Since the 1960s, the ticking of the demographic time bomb and population explosion impact on resources is constantly increasing. These continuous changes result in increases in waste, emissions, resource depletion and high energy consumption.
What does it mean to us?
In this digital, mobile and social media age, we are constantly bombarded with new environmental, economic, social, geo-political and technical terminology that creates confusion, misguided actions and misinterpretation.
We are entering socio-economic times of high risk and risk mitigation practices to mitigate the impact of human influenced climate change. Therefore, it is important to understand what we are acting on and the impacts of our actions. Every proactive and positive thing we do, has an adverse reaction. Our first step is to understand the ever-increasing number of socio-economic and environmental buzzwords. What do these words mean to us and how should we interpret them effectively to enable the desired behaviors and outcomes.
The big question remains, are these buzzwords really meaningful or just another passing fad? What are the determining factors?
Determining which Terms Have Positive and Longevity Potential to Grasp and Implement
The emergence of environmental buzzwords started out with global warming, then became climate change. What we are experiencing is the special interest groups “self-fulling” use of terminology which changes the initial meaning.
Global warming to climate change; climate change covers a broader term and now special interest groups can use it for any situation, as we have recently seen with the fires in Western Canada and now Australia. They use it to maximize their messages and to support their cause, create disruption, create alarm and scare people into building “Hive Mind” movements.
People continue to redefine terminology they use and it’s meaning to fit their cause or agenda or mandate. We are constantly seeing adaptation of words as stated in the webster dictionary that become something different than its original meaning.
Time to change the alarmist approach and tackle social, economic and environmental from a people perspective. Whatever your view is on climate change, we must all agree that climate change is constant; we are and will continue to move through the historical cooling and warming cycles. The problem we face today, is really the problems associated with population growth, consumption, waste and disposal.
This blog is the first in a series on common understandings and approach to waste mitigation, resource optimization and organization adaptive modernization. Our future requires and depends on constant change and a new way of thinking, everything we do or design will have an impact, both positive and negative, and our goal is to enable the transition to continuous positive experiences across all sectors of society.
Business is constantly changing to meet consumer demands. Simultaneously, business must adapt to emerging terms and technologies to support demand. Over the last eight years we were bombarded and hearing new terms all the time, but if you had to explain them to a friend or colleague in the industry, in the boardroom or over coffee, how well can you do it?
Before we attempt to use terms, we must understand the proper context, and clearly understand their intent and what they are trying to resolve. As we get into it, keep in mind the context and intent of use, such as in your industry, operations and within existing political and regulatory frameworks.
Terms such as climate change, climate crisis, carbon neutral, negative emissions, etc. all have one intent: to save the environment. However, the depth of interpretation varies across organizations and industries, including government.
To put it in perspective, by changing our frame of reference from the abstract of climate change to a more tangible and relate it to people, you can start to see yourself in the resolve, then the importance and interpretation will take a different perspective.
So, let us get into a few of these terms, take a personal view and try to see yourself in it, make it personal, allow yourself “to be the ball”.
- Environmental Sustainability – In a truly sustainable environment, an ecosystem would maintain populations, biodiversity, and overall corporate and production functionality over an extended period of time. Ideally, decisions that are made should promote circularity and equilibrium within our natural systems and encourage positive growth. When decisions are made, one part of the discussion should always be the end of life management and reuse of the proposed product.
- Traditional Knowledge – Referred to as local knowledge. This term refers to Indigenous peoples’ systems of observing, recording, communicating and preserving the environment around them. These systems are developed over generations and provide valuable input in maintaining the health of the global fragile ecosystems.
- Zero Waste – “Zero Waste” referred to as a philosophy of eliminating the generation of materials that have no viable or economic option for end-of-use management. In reality, there are varying interpretations for when (and if) it is achieved. Does zero waste really mean zero waste? Does it consider the waste that’s produced in the production of materials upstream? Is a small amount of waste acceptable at the end of a material’s end of life? The definition of zero waste varies widely, with various organizations defining zero waste differently, each with their own interpretation as to what it takes to get to “zero.”
- Climate Change – Climate change is seen as the biggest challenge to the future of human life on Earth, and understanding the scientific language used to describe it can sometimes feel just as difficult and for many conflicting. Climate change is the long-term impact of heating and cooling cycles.
