A flood of waste
The production systems and high-consumption lifestyles of developed countries based on high consumption of energy and resources not only put great pressure on resources and the environment, but also generate a large amount of garbage and hazardous waste.
It is estimated that the world adds 10 billion tons of garbage every year, about 2 tons per capita, of which developed countries account for a large proportion. In many countries, waste disposal capacity is far behind the growing volume of waste.
A considerable part of the garbage is hazardous waste. Because the definition of hazard is not yet uniform, there are no accepted estimates of the amount of hazardous waste the world generates each year. An estimate that can be used as a reference is that the world generates about 330 million tons of hazardous waste every year, 80% of which comes from the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. Developing countries such as Brazil, India and China also generate large amounts of hazardous waste every year.
Many national governments and international organizations are trying to control the growing problem of hazardous waste. However, due to the diverse nature of hazardous wastes, it is extremely difficult to control them. These hazardous wastes not only seriously pollute the air, water and soil, but also because of the different understandings and management methods of hazardous wastes in different countries, hazardous wastes are prone to harm human health through various channels.
Among human production activities, the chemical industry produces the most hazardous wastes. At present, there are about 70,000 to 80,000 kinds of chemicals on the market, of which about 35,000 are harmful to human health and the ecological environment. The United Nations Environment Programme found that factories in the Mediterranean Sea in developed countries dump about 30,000 tons of harmful metals, more than 90 tons of pesticide residues, and other pollutants into the ocean each year. A large number of fish have been contaminated, and some are no longer suitable for human consumption. Similar pollution has also occurred in other sea areas.
Even worse, in order to maintain their original way of life and consumption, while protecting their own ecological environment from pollution, developed countries have transferred a large number of seriously polluting factories to developing countries. For example, the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa is now rich in aluminum, tin, chromium, chloride, fluoride and other pollutants, and these pollutants are associated with the production of aluminum, steel and other metal raw materials in developed countries.
Too many population
Experts believe that the world’s population will increase to 7.3 billion to 10.7 billion by 2050, and the most likely total population in 2050 will be around 9 billion. In the medium term, the total average annual population growth in 2020-2025 will drop to 64 million, and by 2045-2050, it will drop significantly to 33 million. To sustain the world’s 9 billion people, however, the planet would have to be able to produce twice as many calories as it does today.
In fact, many countries already have a crisis of food supply not keeping up with population growth. At least 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation. Therefore, for the future world, the challenge of continuous population growth is twofold. On the one hand, the existing problems of poverty and food shortage must be solved, and on the other hand, the possible long-term food supply crisis must be considered. Faced with the many uncertainties in the food supply outlook, it is more realistic to adopt appropriate population policies: rather than allow population growth to grow unchecked: stabilize population growth.
Rapid population growth has accelerated the consumption of the earth’s resources. The World Watch Institute of the United States pointed out that in 1900 the world consumed only a few thousand barrels of gasoline per day on average, but 100 years later, the average human consumes 72 million barrels of gasoline per day. Human use of metals was 20 million tons per day in 1900, and now it has risen to 1.2 billion tons, as is human consumption of other natural resources.