Rio+20: A Report Card On How We Are Doing So Far?

Our world leaders are meeting to set goals for humanity in the 21st century. So 20 years after the first Rio meeting in 1992 that discussed climate change, biodiversity and sustainability it’s a good time to take the pulse of the planet. If you want to keep a daily score than visit Worldometers, where you can watch in real-time just how well we are doing.

By any measure and in every way we are failing. Our governments are failing us. And we are failing the rest of the species of animals and plants on this planet.

Here are some statistics all of us need to know:

  1. Current human population = Over 7 billion
  2. Projected human population in 2050 = 9.3 billion
  3. Today 1 billion have no access to clean water
  4. Today 2.6 billion have no sanitation
  5. Today 1.3 billion have no electricity
  6. Today 27% of the world’s people are impoverished
  7. Today 2/3 of primary and secondary school-age children have no access to education.
  8. Today 800 million adults, mostly women, have basic literacy problems with little opportunity to get an education.

In terms of feeding our human population here’s some more facts:

  1. Almost one in seven of us lacks sufficient food. That’s over 900 million people.
  2. Of those 1/2 billion are women and children under age 5.
  3. Agriculture today uses 70% of our world’s freshwater resources
  4. 40% of what we grow and raise never gets consumed as food because of wasteful practices, insufficient transportation, and poor food storage infrastructure.
  5. Our wasteful water practices if corrected would allow us to provide freshwater for 2 billion more of us.
  6. Today we use one liter of water to produce one calorie of food.
  7. By 2050 40% of us will be living in countries suffering from a severe lack of freshwater.

In terms of moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy:

  1. Today 19% of energy consumed is produced from renewable sources
  2. Global energy demand is expected to grow 80% by 2050
  3. 85% of the energy we will use in 2050 will come from fossil fuels

In terms of the environment:

  1. CO2 levels in the atmosphere in 1992 were 356.38 ppm
  2. CO2 levels in the atmosphere in 2012 stand at 396.78 ppm
  3. Forest loss since 1992 equals an area the size of Argentina
  4. Deserts are growing between 50,000 to 120,000 square kilometers per year
  5. Climate change is expected to increase world hunger by 20% by 2020

Five Actions YOU Can Take to Create a Sustainable World

In a previous blog I proposed 13 actions that governments around the world must take to address the future of the planet. But what can you do as an individual to change the score card?

From the teachings and sayings of Mahatma Gandhi I have drawn on 5 tenets that you can follow:

  1. We must effect change by changing ourselves. It’s one thing to decry government for inaction on renewable energy or climate change. It’s another for us to change our behaviour and the things we do everyday. Look at how you use water, energy, the food you eat, the way you look after yourself, and provide leadership through example.
  2. Without taking action ourselves nothing will happen. Knowing is one thing. For example, you are reading this blog but are you doing something after you read it to make others aware of the challenges all of us face? Are you writing your political representatives? Are you organizing your friends, neighbours and community to act? Are you listening to politicians during election cycles and questioning their commitment to act responsibly about sustainability? If they are not ready to act are you marking a check on a ballot by the name of someone who is?
  3. Act in the present and you will affect the future. Don’t dwell on the past. We have been screwing up our planet for over two centuries, particularly those of us who live in the Western Hemisphere. But if we act now, each and every day, to change our world, then the  cumulative effect over time will produce the results the entire planet needs.
  4. Persist. If you keep acting responsibly and stay motivated you can overcome the opposition, the climate skeptics, the greed motivated, the political inoperatives, and ultimately get them on side to change their behaviour and the world.
  5. Continue to learn, to observe, to keep an open mind about the Earth we live on so that you can be a participant in making it a better place for the generations of humans that follow and for our plant and animal companions that occupy it with us.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery.