- Who and what are the drivers of change?
- Power plants causing carbon pollution and uses large amounts of water for cooling
- Intensive Agricultural practices
- Authority figures (Government)
- What is happening?
Carbon pollution is causing global warming which results in extreme climate change, like the recent drought in South Africa. The outcome of Drought is water shortage which leads to environmental, economic and health issues.
- What can be done?
- Start using renewable energy and dry-cooling.
- Making lifestyle changes like fixing leaking pipes, showering instead of taking a bath etc.
- Media can report more solutions to act against global warming and stop encouraging the lifestyle of water wasting as seen in adverts where children are playing with a hose pipe.
- Agricultural practices can start using used water instead of clean drinking water.
- Authority figures have more power over citizens and can implement renewable energy and rules on water usage.
The human race is a selfish species; only caring for themselves and destroying the world in the process. A shocking 18 percent of Americans do not believe global warming is real and only 11 percent are extremely worried about climate change (Laguipo 2016). This only shows the lack of media reports about environmental concerns. When environmental issues are reported, it focuses primarily on the problem we are facing, rather than solutions, making people feel incapable to do anything about it.
The following blog post aims to identify an environmental issue that has been recently reported in the media. It aims to create awareness of how global warming is a serious issue and how it results in drought, having extreme consequences that affect our daily life. It does not only give consequential facts about this issue but also solutions, and refers to multiple media articles and theories of Poul Holm and also Shelby Grant and Mary Lawhon.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, carbon pollution is the main reason for global warming which leads to a range of things from heavy rain storms and floods to extreme cases of drought. The cause of global warming is what is known as the greenhouse effect, where greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and other pollutants causes the sun’s heat to be absorbed and be trapped in the atmosphere instead of the heat releasing into space, causing the planet temperatures to rise from -0.18˚C in 1950 to 0.87˚C in 2015 (NRDC 2011) & (Shaftel 2016). Statistics from the World Resources Institute (WRI) show that humans have added 2.3 trillion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in the last 200 years (WWF Global 2016).
Global warming does not only lead to storms, floods and drought but it also affects glaciers and sea levels, wildlife, health and even our economy. A recent environmental issue is the drought and water shortage in South Africa.
According to News24, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) declared this drought a regional disaster; this drought caused extreme water shortages, two consecutive harvests to fail which also led the South African economy to a recession (News24 2016) & (CNBCAFRICA 2016). According to the South African Government, South Africans use 61.8 percent more water than the world average which is 173 litres per day (South African Government 2015), perhaps it is because of the water used for power plant cooling. These plants require large amounts of water for cooling and account for 40 percent of the total fresh water withdrawals every year (Delgado & Hertzog 2012).
The problem with the power plant water cooling is that perfectly clean drinking water is used and dirty used water is pumped back into our rivers and oceans, damaging the aquatic ecosystem. While there is other power plant cooling methods, like, Wet-recirculating and dry-cooling; 30 percent of electricity generation uses once-through cooling, 45 percent recirculating cooling, and only 2 percent dry-cooling. Another alternative is to use waste water instead of fresh water or salt water withdrawn from the ocean (Union of concerned scientists [sa]).
Environmental issues such as floods and droughts can be resolved through multiple long-term solutions to reduce our carbon releases, for example cutting the use of fossil fuels and increasing the use of renewable energy (NRDC 2011).
Some of the immediate solutions to the drought and water shortage problems are to fix any leaking pipes as 9.3 percent of water loss are through pipe and tap leakages. According to the department of water affairs, 27 percent of South Africa’s water used are domestic uses, a solution to lower this percentage is to use our bathing water to wash our cars or water our gardens, instead of clean drinking water (Teagle 2015).
More solutions to consider is to take a shower rather than taking a bath, as a 10 minute shower (with a low flow shower head) uses 25 gallons of water versus a bath which uses 35 to 50 gallons of water. Also install a low flow showerhead as it saves up to 2.5 gallons of water per minute and will also lower your water and electricity bill (Grace Communications foundation 2016). One can also purchase a 20 litre container and fill it up with any excess water to reuse when needed (Palmer 2015).
Due to the water scarcity, the municipalities in the region implemented level two water restrictions which means that the system supply pressure are reduced and the following rules has to applied; no watering of gardens between 06:00 and 18:00, no filling of swimming pools and no using of hose pipes to wash cars (News24 2015).
