We live in an age of technological advancement that the world has never seen. According to a Deloitte study of global mobile consumer trends, 78% of global consumers own smart phones. The number of connected mobile phones worldwide in 2014 exceeded the actual global population, and this isn’t confined to just the cities. A study of rural connectivity in Indonesia showed similar adoption and usage of smartphones in rural communities compared to the rest of the country.
This is no surprise to anyone. A smart phone gives us the power to do business and be connected to the global community in ways that have never before been imaginable.
However, we also still live in a world where 1 in 3 people don’t have access to a decent toilet, and 844 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water (this figure is arguable depending on your definition of clean, and a whole bunch of other factors we can go into in another post). It is a world where we are more connected than ever before, and yet a child under 5 dies every 2 minutes due to lack of access to clean water and sanitation. Cholera is totally preventable.
By the end of this century, the world’s population is expected to exceed 11 billion people, with over 60% living in urban centres. Although this means that more people will be located closer to modern amenities and jobs, it also brings a number of other social issues associated with urban poverty.
Water, Food, Energy and the world we live in
I’m not the first, nor the most vocal in saying that we have to think about the future. I know you’re already thinking about what we can do to make a difference. You already know that we need to do more than just update our Facebook statuses and switch our lights off once a year on Earth Day or feel good about sorting our recycling (and I’m not suggesting for a minute that any of these things are not worthwhile).
By 2050, the world will need to:
- Feed an extra 2.4 billion people by increasing food production by 60% (and they’ll want meat – lots of it!)
- Cater for an increase in 50% demand for fresh water
- Produce 40% more energy than we do today
- Adjust to a loss in 10% biodiversity, and prevent further loss
We’re talking about a mere 3 decades from now (2017 at the time of writing). From my years working in water infrastructure in London – a city of 7 million residents, I think about how challenging it is to upscale drinking water production by even 5%, and I have a good idea of what we’re up against.
People have a social conscience but are time poor
Take this conversation I had with a friend (a full-time doctor in a public hospital and mother of 2 young children) earlier this year, that was prompted by a question I posed to my readers about #plasticfreejuly. She’s the no nonsense, get-it-done type:
“Everyone has a too hard basket. I barely have time to sleep – so my efforts stop at anything that requires extra time out of my chaos. Choosing wisely at shops is OK, going to 5 different shops to do shopping unfortunately belongs with making bread and beewax [wraps] – which is not [a good use of time] for me. People can go several weeks without food, but die after 11 days without sleep”.
The world is full of sleep-deprived workers, parents, and students – all contributing to the global economy in some way (yes, even that college student spending money down at the bar is a contributor), and all contributing to, yet potentially part of the solution to, this wicked problem of ours – how do we make all our resources go around, and how do we make it as fair as possible for everyone?
Our core beliefs – what unites and divides us
All over the world, we are becoming more polarized in our ideologies, and yet more than ever we need to work together, across boundaries of all kinds if we’re to overcome all the threats from social, political, economic and climate uncertainty that we are faced with.
Tackling the issues of sustainable development isn’t confined only to those with the education or status to make a difference. It can’t be. Each of us has the ability to reach across a widening gap in everything we do. By opening our minds to others and by taking the effort to understand and not judge, no matter how strange, hostile or unpleasant another person’s views seem. This is how we take the first steps to being agents of change.
Let’s start the change
Let’s have a dialogue. Let’s share ideas. Whether you’re a professional who works in sustainability, a parent who wants a more certain future for their children, a student who dreams of changing the world for the better, a skeptical bystander, or anything in between, I’d love for you to tune in here and share your thoughts with us.
I’ll be sharing thoughts, success stories, useful links, and resources. I’d love for you to do the same, right here with me. If you’re a company that sells sustainable, ethical, and useful products, we’d love to hear about it (But please see my Policy on unsolicited advertising).
I’m going to end here by quoting one of the people I admire, Dr. Jane Goodall, who inspires me with her belief that every individual matters. She believes that every individual can make small differences in the world, and that it’s though all these small differences can we make the world a better place:
“Only if we understand, will we are. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall all be saved.”
Other things I want to write about but haven’t gotten around to doing so yet:
- Food safety
- Security of water and electricity supplies
- Economic growth
Please stay tuned!