is at stake. In fact, nuclear disasters have very grave consequences on the health of human beings and the environments. In the view of Heinberg & Lerch (2010), it is important to assert that nuclear activities is unsustainable because of their release of toxic substance into the environment, that leads to damage.
On a social and health perspective, the world is witnessing an increasing of health conditions that have made it difficult for people to engage in procreation activities. This is because of their exposure to chemicals and substances that have had negative effects on their ability to procreate, has caused cancers such as thyroid cancer and leukemia (Noorman, 2014). A good example of these health and social effects of disasters that has raised sustainability issues is the effect of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. In the Fukushima disaster, the people exposed to the nuclear radiations experienced increased chances of developing cancers and leukemia. There was also an increase of eye diseases, heart diseases and prostate cancer. Obviously, the presence of these diseases will definitely affect the social life of an individual. In the view of Hansruedi (2015), the social life of an individual is dependent on how healthy he is. When a person is sick, his social life is not vibrant.
Moreover, unsustainable activities have also resulted to loss of livelihoods and devaluation of properties. This is a situation that arose out of the Eastern-Ural disaster that resulted to the evacuation of at least 27,000 people from 217 settlements. This is a significant number of people, and it is an indication that most of these people lost their sources of livelihood, and the value of their properties depreciated. The depreciation in the value is because the region becomes unattractive due to its vulnerability to environmental damages.
It is therefore possible to assert that the economic, social and environmental crisis have led to the sensitization of sustainability issues. For instance, it is difficult to ignore the impact of the TALCO disaster that led to health and economic problems to more than 1.1 million people (Hansruedi, 2015). In a bid to save humanity from unsustainable activities of mankind, the global community has arisen up, and come up with sustainable policies and measures aimed at protecting the environment, and ensuring that the activities that humanity engages in, does not compromise their the global community has arisen up, and come up with sustainable policies and measures aimed at protecting the environment, and ensuring that the activities that humanity engages in, does not compromise their environment.
For instance, UNESCO in collaboration with other non-governmental institutions has come up with the notion of social sustainability of cities (Heinberg & Lerch, 2010). The intention is to ensure that policies are developed that will help to preserve cities from environmental damage and pollution.
We can do it today.
To understand why man has been unable to stop the destruction of the planet, there is a need of viewing it through the context of Edelstein disabling theory. This concept identifies two important reasons why man has been unable to protect his environment (Epstein & Buhovac, 2014). One of them is the inability of man to control his social and physical environment, and the second reason is inability to control the experts who are found within the society.
The inability to control experts is based on the greed of man. In the view of Rachel Carson, man is misguided by the false notion that he owns the environment and has the responsibility of conquering it. He is clouded by short term ambitions and desires, that he does not manage to control; thus, leading to him engaging in unsustainable activities (Carson, 1962). The greed of man and his inability to control such greed is better depicted by Rachel Carson, a leading environmentalist when she asserted that, “man is responsible for the adverse effects on the environment, because he views himself as having authority over the environment, thus, he can exploit it for his personal gains” (Carson, 1962). Experts arise to help in the conversation of raw materials to substances that are useful to man. For instance, nuclear elements are converted to nuclear weapons and energy for use by mankind.
Without the help of experts, it is impossible for man to convert nuclear elements into energy or weapons. They help in providing the knowledge and building of equipment’s to use in producing nuclear weapons that are harmful to the environment. The industrial revolution is an example of how experts contributed to the depletion of natural resources (Schaltegger, Burritt & Petersen, 2017). For instance, the development of steam engine was done by experts, and it is one of the most important equipment that helped to facilitate the revolution due to the fact that it led to the emergence of factories. Note that, in the current century, there are advanced equipment and machineries that are responsible for powering factories and industrial organizations. There is no control of the experts who are coming up with these new inventions and equipment that are responsible for polluting the environment (Gray, Adams & Owen, 2014). It is these machines and equipment that have enabled man to engage in activities that result to the depletion of critical resources that are essential for their survival, without replenishing such resources.
Heinberg & Lerch (2010) asserts that a society that uses critical resources in a manner that is not sustainable will definitely collapse. Because of greed, it is difficult for the society to control the activities of experts. For instance, coming up with measures aimed at preventing new inventions may result to the downfall of industrialized economies such as America and China. These countries are known to be exporters of technological products that are made out of the inventions and innovations of their experts. Therefore, preventing them from invention would amount to a destruction of their economies. On this note, it is possible to assert that it is greed for money and short term gains that man has been unable to control experts who produce lethal inventions that harm the environment.
Moreover, Edelstein asserts that loss of control to the social and physical environment of man is one of the factors that make him to be unable to protect the planet. This is an assertion that is true. Factors such as drought, famine, earthquakes have resulted to the destruction of the environment (McKinnon et al., 2015). Man does not have a control of these factors, and they are known to be one of the major causes of environmental pollution. A good example is the Fakushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Another example is the 1967 Lake Karachai disaster that was caused by draught, which resulted to the destruction of the banks of the lake, thus exposing the nuclear wastes dumped into the river.
On this basis, through the Edelstein disabling theory and analysis, the causes of environmental destruction are manmade and natural.
Finally, mankind has been made aware of sustainability issues due to the economic, social and environmental impact of the global ecological crisis. This is a crisis that has led to the destruction of the environment, resulting to deaths, loss of sources of livelihood, devaluation of properties, etc. The ecological crises has emanated due to the activities of man, and natural disasters. Good examples are the droughts that led to the contamination of the environment around Lake Karachai. The result of this contamination is that thousands of people were vulnerable to cancers, and procreation problems. On the other hand, the pollution cause by TALCO was man made, since it was responsible for dumping raw aluminum near settlements, and this affected millions of people. It is due to the emergence of such kind of disaster, that issues to do with sustainability have emerged and gaining ground.
- Epstein, M. J., & Buhovac, A. R. (2014). Making sustainability work: Best practices in managing and measuring corporate social, environmental, and economic impacts. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
- Carson, R. (1962). Of man and the stream of time (Vol. 36, No. 4). Scripps College.
- Gray, R., Adams, C., & Owen, D. (2014). Accountability, social responsibility and sustainability: Accounting for society and the environment. Pearson Higher Ed.
- Hansruedi, V. Ã. (2015). A brief History of Nuclear Disasters: Prevention, Consequences and Re-coverage. Planet@ Risk, 3(2).
- Heinberg, R., & Lerch, D. (2010). The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st century’s sustainability crises. Watershed Media.
- McKinnon, A., Browne, M., Whiteing, A., & Piecyk, M. (Eds.). (2015). Green logistics: Improving the environmental sustainability of logistics. Kogan Page Publishers.
- Noorman, K. J. (2014). Green households: domestic consumers, the environment and sustainability. Routledge.
- Schaltegger, S., Burritt, R., & Petersen, H. (2017). An introduction to corporate environmental management: Striving for sustainability. Routledge.