Signals 2011: Globalisation, environment and you
Signals, an annual publication from The European Environment Agency (EEA), offers snapshot stories, eyewitness reports and analysis of innovative approaches to issues of environmental policy, collectively illustrating the interrelations between seemingly unconnected issues.
Signals 2011: Globalisation, environment and you aims to challenge the perception that we are just passive onlookers:
“A key message of Signals 2011 is the role we all play in shaping the world today and the role we can play in shaping the future. With the right governance, economic incentives and attitudes, we can design a fairer, better future.”
Informed by experience
The stories draw on the EEA’s experience of the impact of environmental issues on the ground, thought its monitoring of the environment across its 32 member countries:
“From researchers up to their knees in water to satellite imaging from space, we work with a huge amount of environmental data. Finding, reading and understanding the range of ‘signals’ regarding the health and diversity of our environment is at the heart of what we do. Signals respects the complexity of the underlying science and shows awareness of the uncertainties inherent in all of the issues we address. Our target audience is broad, ranging from students to scientists, policymakers to farmers and small business people.”
Following the EEA’s recent analysis of the environment in Europe and global challenges, The European environment — state and outlook 2010 (SOER 2010), Signals 2011 seeks to address its conclusion that “environmental challenges are complex and can’t be understood in isolation”, and is organised around the following key messages:
- The complex interconnections in the global economy, environment and society create many challenges;
- Nature delivers hugely valuable services to humankind, determining our wellbeing and prosperity;
- When resource extraction destroys ecosystems, poor people bear many of the costs but receive few of the benefits;
- Global consumption patterns are a key driver of humanity’s environmental impacts;
- How and where we live affects our consumption and therefore our environment;
- In addition to demanding resource inputs, our economies threaten our ecosystems and the services they provide by generating pollution and waste;
- Globalisation creates new challenges but it also offers solutions including sharing of innovations and knowledge and new mechanisms of governance.
Signals 2011 highlights and considers the impact on Europe’s environment of six “global megatrends”, emerging trends that are shaping the world and which cut across social, technological, economic, political and even environmental dimensions:
- A new global order
Global power is shifting. One superpower no longer holds sway and regional power blocs are increasingly important, economically and diplomatically. As global interdependence and trade expands;
- Changing patterns of disease
The possibility of exposure to new, emerging and re-emerging diseases, to accidents and new pandemics grows with increased mobility of people and goods, climate change and poverty;
- Economic growth, rather than population growth, will be the core driver of consumption
The global population will still be growing in 2050 but more slowly than in the past. People will live longer, be better educated and migrate more. Some populations will increase as others shrink. Migration is only one of the unpredictable prospects for Europe and the world;
- Intensified global competition for decreasing stocks of resources
How will we survive in the intensifying scramble for scarce resources? The answer may well lie in more efficient production and resource use, new technologies and innovation, and increasing cooperation with foreign partners;
- Pollution — increasing use of chemicals
Presently, most chemicals are produced by so called ‘developed countries’ but production is increasing more than twice as fast in India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia. Their economic share of total world chemical production is projected to rise to around 30 % by 2020 and almost 40 % by 2030;
- Living in an urban world
An increasingly urban world will probably mean increasing consumption and greater affluence for many. But it also means greater poverty for the urban underprivileged. Poor urban living conditions and associated environmental and heath risks could impact all areas of the world.
Cutting across social and environmental issues
In her introductory editorial Executive Director of the EEA Professor Jacqueline McGlade stresses the impact of environmental issues on the poor:
For these people the natural environment is their lifeline. Their situation is not unique. Across the world, the poorest of the poor are being affected by environmental degradation. Often, as you will read, this damage is driven by global demand for raw materials, which in turn is driven by human consumption. And that consumption is itself linked to demographics: the size and make-up of human populations.
By 2050 our population could be as much as 9 billion. ‘Could be’ because the truth is we simply don’t know exactly how our population will develop. This uncertainty is everywhere around us when we speak of the future. But it must not paralyse us into inaction. Rather, we must get better at taking the long view. In day-to-day life we are continuously confronted with long-term issues and plan accordingly. We must broaden this approach to include some of the major issues facing us as societies.
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