Global Sustainability

Global long term sustainability represents one of the most complex and difficult challenges that will need be solved by the human race in the decades to come. The steps that will need to be undertaken, will alter the current environmental, political, economical, and societal norms everywhere. For this reason, it requires broad and willing participation in reducing our carbon footprint, limiting the release of greenhouse gasses, and transitioning away from fossil fuels and natural gasses. The latter of these three options will prove the be the most difficult task in my opinion. While countries have taken dramatic steps towards reducing their carbon footprint, removing the dependence on fossil fuels and natural gasses will face much opposition due to it’s deeply ingrained status within societies. To prove this point, Europe has spent just under 80 billion dollars this year importing over 50 million tonnes of fossil fuels and natural gas. This number is very significant; as it accounts for 37% of the European Union budget.

Looking at this issue of removing dependence on fossil fuels another way, Saudi Arabia relies extremely heavily on their ability to export and sell oil on the international market. Accounting for 42% of their GDP, oil and natural gas profits and hungry markets all over the world have been at the heart of many political decisions and actions undertaken by Saudi Arabia. This should reflect how important natural gasses and oil are in the well being and prospering of Saudi Arabia.

Whether you view the issue of burning natural gas and fossil fuels as a sustainability issue or an economic one, one thing that remains constant is the significant grasp that these products have over almost all nations on earth. If we, as a people want to transition away from this source of energy in favor of renewable it will mandate complicit communication on a political, economic, environmental, and societal level.

Mathematics, Sustainability, and Global Learning

I honestly think certain issues are best understood through specific, smaller-scale examples.

For instance, there’s the broad issue of global warming and climate change and human use of fossil fuels and all the corresponding problems that arise as a result. Yet instead of trying to tackle the issue broadly, I think it best to start small and work your way up. Which is why my paper focused on the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, a relationship centered almost entirely around 2 fundamental, core values: cheap oil and defensive guarantees.

For too long, in fact since the end of World War II, the United States of America has guaranteed Saudi national security and defense in exchange for a reliable supply of cheap oil supplies. We have overlooked Saudi offenses and atrocities time and time again, to the detriment of our own values and the sacrifice of American lives.

The issue, of course, is U.S. reliance on Saudi oil supplies. On a daily basis, Saudi oil supplies represent roughly 5% of U.S. oil consumption (U.S.E.I.A.).  Obviously, this dependence results in an unwillingness to abandon Saudi Arabia’s record of abuse in favor of what we believe.

As a result, we sacrifice our own values as well as the present and future of our environment in order to maintain the status quo. Clearly, this trade-off is unsustainable to say the least. It requires necessary and immediate change, in both U.S. energy and foreign policy.

Global Awareness

Global awareness is the most important aspect of sustainability as the world is filled with different countries practicing different cultures. The concept of sustainability for the human race as awhile would have to depend on the teachings and understanding that these people have of their environments. Native Americans believed in the idea of being in sync with nature as they understood, they were part of nature as well. The harms to the planet have been continually through the human contribution of our consumption and energy usage. The production of plastic goods have not decreased in high numbers, oil drilling is still a common acutance, and deformation is still a major problem in different parts of the world. From 1980 to 2017, gross domestic product increased 165 percent, vehicle miles traveled increased 110 percent, energy consumption increased 25 percent, and U.S. population grew by 44 percent. The growth of societies can as have negative effects as technologies are often not understood properly and its effects on the planet. The understudying of the damages to the planet through human change comes with time and realization which often may be too long to allow the situation to be reversible.

Global Learning and Sustainability

The 17 global goals outlined are incredibly ambitious, some of them can potentially be achieved, others are a bit idealistic and far-fetched.  Goal number 16, which highlights peace, justice and strong institutions is a goal that will likely never be completed.  To expect governments across the world to all be stable, and all have equal respect for human rights is close to impossible.  Freedom House is a nonprofit institution that analyzes and reports on the state of human rights across the world.  By their assessment, out of the 195 recognized countries in the world, only 87 are actually considered ‘totally free.’  49 are ‘not free,’ and 59 are considered ‘partly free.’  This means that less than half (49% to be exact) of the countries in the world show complete respect for human rights and civil liberties.  With half the countries in the world not adhering to goal 16, it makes accomplishing it a daunting task.  I don’t think activism alone is able to achieve a solid foundation of human rights and strong institutions.  Activism can only do so much in the face of violent and repressive governments.  In order for goal 16 to be fully realized, military interventions might be necessary to force governments to change their ways, and their leadership.  However, military interventions go against the very nature of peace, and can lead to death, poverty, and famine, thus violating other global goals.  It begs the question if achieving goal 16 is worth worsening progress on other goals.  Out of all the goals highlighted, I think goal 16: climate action, is the most doable.  It doesn’t call for solving climate change, it simply mandates that countries and people take steps to act in the face of climate change, something which is already happening with things such as the Paris Climate Accords.

