Can we ever have faith in our efforts in combating environmental problems?

  • Arguments for why we can never have faith in our efforts
  • From a scientific point of view, the accelerating rate of environmental degradation in the modern world is increasingly rendering our efforts redundant and ineffective in reversing the damage. In other words, our efforts are said to be too little and too late.
    • Rate at which ice caps are melting in the Arctic region/rate at which sea levels are rising – research findings suggest that many islands of The Maldives are at risk of being submerged by seawaters within the next 30 years
  • Governments’ efforts are said to be ineffective because governments tend to prioritize their economic growth at the expense of environmental well-being.
    • Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, an international environmental treaty that seeks to reduce the rise in global temperature to less than 2ºC, prioritizing the issue of job losses in the coal-mining industry at the expense of global environmental well-being.
    • Kyoto Protocol, an international environmental treaty to reduce carbon emissions – American government has repeatedly failed to pledge its support, and many supporting countries have no binding target.
    • Pessimists also argue that profit-maximizing corporations are not doing enough to save the environment as they are often blinded by the lure of profit and commercial interests.
      • GreenPeace, a non-governmental organization has been campaigning against the organization Nestle for doing very little in protecting the rainforests in Indonesia as Nestle was accused of producing its KitKat chocolate bars by using the palm oil which was harvested by local companies that destroy the rainforests, causing the loss of natural habitat amongst orangutans.
      • In the area of commercial tourism, many luxury hotel resorts and tour operators are accused of destroying the natural coastline of many beach-towns in Bali and Phuket, resulting in irreversible ecological damage. Also, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has been subject to increasing environmental damage because of excessive tourist activity
      • Manufacturers of factories in Beijing are accused of excessive emission of greenhouse gases for the purpose of industrialization to drive their economic growth, contributing to the issue of haze.
      • Individual consumers still prioritize our individual convenience at the expense of environmental well-being in our rampant consumer culture.
        • The abuse of plastic bags in our consumer culture in many major cities
        • Attitude towards environmental campaigns such as Earth Hour is short-lived and shallow
        • Limited success in Bring-Your-Own-Bag campaign in Singapore due to the inertia and the lack of enthusiasm of many local shoppers
  • Arguments for why we can have faith in our efforts.
  • Active work done by NGOs and environmental activists to raise awareness of environmental problems
    • GreenPeace – speaking against China’s coal plants and Japan’s excessive poaching of whales and dolphins for consumption, as exposed in the documentary, The Cove
    • Oscar winning actor, Leonardo Dicaprio, investing in environmental film productions to cast a spotlight on these issues
    • Former U.S. vice president, Al Gore, produced a ground-breaking documentary titled “An Inconvenient Truth”, exposing the many devastating effects of our human activity on the environment
    • Cities around the world are redesigning and rethinking their urban planning to create more sustainability in how energy is used.
      • Housing Development Board (HDB) in Singapore is now embarking on the use of “big data technology” and satellite imaging to create a digitalised modelling system to identify the intensity of sunlight in order to efficiently turn solar power into energy supply. Such an advanced modelling system is able to monitor the amount and intensity of sunlight in each corner of the housing town, and such technology is currently being applied in Punggol Northshore, a new, emerging town.
      • Government in Singapore creating common green spaces such as Gardens By the Bay, Botanic Gardens, Punggol Waterway, and Coney Island.
      • Tianjin Eco-city project in China – a collaboration between Singapore and China to develop green technology in Tianjin Eco-city