There are Four major Environmental issues that are shaping our world, shaping the economy, shaping our business, shaping our lives, certainly shaping our environment presently, and will do so going into in our future.
One is certainly Climate Change. I am sure you have heard about climate change, and you know there is all sorts of discussions about it, but make no mistake the science is settled, climate change is occurring and will continue to occur because of the emissions we have already put into the environment, let alone what we are putting in everyday, and continue to put in into the future. So these extreme weather events are part of our present and will be part of our future. This is one aspect of climate change. Disruptions in agricultural crops will result, will change things, things will not be the same, and will not be as predictable anymore. Certainly something to be concerned about. That is climate change.
Another issue includes Biodiversity loss. (all these issues are closely interrelated but I prefer to subdivide them out for discussion). Our Biodiversity is the rich fabric of life. It’s the ecosystems and all the plants and animals and microbes and habitats, and how they interact in complex ways. Around the world there is a tremendous loss in biodiversity occurring. It is somewhat disturbing, when we hear about specific examples, but one can’t be too discouraged, and there are things we can do to mitigate this effect. The first step is that we have to become conscious of the need to keep our biodiversity, keep as much of it as possible, keep the ecological systems functioning as well as possible. And one has to be conscious of this.
The third major issue relates to Water Availability, and drought and floods in the world. But water availability and the shortage of water around the world; this is a real challenge and is changing a lot. As the climate gets warmer, warmer means drier and the water that is already there evaporates more. It means greater droughts. We do have some risk of drought in Ontario, and certainly it has happened in recent years, and probably will get worse, but the Water shortage will be a big deal in other parts of the world. Just here in North America, and the southwest area of the United States, where much of our food comes from by the way. The crops in California and such places, are already under extreme water stress and are increasingly experiencing water shortages that will get worse, and cause extreme events and that will disrupt commerce and disrupt things that are available to us and the way we do business.
Another category of problems that is quite current and is getting a lot of attention, is the Energy shortage. Starting with the issue of Peaking Oil, or Peak Oil; I don’t know if you have heard of the term, but Peak Oil is upon us. It does not mean we are running out of oil, that is not the correct interpretation, but it really means that we’ve probably used up about half of the oil that we will eventually use, or about half of what’s available in the world has been used up. So peak oil means the days of inexpensive petroleum, and inexpensive shipping and flying around the world very inexpensively have ended, because of the price of petroleum is already up. As we sit here today the world price of Crude oil is about $114.00 per barrel and just under $100.00 in North America. Those are very high prices, which may be driven by the current problems in the Middle East. But they are indicative of issues in the future. More expensive petroleum makes travel more expensive. Shipping becomes more expensive. It means that our food is more expensive. Because there is an awful lot of petroleum put into the production of our food supply.
So we have big challenges for our future, again our world and our economies are going to change. It means we have to be much more innovative and creative with our use of energy, and become more efficient users of energy, learn to be conservers of energy, and we must live our lifestyles differently. Not to feel threatened, we will all still have oil and gas in our cars as long as we live, but we won’t be jumping in the car for casual trips in the future as we have done, or we may likely have someone in the car with us. Because everyone driving only one person per car going to work in the morning as we see now across North America is just not sustainable.
So those are the four big areas, the four biggest issues that interact and are interrelated and will continue to impact our lifestyles. It is not discouraging, it’s just a fact of life that our world is changing right before us. It creates challenges and creates opportunities, but is certainly something we all have to be extremely cautious about when making our decisions about our lifestyles into the future. Because things are not as they were, but are a new way. If we face that with some encouragement and determination and apply all our innovations, we can have a new and very interesting future, albeit one that is different than it has been in last 20-30 years.