Global Learning: Water Conservation

The key to making our world’s population more aware of the impact of the individual is to expose it. In general, we need to have higher standards and we need to do a better job to promote global learning from all three aspects: global awareness, global perspective, and global engagement.

In terms of resources, if a person was to cut his or her shower down from twelve minutes to four minutes, he or she would be saving sixteen gallons of water per shower, or 5,840 gallons per year. This could save a person up to $100 a year on water usage. It is these kinds of mathematics that provide people with the  incentive to change their unsustainable ways. But the big issue is getting this information out to the public, and actually making people relate the issue back to themselves.

Water consumption is a huge concern for today’s population due to how wasteful we tend to be. More water consumed results in higher energy costs and possible shortages in areas where water is not easily accessible. Certain cultures, simply by geographic location, are naturally bound to have a smaller water supply and a higher demand from the population. A huge part of global learning is having that perspective that just because you have a faucet with running water, doesn’t mean another person across the globe has the same luxury.

Below is one way we can start to spread more information to the public.

17 Global Goals

The 17 Global Goals for sustainable development, set for 2030, is all encompassing of everything sustainability has to offer. From global awareness and perspective, to global engagement and responsibility, the 17 goals for sustainable development touch on aspects of social as well as environmental partnership.

Sustainability from a mathematic and global standpoint is an incredibly crucial aspect. By computing our carbon footprint and other sources of measuring our energy on a global platform, we enhance our knowledge and understanding of just how important sustainable living is for our environment. To more accurately guide emissions and usage of our planet’s natural resources, as well as social issues surrounding these, it is crucial to look at the bigger global picture as a whole.

Using mathematical concepts like computing the total, as well as percentage changes throughout history or into the future we can more fully understand our societal impact. Without global awareness, countries would not take into account other countries’ impacts on our natural resources. Without fully encompassing the world’s total carbon footprint and emissions alongside  the planet’s biocapacity, a function or equation would prove to be widely inaccurate.

In evaluating how predictions of global sustainable goals reflect actual data, we can connect human societal issues with the more prevalent usage of earth’s natural systems. To increase the awareness of the interrelationship of human activity and our planet’s natural systems it is important to educate the public with accurate information.

I think the Global Goals does a great job encompassing a ‘we’ message, instead of a nationalist ‘us before them’ message that has been oh so present in our national politics as of late. It makes my heart warm to know that there are still enough compassionate people in the world to make an impact, and I am committed to these 17 goals by 2030.

Global Action Through Awareness

Global awareness through engagement can be achieved through a continuous effort by everyone on the planet. Our current generation has the largest ecological footprint in history and it comes directly from the developed countries who are harming the lesser developed countries. Together if the developed countries could work with those who are lesser developed to find more sustainable resources then we could begin to erase the tremendous hole in our ozone layer. By 2030, if developed countries can increase awareness through a continued engagement in developed countries to modernize infrastructure through sustainable industrialization then the developing countries will raise GDP and raise the industry’s share of employment.

Awareness is the most important trait to have because through communication we can make a difference whether it’s through word of mouth or through first-hand examples of sustainable actions. One in three people lives without sanitation which causes unnecessary disease and even death. Along with poor sanitation, access to nutritious foods should be expanded upon as well, in developing countries hunger is the leading cause of death. Again, unequal access and inefficient handling can leave millions of people battling malnourishment and hunger. One of the major examples of global perspective can be shown in ways that we can achieve this through the elimination of inequalities and discrimination. People should treat others how they would want to be treated because we are all created equal. The human race accounts for only a small portion of Earth’s history and it would not be fair to destroy it for future generations.