- Climate Crisis – A punchier and emotional term to describe global warming and climate change, and their consequences.
- Climate Emergency – There is no single definition of what that means but many local areas say they want to be carbon-neutral by 2030. Government needs to declare an emergency and put resources in place to enable councils to help reduce carbon emissions.
- Net Zero – Climate neutral, climate change advocates prefer the term net-zero as it includes not just CO2 and methane but also nitrous oxide, which is emitted from industrial, transportation and agricultural activities.
- Carbon Neutral vs. Zero Carbon – 1.5 degrees the rise in global average temperature should avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists say, that’s compared with pre-industrial times.
- Carbon footprint – The amount of carbon emitted by an individual or organization in a given period of time, or the amount of carbon emitted during a product manufacturing process.
- Emissions – Emissions are any release of gases such as carbon dioxide which cause global warming
- Feedback loop – In a feedback loop, rising temperatures on the Earth change the environment in ways that affect the rate of warming, feedback loops can be positive (adding to the rate of warming), or negative (reducing it).
- Global warming – The steady rise in global average temperature in recent decades, which experts believe is largely caused by human-produced greenhouse gas emissions.
- Geo-engineering – Geo-engineering is any technology that could be used to halt or even reverse climate change.
- IPCC – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific body established by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization.
- Runaway climate change – Describes how climate change may suddenly get worse after passing a ‘tipping point’, making it even harder to stop or reverse
- Climate Change and Global Warming – Although these two terms may seem interchangeable, Global warming refers to the overall increase in worldwide temperatures caused by rising greenhouse emissions. Climate change, on the other hand, is a broader term that encompasses the many long-term changes our planet is experiencing.
- Environmental Justice – The most vulnerable populations—men, women, and children living in rural areas of developing countries. True environmental justice meaningfully includes all people in the development and enforcement of environmental policies, regardless of race, color, nationality or income.
- Food Security – Food security is when all people in a given area have physical and economic access to sufficient nourishments. Urban spread and acquisition of agricultural land for building, weather conditions such as fires, floods and drought, are leading to a lack of food security in developing areas across the globe.
- Methane – Methane gas actually absorbs 84 times more heat than its well-known counterpart. With about 60 percent of methane emissions caused by human activity, curbing production of this powerful greenhouse gas is at the forefront of climate preservation strategies. (National Geographic)
- Adaptation – Addresses the impacts of climate change
- Mitigation – Any actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, land disturbance and environmental impacts are considered mitigation. Addresses the root cause of climate change (emissions)
- Tipping Point – Synonymous with “threshold,” this term refers to the point at which a change in climate is significant enough to trigger a significant environmental event which may not be reversible.
- Weather and Climate – With all this global warming, winter should be disappearing—right? Weather refers to short-term atmospheric conditions including temperature, precipitation, and wind speeds. Climate indicates long-term trends, usually measured over the course of 30 years or more.
Ultimately, regardless of the words we chose to describe the actions we desire or the path we choose to influence, it all comes down to the impact of human prosperity and the quality of life for each one of us. We cannot influence climate change and environmental impact without first considering the immediate impact on people and communities. We must plan and transition carefully to ensure quality of life and protect the vulnerable during our transitions and be active in the transitions. This is not someone else’s issue—it also affects both you and I. A common understanding of the actions and words we choose to describe our actions will mitigate the risks and impact to humanity.
It is important to understand how our actions improve local resilience, community capacity and what the unintended consequences of these activities are.
Dave Gajadhar is an Advisor, Speaker, Educator, and an Advocate for Human prosperity and resource optimization at Resultant Group (Edmonton, AB), business modernization, resource optimization and transition advisors. He can be reached at (780) 483-4800, e-mail Dgajadhar@ResultantGroup.com or on Twitter: @dgajadar
ResultantGroup and Companies for Zero Waste hosts the premier forum for sustainability leaders and practitioners—from the business world, government agencies, NGOs and investors to connect and explore emerging trends to move towards zero waste goals, pressing challenges and promising opportunities shaping business amid a world of climate change, resource constraints and unprecedented stakeholder pressures.