The world faces several environmental issues, from climate change to air pollution. As a result, environmental management has become an essential topic of discussion.
Three main megatrends impact environmental management: increasing urbanization, climate change and air pollution, and water and resource scarcity. Each of these megatrends presents its own challenges and opportunities for environmental management.
This post will explore these megatrends and discuss how they impact environmental management.
The three megatrends
These three megatrends are impacting environmental management:
1. Increasing Urbanization
2. Climate Change and Air Pollution
3. Water and Resource Scarcity
As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, the demand for resources such as water and energy will continue to increase. This, combined with the effects of climate change, will lead to greater competition for scarce resources and could lead to conflict. Therefore, we must sustainably manage our environment to ensure that future generations can access the necessary resources.
Resource scarcity is already having an impact on environmental management. Worldwide, 785 million people lack access to clean drinking water.
Even worse - every day, over 800 children die from illnesses caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. There are scarce or unreliable water and sanitation facilities in too many communities worldwide. Lack of water availability can cause poverty to last for generations. When children drop out of school due to a lack of clean water and parents struggle to provide, they are often unable to climb out.
Women and children are the worst affected group- they're more vulnerable to diseases from dirty water. They often have the burden of carrying water for their families, which takes an estimated 200 million hours each day. Imagine going through your day without access to clean, safe water in your home for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing whenever you need it? According to a new report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, 2.1 billion people around the world face that challenge every day. And the task of providing water for households falls disproportionately to women and girls, especially in rural areas.
The ability to access clean water is a key part of development. When people have access, they can practice good hygiene and sanitation. This makes it easier for them to develop better health and well-being.
Children and families in rural areas often worry about access to clean water and prevention from water-related diseases like malaria, cholera, and diarrhoea. However, there are solutions! When they work together as a community on a small-scale project like a hand-dug well, their quality of life is improved. For example, children and parents no longer have to spend hours collecting clean water every day, allowing them to concentrate on growing crops to diversify their incomes.
Water prices continue to rise in many parts of the world as demand outstrips supply. This will likely continue as the population grows and more people move to cities. We must therefore find ways to use water more efficiently and reduce wastage.
Water scarcity is one of the most significant megatrends impacting environmental management. With a growing global population and changing diets (including a growing demand for meat), freshwater resources are under increasing pressure. This is compounded by the fact that climate change is causing droughts in some areas and floods in others, making it difficult to predict or manage water availability.
Climate Change and Air Pollution
Climate change is also a significant challenge for environmental management. As temperatures rise and weather patterns become more extreme, we are seeing an increase in natural disasters such as floods and droughts. This puts strain on our infrastructure and can lead to loss of life and damage to property. We need to adapt our infrastructure to be more resilient and take steps to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
Climate change is the most well-known of these megatrends and with good reason. Climate change is already causing extreme weather events that damage infrastructure, homes, and businesses, disrupt transportation, and disturb ecosystems. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the effects of climate change are only expected to become more severe.
Air pollution in the context of climate change is impacting environmental management. In addition to damaging public health, air pollution also contributes to climate change and can negatively impact the environment. Air pollution comes from various sources, including vehicle exhaust, industrial facilities, and forest fires.
As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, air pollution is becoming a more pressing issue for cities around the globe. Smart cities are beginning to take note, and air pollution is emerging as a megatrend in urban development. Air pollution is caused by various factors, including vehicle emissions, industrial activity, and burning fossil fuels. In cities, these sources of pollution are compounded by the fact that buildings and other structures trap pollutants and prevent them from dissipating. This can create hot spots of air pollution that can harm human health. Smart cities use various strategies to address air pollution, from promoting clean energy to implementing traffic management schemes.
In France, Ellona, a digital sensing company, delivers artificial intelligence to monitor air quality and identify the true sources of pollution. As air pollution becomes more prevalent, more cities will likely adopt these smart solutions.
What can organizations do to adapt
There are several things that organizations can do to adapt to the three megatrends impacting environmental management.
Firstly, they can increase their focus on sustainability and resource efficiency. This means changing how they operate to reduce their impact on the environment. There are several ways to do this, such as using more renewable energy, reducing waste and emissions, and increasing recycling.
Secondly, organizations can develop new technologies and processes less damaging to the environment. This could involve investing in renewable energy technologies or finding ways to make existing processes more efficient.
Finally, organizations can educate and engage employees, customers and other stakeholders in environmental issues. This will help create a culture of sustainability within the organization and encourage people to change their own behaviours to be more environmentally friendly.
I recently joined a global tribe of Authors to contribute to the Palgrave Handbook of Climate Resilient Societies. This Major Reference Work provides readers with an invaluable overview of how various levels of government have attempted to create climate-resilient societies. In particular, each chapter, under its respective theme, addresses how a government, or series of governments, at various levels in non-OECD and/or OECD countries, have implemented innovative climate resilient policies that seek synergies across strategies, choices and actions in an attempt to build a climate-resilient society.
Increasing Urbanization, Climate Change and Air Pollution, and Water and Resource Scarcity are the three megatrends that profoundly impact environmental management. As we become more aware of the need to protect our planet, we increasingly turn to technology and innovation to help us achieve this goal. The good news is that many tools and resources are available to help us manage our environment more effectively. With the right approach, we can make a real difference in how we care for our planet. Only together can we accelerate impact.
Leesa Soulodre is the General Partner of R3i Capital LP and its Group of companies, which have a mission to mobilise 1bn into gender smart climate impact over the next decade.
If you would like to learn more about climate resilient societies, discover the latest publication edited by Robert Brears here: The Palgrave Handbook of Climate Resilient Societies. The Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of global attempts to create climate-resilient societies; it presents an invaluable survey of key themes and challenges and reports on best practices and lessons learned. Each chapter addresses one specific sub-theme out of the population of themes covered in the Major Reference Work: Water, Energy, Agriculture and Food, Built environment and Infrastructure, Transport, Human health, Society, Disaster, Business and Economy, and Financing Climate Resilience. It's worth a read.