Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sustainability and addiction to comfort

Evaluating the symptoms of a disease enable an accurate diagnosis. Carbon emissions, melting ice caps, endangered or extinct species, food and water shortages are all causes of a larger conflict, that we have agreed to call Climate Change. Unfortunately, suppressing the symptoms may not cure the disease necessarily.

Humanity is self-destructive, unlike other living organisms with far limited intellectual capabilities. It could be a quantitative problem. Demographics show an exponential increase from one to six billion in last century's turn. Is there a way of knowing how many people can this planet accommodate living peacefully, happily, and sustainably? Perhaps many more as we already are.

Civilization came to a turning point several millennia ago when the Law became the governing institution of most societies. In present times, the most developed nations in the world are the ones that have better integrated the understanding of a legal system with the pragmatic enforcement of such set of codes and rules.

Even when history has proven that nuclear weapons lead in no constructive direction and military armament does not make a country richer, safer or more developed, the world dared to spend over one trillion dollars in armament in 2007. That is one million millions. Definitely, expenditure that is far from sustainable because it does not feed the hungry or heal the sick or train them to overcome their chronic states of misery.

The time has arrived for the human race to transform to sustainable development in order to survive, like it transformed to the Law for peaceful coexistence.

We have managed to stay afloat without happiness and peace, other inherently human values we have been distracted from in recent times. But we cannot live that long without sustainability.

It is fallacious to say that the world is addicted to oil. It is certainly addicted to energy. Modern comfort is highly energy-intense. Therefore, humanity is challenged to find comfortable living conditions that are not so energy-intense. And we must do so creatively, empathically and non-violently, to ensure our permanence on planet earth as the wonderful species humankind has been.

The symptoms are all clear. Let's just agree in unison that transformation is civilization's top priority and that political leadership is not standing to the challenge just yet.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Article published on China Daily today

Costa Rica stresses eco-environment

Comment on "Travel boom poses threat to Costa Rica's eco-environment" (China Daily, July 17)

Thanks to many key decisions taken during the last 35 years for conservation awareness and education on the importance of protecting its biodiversity and natural resources, Costa Rica now ranks fifth, according to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) developed by Yale and Columbia universities. Costa Rica's position is only behind Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Finland (Newsweek, July 7-14, 2008).

Costa Rica outranks major environmental powers such as Germany, New Zealand and Canada, at a time when climate change poses perhaps the greatest threat that modern civilization has faced. This translates into global leadership in tackling a conflict that affects us equally in our global community.

The EPI is a well-deserved recognition for a country that has doubled its forest coverage in the last 20 years and has more than 25 percent of its territory protected by conservation laws. Moreover, the country is home to the National Biodiversity Institute, a leading international institution dedicated to the protection of wildlife biodiversity as a sustainable way to develop rural and urban societies in harmony with the surrounding natural environment.

The state has also implemented an important measure providing a Certification for Sustainable Tourism. This certificate rewards socially and environmentally responsible companies that also maintained high levels of consumer satisfaction, while carefully identifying companies and agents that are genuinely sustainable.

One week after the publication of the EPI index, China Daily published the article "Travel boom poses threat to Costa Rica's eco-environment", on July 17, 2008. This fifth place on the EPI does not mean Costa Rica has no further room for improvement.

In fact, the Costa Rican government under the Oscar Arias administration has issued this year an executive decree to improve eco-development regulations. There are serious decisions that need to be taken in the near future, mainly targeted at improving even more the ecological condition of rich mineral water reservoirs, abundant fisheries and gorgeous scenic spots, like beaches, volcanoes, and rainforests.

President Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1987, presented last year The Peace With Nature Program, whose aim is to make Costa Rica the first carbon-neutral nation by 2021. This is a sound proof that Costa Rica is a country with accomplishments as well as goals in environmental performance. As he emphasized, "We shall not renounce life on the planet."

Antonio Burgues, Costa Rica's ambassador to China

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Water runs dry

So goes the saying. Take it seriously.

The Economist publishes an article called "Running Dry" on its August 23rd, 2008 edition that gives shocking statistics about the problem.

Global water consumption is estimated to be growing at 100% every 20 years. This means, every 20 years there is twice the demand for the precious liquid.

Unlike oil, water has no substitute. And yet, the global economy pretty much runs on water, perhaps more than oil. Think about agriculture. Industrial production. Even high technology runs on water too. Did you know that it takes 13 cubic meters of water (1300 liters) to produce a single electronic wafer that will lead to the production of a few dozen computer microchips?

Think again if you think oil is the conflict of the future. In ten years, oil will be dispensable. Water still will not.

Five big food and beverage giants -Nestle, Unilever, Coca Cola, Anheuser-Busch and Danone- consume almost 575 billion liters of water every year, which is the same amount required to satisfy all basic needs of every person in the planet for a year. Nestle uses four liters of water to produce one liter of product. But it takes 3000 liters of water to grow the agricultural products that goes inside it. And who pays this environmental cost? So far, nobody.

Einstein said we cannot solve problems thinking in the same way we created them. We have to move forward. Further. Farther.

Beijing has a new strict rule for "zero-liquid discharge", which forbid companies from discarding residue waters into the environment. Is your country, state or community doing this already? Perhaps you are lagging the Asian giant's environmental measures.

Does this sound like the diagnosis of a future global conflict in the making?