The world’s growing population is becoming ever more urban. This transition has the potential to dramatically improve human development while reducing the stress that we place on the world’s resources. But this is not a certain outcome and will not happen unless people make radical changes to the way in which they live their lives.
The products and resources that people use to improve their living standards also deplete finite resources and often leave pollution and toxic waste behind. It has become clear that the current approach to manufacturing and developing products is wasteful and generates vast quantities of refuse. And the current approach to creating energy, heavily dependent on burning polluting fossil fuels, is contributing to climate change and harming the planet. In short, things have to change, and dramatically.
However, it is not a time to lose hope: the range of solutions to these challenges is vast, and many innovators and pioneers are developing new ways to do things. Too few people realize it, but tapping geothermal resources could transform access to energy for many developing countries. In East Africa, Kenya is investing in geothermal energy and hopes to get 27 per cent of its electricity from this source by 2031. The World Bank believes that about 40 countries worldwide have geothermal resources that could meet a very significant portion of their national electricity demand.
Is it possible to earn an income in this green economy, however? Based on the evidence in the stories presented in this issue, the answer is yes. Taking urban waste as an example, it is forecast that global municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling needs to increase 3.5-fold (UNEP) as the world continues to urbanize. This could either be a disaster for living conditions and the planet or an opportunity to change views towards waste, seeing it as a wealth-creating opportunity. Many are seizing this waste “problem” and creating solutions.