This tutorial will cover the topic of sustainability and solutions. We will define sustainability and explore its relationship with the harvesting of natural resources, such as soil, water, and fossil fuels. We will also discuss measures that can be taken to protect the environment and manage human population growth.
Our discussion breaks down as follows:
- What Is Sustainability?
- Harvesting Natural Resources
- Fossil Fuels
- Protecting the Environment
- Climate Change
- Managing Human Population Growth
1. What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability is when human activities are performed so that their actions integrate with natural ecosystems in such a way that human activities can be performed indefinitely without harming the environment.
Sustainability is made up of three main elements:
- Harvesting natural resources
- Protecting the environment
- Managing human population growth
It is human interactions with the environment in these three regards that are viewed when we consider whether something is sustainable.
2. Harvesting Natural Resources
As an integral part of environmental protection, it is important to discuss sustainability in relation to harvesting natural resources. We seek to harvest and use natural resources at a rate that is equal to their regeneration rate, meaning we only want to use as much as can be produced at that time.
Natural resources can include renewable resources, such as water, forests, soil, as well as animal and plant species. It can also include non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels.
Oil and gas are a couple examples of non-renewable resources.
Some sustainable actions that can be taken to address soil resources for food production are:
- Crop rotation
- Implementation of erosion control strategies
- Planting trees to stabilize the ground to hold soil in place
- Providing financial incentives, like tax credits and subsidies, for sustainable farming practices
Sustainable efforts to address human water consumption are:
- Increased rainwater harvesting
- Design and development of new storage techniques
- Implementation of water conservation
- Water reuse
- Salt water desalination
- More efficient irrigation
- Improved access to safe drinking water
2c. Fossil Fuels
Sustainability efforts to address fossil fuel consumption include:
- Improvement of efficiency of energy transmission facilities, as well as the efficiency of distribution lines
- Reduced overall fossil fuel consumption and scaled up renewable energy sources
- Improved energy efficiency in industry, personal products, and automobiles
3. Protecting the Environment
Sustainable practices seek to allow the ecosystem to continue to do the valuable services that it provides naturally. Protecting the environment can also pertain to sustainable ecological efforts by promoting native species and reducing non-native species of plants and animals, protecting and improving water quality, and limiting urban sprawl to reduce the amount of expansion of urban areas onto undeveloped land or agricultural land
3a. Climate Change
Efforts to protect the environment, particularly in relation to climate change with sustainability in mind, include:
- Adjusting crop varieties and planting dates in response to climate change
- Designing buildings and roadways with climate change impacts in mind
- Setting aside geographic buffer zones where development cannot occur, to prepare for sea level rise and flooding
- International cooperation to address climate change as a global issue
Sustainable actions to protect the environment from pollution are:
- Planting crops in areas where they can easily grow without pesticides or fertilizers
- Implementing erosion control techniques to prevent erosion from running into waterways
- Rolling out financial incentives for sustainable practices, through offers like tax incentives and subsidies
- Monitoring and controlling disease-related pollutants
Efforts to reduce negative environmental impacts from pollution include:
- Reducing ecological footprint by increasing mass transit options
- Researching and developing new energy storage and creation technology
- Utilizing more localized energy sources in a less centralized and more distributed energy grid.
A distributed grid minimizes efficiency losses from transporting energy.
4. Managing Human Population Growth
Finally, because population growth exacerbates most environmental problems, it is an important sustainability issue. Efforts that could be made to address human population growth, through the lens of sustainability, include:
- Creating new land use policies that limit certain types of development with the goal of limiting urban sprawl
- Planning municipalities to consider carrying capacity
- Limiting the number of children families can have through policy.
Today we learned about sustainability and its solutions. We learned about the relationship between sustainability and harvesting natural resources such as soil, water, and fossil fuels. We also learned about actions that can be taken to protect the environment from problems such as climate change and pollution, including managing human population growth.