People vs. Planet vs. People vs. People & Planet
Humanity is the only species known so far that has the ability to shape the environment to suit his needs. His ingenuity can only go as far as his imagination in manipulating nature for his primary resources. The moment he became aware of developing tools to become the master of his own fate was the first ray of evolution that would take a stone tool maker, to builders of space stations and interplanetary robotic probes. This progression came without a price. The symbiotic relationship between man and nature became disconnected when he became a gluttonous consumer of the world. Eventually at the turn of the 20th century, the Industrial Revolution unabashedly burned away fossil fuels as the primary engine for economic growth.
The affluence and prosperity the world population enjoyed in the early decades of the modern era made diseases controllable with life expectancies following the upward trend; and the population demographics shooting up exponentially. However, the costs of this population growth to the environment are now rearing its inevitable head. In a policy report by the RAND Corporation said, “The distribution of people around the globe has three main implications for the environment. First, as less-developed regions cope with a growing share of population, pressures intensify on already dwindling resources within these areas. Second, migration shifts relative pressures exerted on local environments, easing the strain in some areas and increasing it in others. Finally, urbanization, particularly in less-developed regions, frequently outpaces the development of infrastructure and environmental regulations, often resulting in high levels of pollution.” (RAND, 2000)
Limited resources and the access to those resources are becoming the new flashpoints for conflict in the early 21st century. Case in point is the nine-dash line policy of the Peoples’ Republic of China that continually defies international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that limits nations with an Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles. The area is believed to be rich in fossil fuels and natural gas reserves by claimants of disputed islets, shoals, and island territories. Water, fresh water supplies are also becoming a concern for environmental planners.
In a World Bank dashboard, the Philippine urban population is currently 47% of the total population of the country. This said more people in highly dense urban areas would require access to limited fresh water supply. Maintaining aquifers and aquifer recharge areas are the primary concerns in integrated watershed management that should be considered in future planning. There is no need not to look far from Metro Manila where private water concessionaires are now looking into other sources of freshwater for the people in the sprawling metropolis. With a daytime population of 14 million people, Metro Manila and the Greater Manila Area keeps on growing like a malignant tumor to the natural environment and social dynamic. The continuing increase in migration is due to the livelihood opportunities in big cities. Jobs are a big pull factor for migrants from economically undeveloped boondocks to move in to the cities. This movement of people puts additional strain on the capacity of the metropolis to support the city population. Then it follows that where infrastructure development goes, environmental pollution follows.
Identifying the cost of human intervention with the natural environment is necessary to mitigate or even prevent its worst impacts. It was made possible by researchers who were able to come up with a formula that can determine the environmental impact of a population. (The Royal Comission on Environmental Pollution, 2011) “(I = P x A x T) The environmental impact of a population can be expressed by this formula, where ‘I’ represents the human impact on the environment, ‘P’ represents the population, ‘A’ represents the affluence or consumption per head, and ‘T’ represents technology or the environmental impact per unit of consumption…. The IPAT formula identifies three key factors in determining the impact of a population on the environment—the number of people, the amount each of them consumes, and the impact on the environment of creating each unit of consumption.”
In a post by the World Population Balance Organization, “currently, over 7 billion of us are consuming about 50% more resources than Earth is producing—during any given time period. For example, in the past twelve months we have consumed the resources that it took the planet about eighteen months to produce. We are consuming our resource base” (Current Population is Three TImes the Sustainable Level) Also, in an online article by Nicholas Edmondson for the ibtimes.co.uk said “According to the report, humanity passed a point known as ecological overshoot during the 1970s. This means that the ecological footprint of humanity became greater than the planet’s biocapacity. By 2008, the ecological footprint rose to a 50 percent overshoot, meaning humans were using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support their activities.” (Edmondson, 2012) These are the facts that humans cannot wish to ignore. Consuming more than what the Earth can produce is akin to species suicide. The numbers tell us a grim reminder to act more responsibly towards a sustainable future. The current way we do things puts on a high toll to nature, and that oneday when nature finally decides to collect, we won’t be able to do so.
Planning for a sustainable future will take a holistic approach. Everyone should be accountable for the future of humanity with nature. The advocated solution by the United Nations Environmental Program is Ecosystem Based Approach (EbA). “An important feature of EbA as compared to other approaches is the pursuit of not only environmental and adaptation benefits, but also of social benefits for the local community including vulnerable groups, such as women, youth and indigenous people (e.g. increases in income, diversification of jobs, educational opportunities and gender equality)” (Nauman, et al., 2013) The approach assimilates the needs of both people and planet. It considers the equitable balance between population growth and environmental conservation. This is approach aims to be the wherewithal of developing nations in pursuing sustainable development. The impacts of this approach may not be felt by our generation, but we owe the next one to start taking care of our planet today.
- Current Population is Three TImes the Sustainable Level. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2015, from World Population Balance: http://www.worldpopulationbalance.org/3_times_sustainable
- Edmondson, N. (2012, 16 May). WWF: Two Earths Needed by 2030 to Sustain World Population. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from ibtimes.co.uk: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/two-earths-consumption-wwf-living-planet-report-341636
- Nauman, S., Davis, M., Munang, R., Andrews, J., Thiaw, I., Alverson, K., et al. (2013). The Social Dimension of Ecosystem-Based Adaptation. Cornell University, USA: Ecologic Institute, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
- (2000). Population and Environment: A Complex Relationship. Santa Monica: Population Matters: A RAND Program of Policy-Relevant Research Communication.
- The Royal Comission on Environmental Pollution. (2011). Demographic Change and the Environment. London: The Stationery Office Limited.