Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Best practice in environmental sustainability can be considered in four distinct areas:
Cycling finite resources infinitely, avoiding the need for new extraction.
Man-made substances are safe and biodegradable or recyclable, in production, use and end-of-life.
Regenerating living systems to provide abundant natural resources and healthy ecosystems (air, atmosphere, soil, water, biodiversity).
Business creates meaningful jobs, supports communities along its supply chain and pays for its externalised costs.
What is the risk?
Climate change is a phenomenon that is a critical issue facing humanity at this time. Here in the Yorkshire Dales we are already seeing its effects, though fortunately for us, the impact right now is less severe here than on other parts of the planet.
Climate change is the direct result of emissions of greenhouse gases as a result of human activities. We have already far exceeded the levels of these gases that the natural processes on earth are capable of absorbing, and we are now experiencing the consequences of this disruption to these finely balanced systems.
Delving into the science behind climate change is beyond the scope of this website, but please do take a look at some of the links below if you are interested.
Pollution can take many forms, but four areas that are of particular significance right now are:
- Air pollution: some of the same gases that result in climate change are also potent air pollutants that can cause human health issues. The continued release of these into the atmosphere, particularly by industry and transport, is now proven to have an impact on global health.
- Water pollution: there are many toxic pollutants that find their way into our watercourses, and from there into the oceans. Oceans are also threatened by increasing acidity, caused by the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolving to become carbonic acid. This pollution, combined with rising ocean temperatures, is having a dramatic and irreversible effect on marine ecosystems.
- Plastic pollution: Plastics biodegrade extremely slowly, so any plastic waste released into the environment will remain there for a long time, often many hundreds of years. Intact plastic objects, including plastic shopping bags, cause a significant risk to wildlife such as seabirds, that mistake the plastic for food and ingest it – resulting in poor health and often death.
- Microplastic pollution: Although plastics do not biodegrade quickly, they can be broken down into increasingly small fragments, particularly as a result of burning, or by the wave-action in oceans. Some cosmetic or hygiene products even use tiny plastic fragments to enhance their cleaning effect. These micro-plastics are so ubiquitous that they consumed in significant quantities by both humans, and virtually all other animals. Since this issue has only been identified relatively recently, the environmental and health implications are not yet understood in any great detail.
There is a wealth of further reading material about climate change and sustainability available on the internet, but it’s worth being aware that much of it is heavy on opinion, and light on fact!
The links below are selected reputable websites that rely on scientific evidence to make reasoned judgements.
For further information on sustainability, what it means, and why it is important, try the link below:
The UN plays an important role in reviewing the scientific evidence on environmental issues, and providing reasoned guidance for governments. The following UN websites are excellent resources, though they tend to be quite heavy going!
The UN have recommended a range of sustainable development goals, that are worthy objectives for everyone! These are covered in detail on this website:
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) is a UN body that is highly respected for their work on analysing climate change data. Their website includes links to the recurring gold-standard IPCC reports, which are aimed at governments and large organisations, amongst others.