Global Learning about Clean Water and Sanitation

The number 6 “Global Goal” decided by world leaders in 2015 was Clean Water and Sanitation. By 2030, the goal is that clean water and sanitation facilities will be available and properly managed for everyone. According to the United Nations, every 3 out of 10 people (which is equal to approximately 2.259 billion people) do not have access to safe and clean drinking water and every 6 out 10 people (which is equal to approximately 4.518 billion people) lack access to proper sanitation facilities. Lacking access to clean water and sanitation facilities causes diarrhoeal diseases, which over 800 children die from each day due to lack of access.


So what can we do? Simple lifestyle changes can make a difference. Water waste is a prevalent issue in America. The EPA estimates that household leaks alone generate water waste of about 180 gallons per week for the average American household. One load of laundry uses about 20 gallons, so the average American household is wasting the amount of water equivalent to 9 loads of laundry per week. This can be solved by simply checking for leaks, and replacing old faucets and showerheads with newer, more sustainable and efficient ones.  In addition, turning off the faucet when brushing one’s teeth can save 8 gallons of water per day. Turning off the faucet while shaving can save an additional 10 gallons of water per shave. Simple and minor lifestyle changes might seem insignificant on a daily basis, but if we stick to them, and encourage others to do the same, they will add up and make a real difference.

How to Achieve Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Not all energy standards in all countries around the world are the same as the U.S. so it is important to note the different perspectives there are with regard to access to renewable energy. Many developed countries have renewable energy goals in place such as Germany and China but their goals are vastly different than the goals of developing countries such as countries in Africa, whose goals include access to any sort of energy, let alone renewable.  For example, as explained in the UN Environmental Guide for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Laws, Ghana’s electricity supply capacity could not keep up with Ghana’s strong economic growth and increased electricity demand in the 1980s and 1990s. Ghana suffered blackouts which negatively affected the country’s economy so since then Ghana implemented the first standards and labelling to help solve the crisis in 2000 and their goal is to use energy more efficiently in a limited sense and renewable energy is not mentioned in the standards.  But in China’s case, the country has already surpassed its 2020 solar panel target and is accounting for over 40 percent of the total global clean energy mix by 2022, according to author Rob Smith’s 2018 World Economic Forum study. The global perspective of Goal 7 is different based on different countries’ economic status and geographic location but mostly all countries are conscious and aware of the need to become more energy efficient and to reduce energy consumption overall.

As studied in Project 2: Population Growth, Ecological Footprints and Biocapacity, there is a difference between attempting to decrease energy consumption in a country per capita and decreasing the total energy consumption.  The per capita energy consumption is the total energy consumption divided by the population. Globally, the population is increasing at a faster rate than the total energy consumption of the world so there is a decline in the per capita energy consumption.  This will result in an overshoot which is when humanity’s demand for energy exceeds the supply of energy sources. However through global initiatives the global community is trying to reverse this overshoot. Some of the global energy initiatives include: the International Energy Agency, which includes 29 countries whose motto is “Secure, Sustainable, Together”; the UN; the Global Energy Initiative whose motto is “Towards a Low-Carbon Century”; and many more.  In the New York State alone there is a goal to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 so there is an obvious movement to become more energy efficient and to encourage renewable energy usage to achieve Goal 7 and with the support of all governments, businesses, civil society and the general public the Goal 7 will be achieved.

Reusable Energy at a higher level

Throughout this term, we have learned how to apply mathematics with sustainability. This course has taught us how to make predictions, understand variability in graphs and conversions. Week 6, we learned about different kinds of reusable energy. This is where I will be expanding my thoughts and global engagement. According to New York Times writer, Nadja Popovich, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication pulled research from the American population on where they stand on reusable energy. One surprising statistic found is that in almost every county of the United States, Americans support they aspect of having at least 20% of their energy as reusable (that being wind, solar, hydro). In addition, 68% of Americans argue that there needs to be an increase in carbon taxes for drilling companies. Finally, because reusable energy is a growing industry, 85% Americans said they would invest funding on research for reusable energy.

For week 6, we were asked to describe what the reusable energy source was. This week, after reading this article should have a positive shift in how people view reusable energy. Although we already have 2 dozens states implementing a policy requiring some time of implementation of reusable energy, many of them fall short of reaching the goal. We need to take this data and spread awareness, communicate with others about the importance of reusable energy by increasing research and policies.