CyberDodo and city maintenance (1-41)
The statistics have revealed that more than half of the global human population is currently living in cities. Concretely, this constantly growing concentration is going to produce more and more waste, as it is difficult to collect and treat it while respecting the planet, its inhabitants and future generations.
How did we get here?
For millennia, man and his activities have not had an impact on the environment. Our ancestors were not numerous enough and their rustic way of life was in perfect harmony with Nature. In modern terms, we could say that their carbon footprint was neutral.
Then gradually, with the evolution of the human species, their influence was extended. The more man improved his techniques (Gathering, hunting, fishing, cattle-raising, culture, etc.) the greater his impact on his environment.
However, for generations our ancestors practised recycling; they refused to let go of anything, everything was recycled and reused, everything had value and had to last as long as possible.
It is difficult to precisely determine when man’s presence on Earth no longer became ‘neutral’ for other living species and the planet itself, undoubtedly this was some time between the 19th century and the 20th century...
Back to the 21st century, where our lifestyle has a destructive impact on our beautiful planet, which is in fact our only home. The purpose of this case file is to make you aware of the challenge posed by the mountains of waste daily produced by billions of city dwellers.
What are we talking about?
In order to better understand what we are talking about, let’s look at some figures. Generally a family of 4 people living in a rich country produces 1 to 2 tonnes of waste every year (CyberDodo decided to use the terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ in his case files in order to highlight the unacceptable gap existing between those who have too much and those who have too little).
Out of this massive figure, paper consists of one quarter, organic waste consists of another quarter, plastic consists of 15%, the same proportion for glass, and the rest consisting of various types of waste, of which some are particularly dangerous, such as batteries and other residue.
What to do with this waste?
For years, it was simply stockpiled in waste dumps in the open air or buried, if not thrown into the sea. Over the course of the years, certain waste took on gigantic proportions and caused serious pollution of water tables (See the case file focusing on this subject) following rainwater runoff, which transported noxious substances.
In numerous countries, this type of littering is always taking place and poses a danger for the present as well as future generations. But population growth and the resultant volume of litter constrained the authorities to find a solution to get rid of it, how to do this?
Since the end of the 19th century, incinerators have been designed and put in place so as to be able to burn most of it, is this a good solution? Without denying the indispensable progress that has been accomplished through this route, it is not ‘the’ solution. Do not forget that:
1) There is no incinerator that fully does its job and even the most technologically advanced rejects toxic substances.
2) Thousands of incinerators in use throughout the world are extremely dangerous for the population and the environment.
3) A single incinerator is an important contributor to climatic reheating.
Protectors of the environment place their hopes on 2 main paths:
1) Sustainable development
Let’s firstly remember the definition: ‘Sustainable development is responding to the needs of the current generation, while guaranteeing the same potential to future generations (Environment, resources, etc.).’ A definition in the form of a question could be: Can we imagine infinite growth on a planet that is not there?’ obviously not... (On this subject, see the case file focusing on energy waste).
The first path for our cities to be able to manage their waste is very simply to produce less! In order to do this, there is no other solution than to realise that the western lifestyle and consumption should, on the one hand, develop in the sense of a clearly lower environmental impact and on the other, it cannot be adopted by all the countries in the globe.
If we consume less and better, we shall produce less waste and pollute less. So much progress is possible in so many areas, who has not been surprised by packages of certain products that are more voluminous than the item they are protecting?
In a direct link with sustainable development, the obligation of recycling as much as possible should become the rule. We know now that natural resources are not inexhaustible and some of them are on the point of disappearing (This concerns fauna and flora as well as raw materials). Our current consumer products can and should after (Reasonable!) use be carefully sorted, collected and then recycled.
An excellent example is plastic bags, which pollute all the continents and all the seas (In particular, see the case file on turtles) and are distributed in millions in stores; increasingly countries have decided to banish them. Let us take note that now you can get biodegradable bags, this is a first stage, the next being that each one has a bag which he will reuse for years...
A cycle of virtue should be established.
Tentacles that are developing throughout the surface of our planet, a response that is not adapted to human overpopulation, a belief in finding a better place to live, can become a fantastic laboratory for the emergence of a new consciousness in our society.
These cities in which all the hopes, so many constraints, needs, and difficulties, but also so much potential is concentrated, have become ‘countries’ for the majority of our contemporaries. Human society has developed more (Unfortunately not always better) in the past century than throughout its history.
These changes are called the emergence of a new society.
A society in which each one is a major player, the individual respect that is going to be manifested is a determining factor for global harmony. Each of our actions will have immediate as well as future repercussions, those that follow us have the same rights that we do to benefit from natural resources and a preserved planet.
Ready to take up the challenge?
To see the cartoon on maintenance of cities, click here
To do the quiz, click here
For the game, click here