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    The Richest One Per Cent Pollutes More than the Poorest 50 Per Cent

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    The Richest One Per Cent Pollutes More than the Poorest 50 Per Cent

    The world population is already using the equivalent of 1.6 earths to maintain the current way of life. Ecosystems can longer keep up with accompanying demands. Consequently, should the world continue to consume the resources at the rate it now does, at least five earths would be needed.

    By Baher Kamal

    It takes about 7,500 litres of water to make a single pair of jeans — from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store. And 85 per cent of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated; much so that every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or burned.

    The facts and figures successively provided by the United Nations Organisation should help complete the picture of unsustainable lifestyles.

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    To start with, the fact that the richest 1 per cent of the global population account for more greenhouse gas emissions than the poorest 50 per cent.

    In contrast, in the specific case of Africa – 54 countries home to 1.4 billion humans – causes a negligible two to three per cent of all global greenhouse emissions, however it falls victim to more than 80 per cent of the world’s climate catastrophes.

    Meanwhile, in high-income countries, the material footprint per capita – the amount of primary materials needed to meet the world’s needs — is more than 10 times larger than in low-income countries.

    And the Group of 20 major economies (G20) accounts for 78 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

    In short, the world population is already using the equivalent of 1.6 earths to maintain the current way of life, which is clearly not sustainable. The ecosystems can longer keep up with accompanying demands. Consequently, should the world continue to consume the resources at the rate it now does, at least five earths would be needed.

    Fashion industry

    Fashion is one of the most demanded and consumed among commodities and services in the world’s high-income countries.

    The fashion industry (clothing and footwear) produces more than 8 per cent of the greenhouse gases and 20 per cent of global wastewater annually.

    For example, it takes about 7,500 litres of water to make a single pair of jeans — from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store.

    And 85 per cent of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated; much so that every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or burned.

    Moreover, some 93 billion cubic metres of water — enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people — is used by the fashion industry annually.

    Gobbling food, fuel and water

    The current demand for natural resources is at an all-time high and continues to grow — for food, clothing, water, housing, infrastructure and other aspects of life, the UN reports.

    Specifically, the extraction and processing of materials, fuels and food contribute half of total global greenhouse gas emissions and over 90 per cent of biodiversity loss and water stress.

    In short, resource extraction has more than tripled since 1970, including a 45 per cent increase in fossil fuel use.

    Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector alone have more than doubled since 1970, with around 80 per cent of this increase coming from road vehicles.

    Currently, the transport sector is almost completely dependent on fossil fuels. It contributes approximately one quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

    In spite of that, politicians continue to subsidise fossil fuels with 6 to 7 trillion dollars a year.

    Every year around the globe 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted, that is a third of all food produced for human consumption.

    Food losses represent a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions in vain, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports further

    Less than 3 per cent of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), of which 2.5 per cent is frozen in Antarctica, the Arctic and glaciers. And humans are misusing and polluting water faster than nature can recycle and purify water in rivers and lakes.

    With one shower of about 10 minutes a day, an average person consumes the equivalent of over 100,000 glasses of drinking water every year.

    Severe water scarcity affects about 4 billion people, or nearly two thirds of the world population, at least one month each year.

    Tonnes of waste

    Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tonnes of solid waste is collected worldwide, and decay of the organic proportion of solid waste is contributing about 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

    Where waste cannot be avoided, recycling leads to substantial resource savings. For every tonne of paper recycled, 17 trees and 50 per cent of water can be saved.

    Recycling also creates jobs: the recycling sector employs 12 million people in Brazil, China and the United States alone. However, only 9 per cent of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. About 12 per cent has been incinerated, while the rest — 79 per cent — has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment.

    Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away.

    From 2010 to 2019, e-waste generated globally grew from 5.3 to 7.3 kilograms per capita annually. Meanwhile, the environmentally sound recycling of e-waste increased at a much slower pace – from 0.8 to 1.3 kilograms per capita annually.

     

    This piece has been sourced from Inter Press Service.

    Image: Mario Osava / IPS

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