Sustainability is to secure present needs without compromising the future generations and not giving up any of the three essential concepts: environmental protection, social development and economic growth.
Sustainability is concerned with assuming that nature and the environment are an exhaustible resource and so, it is necessary to protect them and use them rationally. It also promotes social development, seeking harmony between communities and cultures to achieve satisfactory levels in quality of life, health and education. Thirdly, economic sustainability focuses on equal economic growth that generates wealth for all without harming the environment.
Of the three, environmental sustainability must be society’s top priority.While social and economic sustainability highly depend on environmental sustainability, the dependency of the environment from social and economic sustainability is much smaller. For millions of years, the environment has managed well without both of them. Thus, we have to consider the fact that the human system is a dependent subsystem of the larger system it lives within: the environment.
Ecological footprint is the amount of the environment necessary to produce the goods and services necessary to support a particular lifestyle. At current population levels, our planet has only 1.7 global hectares of biologically productive surface area per person. In order to achieve global sustainable development, the average Ecological Footprint per person worldwide needs to fall significantly, below an average of 1.7 global hectares per person.
To have an clearer idea of my ecological footprint, I took a quiz from WWF Footprint Calculator.
It turned out that travel contribute the most to my ecological footprint and I agree on this result because of my family’s frequent air travel. My family really likes travelling, so we travel to foreign countries other than Korea almost every holiday. My dad takes flight very often due to his frequent business trip. Moreover, since my mom and I are living in Singapore but my dad is in Korea, my mom and I go back to Korea every holiday, four times a year, to see my dad. Aircraft burn finite fossil fuels, emit greenhouse gases and leave contrails (water vapour) in the atmosphere at high altitude, making them particularly harmful to the climate.
Other than frequent air travel , there are some of my habits that contribute to my ecological print.
First of all, I eat meat at least once, almost everyday. I eat poultry meat, beef, and pork almost evenly. while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority (83%) of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75%. Also, so much water is used in growing meat. But the planet faces growing water constraints as our freshwater reservoirs dry up. An influential study in 2010 of the water footprints for meat estimated that while vegetables had a footprint of about 322 litres per kg, chicken came in at 4,325l/kg, pork at 5,988l/kg, and beef at a stupendous 15,415l/kg. Farms contribute to water pollution in a range of ways. some of those are associated more closely with arable farming, and some with livestock. Livestock sector, which is growing and intensifying faster than crop production, has serious implications for water quality.
I drink coffee and bubble tea often, which is in plastic cup. Most plastic cups are not biodegradable, thus dumping them pollutes the environment – land and water. It destroys the quality of soil by preventing proper absorption of water and minerals. It’s also very harmful for both terrestrial and aquatic animals, since these foreign materials persist in their natural habitat and put them at risk through ingestion, suffocation etc. Several other methods used for plastic disposal like incineration release harmful fumes and toxic gases like carbon monoxide into the environment. Even the recycling of plastics consumes enormous amounts of energy.
My family should reduce air travel. Although I know that it has negative impact on environment, I would still need to go back to korea to see my family and friends there. However, I will try to go back only on big holiday, summer and winter, instead of four times a year. We will try to reduce number of flights we take for family trips on holidays. If we have to take flights, we will search for carbon offset flights where we pay to have the carbon dioxide emissions from flying sequestered in another form, usually through tree planting. Also, I have to use reusable cups instead of plastic cups. When I go to cafe, I will tell them to put drink in mug cup and finish drink in cafe, which also means I won’t take out the drink to somewhere else. I will bring my own reusable cup to bubble tea shop and tell them to put bubble tea there. If it’s hard to bring my cup everytime, I will try limit number of bubble tea I buy within a certain amount of time.
If only to make one change, I would change my diet to include more vegetables than meats. Also, even if I eat meat, I will replace beef with poultry meat such as chicken and turkey instead of red meat since negative impact of beef on the environment is so much larger than other meats.