The groundwork for a sustainable economy

November 9, 2021

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Lately, I realized that I was not as concerned about the climate as some other people around me. Personally, I did not think about the consequences that my own behavior had on our climate. Our usage of plastic bags for our goods, fossil fuels, and other unsustainable human endeavors, are not without consequences. Sooner or later, we will have used up most of the earth’s precious resources and now is the time to find alternatives for solutions for our overconsumption. Because in the end, climate change, is a product of our over consumptive behavior. There is always a materialistic side to us people: we want to use the newest phones, drive the fastest cars, live in the biggest houses, and basically consume as much as we possibly can. This results in us consuming all of earth’s exhaustive resources, will result in earth becoming an uninhabitable place. There are several key areas which required additional focus, since they are easy to resolve with the right investment and will result in a drastically better world for us all. Below I will discuss some of those primary objectives on which policymakers should focus.

Stronger renewable bags

The problem right now is that most bags that are sold in stores for your goods are made of plastics. These plastics harm the environment a lot, however, often the alternatives are made from thin and weak recycled papers, which break at the slightest weight increase. Companies should start spending more on the development of durable, yet sustainable, bags that can be as strong, if not stronger, than plastic bags. ­­­Each year about 5 trillion plastic bags (a five with twelve zeroes) are produced, of which 300 million end up in the Atlantic Ocean alone. Since plastic bags are often made of polyethylene it takes centuries for them to degrade. By 2050 the world’s oceans could contain more plastics than fish, when we compare them both by weight. This is an alarming rate of plastic pollution, since fish also ingest those plastics, which in turn results in humans consuming microplastics that can cause various types of cancer. So, in the end, even if we want our children and even ourselves to live healthy and long lives, we should drastically reduce our usage of plastic bags, and plastics in general. Instead, we should spend more research and development money on creating more sustainable alternatives.

Recyclable materials

People tend to think that solar panels are great alternatives for our production of energy. There are however several caveats concerning solar panels. First, the manufacturing of solar panels results in net carbon emissions, toxic waste, and unsustainable mining practices. People tend to think the impact of solar panels on our environment is net positive, however this is not the case. The materials that solar panels are made of are also quite difficult to recycle and hence after the lifecycle of a solar panel (about 30 years) we will end up with panels from which we cannot recover any useful materials. It is therefore important that we focus on the usage of recyclable materials for almost everything we use, especially for the products which we deem important for stopping or slowing down the climate change. Certain measures could be using even more recyclable materials in product packaging and stopping waste. Product design should focus more on sustainability.

Nuclear fusion reactors

Development of nuclear fusion reactors began as early as 1950s in the Soviet Union. The technology aims to generate electricity from the heat of nuclear fusion reactions. In comparison to nuclear fission reactions, where the nucleus of an atom splits into two smaller nuclei, a nuclear fusion reaction creates no waste. This is because a nuclear fusion reaction involves the merger of two smaller nuclei, to a heavier one. With a nuclear fission reaction, the rest product is radioactive waste. This is difficult to contain after the fission reaction has been finished and hence often the nuclear waste causes pollution for biological organisms in the close perimeter of a nuclear power plant. Nuclear fusion however does not have the waste problem and hence is a better alternative to nuclear fission power plants. Besides, the technologies that are currently under development could provider for limitless power without any harm to our environment. Although, these developments are significant, progress is relatively slow, and it will still take a few years before we can commercialize nuclear fission reactors for our electricity generation.

Lab grown meat

The consumption of meat is another topic which has a huge impact on our climate. We need to keep enough cattle to be able to provider for the world’s food demand. Researchers are slowly developing new technologies that will enable us to grow meat in regulated environment, similar how fruits and vegetables grow. This will allow us to reduce emissions and hence reduce climate change impact. The development of these technologies will also result in new markets, as you will need specialized chemical and biological engineers who will be able to develop such meats.

In conclusion, there are a few takeaways that we need to focus on in the coming few years. We need to make ourselves less dependent on plastics and develop more biodegradable alternatives. Furthermore, we need to invest more in making product in the production chain recyclable, this also includes product packaging. The government needs to invest heavily into nuclear fission reactors and ensure that researchers are granted money into their respective fields of interest, such that innovation can be fostered. Finally, we need to rethink meat. Scientists need to develop alternative ways to make meat without the use of animals. This will eventually result in a significant drop in climate impact of the actions that we currently deem irresponsible. We have one world, let’s make it a better one.

This article is written by Berke Aslan

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