Do the drivers for change relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technologies, power and consumption? What are the political, institutional, cultural and societal factors that drive the change? Do the proposed solutions engage with the corporate sector?
People have the ability to change the world for the better but are selfishly unwilling to do so. The drivers of change do relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technologies because we are consumed by our drive for power and consumption. We would rather thrive on capitalism and consumerism than change our lifestyle and products to be more environmentally friendly. According to Holm, the ‘Great Acceleration’ refers to:
“human technologies, powers and consumption in [of] the last 70 years that has operated as a key driver of Global Change. These human advances have come with an alteration of the planet’s carbon and nitrogen cycles, rapidly rising species extinction rates, and the generation of atmospheric greenhouse gases, which in turn are catalysts for adverse weather patterns and increased ocean acidification, the consequences of which will condition life on the planet for centuries to come. At the same time nuclear bombs have enabled us both to destroy human lives and to leave enduring markers on the planet” (Holm 2015:980).
Politicians are more concerned with power and wealth rather than using the funds for renewable energy and proper ways for water saving. At least, President Obama’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed the clean power plan which sets limits on carbon pollution (NRDC 2011). There are numerous organizations ‘fighting’ global warming, Greenpeace, for example, pushes everyone towards the renewable energy revolution. Greenpeace informs people and companies that renewable energy is not only good for the environment but is also good for the economy. Companies like Apple and Google are making big investments into using 100 percent renewable energy, wind and solar (Greenpeace 2016).
Corporate companies, like Nestle, are making huge profits from selling bottled water while millions are dying from thirst, from the drought in California to South Africa. According to Dayen, independent statistics shows Nestle pumps out 200 to 250 million gallons of water a year from underground springs (Dayen 2015).
Cultural and societal factors can play a massive role in the drivers for change but people are mostly concerned with our own materialistic issues, focusing more on the next fashion trend rather than focusing on issues that can lead to serious disasters.
Water shortage is a problem that affects everyone but still the people who are aware of this issue does not understand the seriousness of it, or are simply too lazy. People will only change their lifestyle if they can benefit from it in some way or can see immediate feedback; they tend to only invest in products where they can see how much water, energy or money it saves them. Most people make no changes to their lifestyle as they believe that their actions are too small to make a difference – the problem with this is that if everyone believes this then nothing is done to fight against climate change.
People’s preferences and actions are the main drivers of global Environmental change.
Science is able to measure global change but it is unable to examine the human factor. However, humanities are an unexploited resource of understanding into human behaviour and motivation. Humanities visions may help us transform our perceptions and imaginations (Holm 2015:978).
How does the absence or presence of solutions relate to “The New Human Condition”?
According to Holm the ‘New Human Condition’ is how we identify and respond to environmental concerns (Holm 2015:983). We mostly respond in denial towards global warming, as the people who do believe global warming is real refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, thus not making any changes to their lifestyle. Humans struggle to change destructive habits even when they recognize the negative consequences of ignoring it (Holm 2015:982). Some people also believe that human activity has nothing to do with climate change and are unwilling to change old habits. (Laguipo 2016).
Do the proposed solutions and means to do it stem from collaborative processes of public participation?
Due to numerous reports of extreme drought and people having absolutely no water, the South African community started a nationwide campaign after the Facebook page “Water Shortage South Africa” (WSSA) was created. According to Caroline van Saasen, who started this campaign, it started out as a “simple idea” but eventually turned out to become a nationwide operation; around 18500 people were involved. This is proof that even the smallest gesture can make a major difference in society (Evans 2016).
Unfortunately, the media is more interested in covering specific events rather than the bigger issues at hand. An issue is prominent based on the extent of direct experience people have with the issue, the less direct experience they have, the more they rely on media to provide interpretation regarding the issue; media can influence the nature and the amount of the information given to the public (Grant & Lawhon 2014:41).
If environmental issues are reported correctly in the media, not only focusing on the disasters but rather motivating people to take action and giving solutions (Grant & Lawhon 2014:43),like WSSA mentioned above, it can become the “new fashion trend”. This blog aimed to create awareness of our contributions to global warming, which led to the recent drought, by providing an environmental humanities analysis and giving immediate solutions.
For more information please search the hashtag #DigEcoAction.
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