As the coordinator of a global environmental think tank, I regularly get asked if we have a strategy for dealing with the environment challenges that we face in the future. As people grow increasingly concerned about climate change, energy scarcity and resource depletion, it is becoming harder to do business as usual. More companies are choosing to go green or create jobs based on sustainable practices. The question is whether or not these companies have the right framework in place to deal with the issues that will inevitably arise.
In the United States there are currently three major challenges that will be affecting us over the next twenty years. Those are; deteriorating air quality due to climate change, increasing poverty across the globe and deteriorating ecosystems. There is obviously going to be some impact on our economy from these issues. If you look at the United States, the problems that we face in these categories are both relatively new and very unique. However, if you examine the overall condition of the environment, you can see a lot of issues that have been around for many years, but perhaps under different guises.
When I look at the environment challenges that we face in the next century, I don't see much in the way of a quick fix. The reason for this is because most environmental challenges are going to take a long time to address. For example, we have seen a major decrease in the amount of oil and natural gas being produced over the last several decades. That does not mean that the supply will suddenly end, but it does suggest that we are going to have to wait for a while before we see an increase in supplies.
How do we know what the scope of those environment challenges will be in the coming century? Well, by looking at what we are doing today and trying to predict what will happen 20 years down the road. Obviously we can't put a time frame on the problem, but we can make educated guesses. For example, if we observe what we have done so far regarding pollution and how our activities are polluting the environment, we can get a pretty good idea of where we want to go next.
Now, some of us may view these environment challenges as an annoyance. We may point out how such a planet is a pain to live in or how humans should just mind their own business. However, most people realize that the way we treat the environment will ultimately determine our generations' health. It has already been proven that people living near dirty beaches or near toxic factories have a number of health complications, as opposed to people who live in cleaner environments. Therefore, I would argue that the way that we treat the environment directly impacts our future.
In addition to looking for solutions, you may want to think about starting your own environmental organization. There are many environmental groups out there, but you can start one that is solely dedicated to helping the environment. You can also start a local environmental group that fights for the same causes and helps to improve the environment in your community. Either way, I hope you will consider all the environmental challenges that we face in this century and I hope you will work towards making this happen!