It is a fact that the human race is using up natural resources faster than our ecosystem can support. A clear example of this can be observed in the case of Earth Overshoot Day. Based on data gathered by scientists, they project a ballpark figure for maximum natural resource consumption in order to maintain environmental equilibrium. Using that number as a baseline, researchers calculate how quickly society overshoots that figure. In 2020, Earth Overshoot Day landed on August 22nd. Fast forward a year later, and the global over-utilisation of projected annual resources landed on July 29th. What is clear to see is an obvious trend of a growing depletion of natural resources.
As early as the 1970s, following a myriad of geopolitical factors such as the OPEC energy crisis and rising unemployment, humanity’s demands on nature has constantly been exceeding what the Earth can regenerate in an entire year. Increasing exponentially in the past two decades, fears of resource depletion have become a very real threat.
What is Causing the Earth’s Resources to be Depleted?
Chief amongst the resources nearing scarcity are water, oil and timber.. Despite an abundance of water on the planet, only 2.5% of the water on Earth is freshwater. Necessary for sustaining life, either directly through consumption or indirectly through farming and irrigation, freshwater reserves are drawing dangerously low. Stuck in a vicious cycle, agriculture functions as one of the key pillars to humanity’s survival. Farming and horticulture serve as a way for cheap and accessible produce, yet consistently drive water scarcity. A report by McKinsey&Company found that unsustainable agricultural practices consume up to 24.4 billion hectoliters of water annually. The production of meat and vegetables through inefficient practices that fail to leverage technologies for water conservation will inevitably draw down water reserves in the long run.
Other industries that take a toll on oil and timber include manufacturing, where deforestation and oil mining is necessary in order to maintain daily operations. Due to the need for space, hectares of rainforests are cut down in the name of business and profits. The resources gathered end up channelled into the never-ending demand for cheaper and more accessible products. Sustainability is put on the backburner as companies prioritise their bottom line over biodiversity protection. In the long run, similar to the over usage of water reserves, the lack of biodiversity and rainforests contribute to a warming climate and, ultimately, irreversible climate change that threatens life on Earth.
Why Net-Zero Emissions Should be the Goal
Net-zero emissions, a necessary step towards fighting climate change, refers to the objective in which global carbon emissions are balanced out by greenhouse gas emissions absorbed by flora and fauna. The scales are currently tipped towards carbon emissions, heavily outweighing carbon absorption. Due to shrinking natural forest reserves, the natural process in which carbon emissions are absorbed is severely jeopardised.
By achieving net-zero emissions, climate change is consequently slowed down as global greenhouse gas numbers are lowered. This equilibrium buys time for the Earth to ‘reset’ against the greenhouse effect that sorely contributes to rising temperatures and potential polar caps meltdown. A good step forward towards achieving, as many experts have advocated for, would be the total and rapid phasing out of fossil fuels. As a source of energy, fossil fuels do more harm than good for the environment. Extremely unsustainable, the byproduct of burning fossil fuels for energy directly results in carbon – making net-zero emissions tougher to attain. Sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower emit little to no carbon while providing a renewable source of energy as long as environmental equilibrium is maintained.
Other sustainable business practices to hit the net-zero emissions goal also include personal responsibility and overhaul of wasteful technologies. Though it might cost a little more upfront, the value of renewing outdated and outmoded technologies in industries such as transport, manufacturing, and agriculture all aid the fight against climate change in the long run.
Businesses owe it to the vast majority of society to take climate change into consideration when conducting operations. As much as individuals can do their part to help battle climate change, large entities and corporations make up most of carbon emissions, and sustainable practices must be enforced for the sake of a better Earth.