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Welcome to the new edition of Global Course. Our newsletter is designed to inform our contacts in the world's largest companies about social entrepreneurship and global sustainability topics. Feel free to share articles of this newsletter within your company.
Implement Nature-Based Solutions for Sustainable Water
Violet Lentz

Water is earth's most abundant natural resource. Yet, less than 0.01% of water is easily accessible fresh water, with the rest salt water (~97%), frozen (~2%) or ground water (~1%). Today, water shortages affects 3.6 billion people, almost half of the world’s population, which will increase to a staggering 4.8-5.7 billion by 2050. According to the United Nations World Water Development 2018 report, water demand is expected to grow significantly over the next two decades, particularly in developing or emerging countries. Water quality will also deteriorate faster as a result of population growth, economic development and changing consumer behaviours, combined with weak or nonexistent wastewater management systems.

Currently, water management and investments are almost entirely focused on human-built "grey" infrastructure and water shortages are primarily offset by already distressed groundwater supplies. Only 1% of total water investment is channeled to sustainable alternatives such as nature-based solutions (NBS). NBS is a water planning and management system inspired by nature and indigenous ecosystem knowledge that addresses water quantity, quality and risk challenges simultaneously and cost-effectively, creating a more resilient inclusive water system. With several levels of NBS ranging from microsteps in the form of dry toilets or green walls and roof gardens to more extensive levels for sustainable agriculture. For example, NBS advocates the use of distant areas, including forests, instead of watershed management used by conventional agricultural to help recycle and distribute water and avoid droughts. It also supports conservation agriculture that prefers rainwater to irrigation and crop rotation to prevent soil erosion and degradation and improve water quality.

In some instances, NBS is the only possible option (e.g., landscape restoration to stop desertification). However, it is not the only solution. Grey infrastructure can also be effective, with reservoirs to collect water or pipes to deliver water to taps. There is a need to find the right balance between grey and NBS water management to maximize benefits and minimize costs. We also need to build more knowledge, raise awareness, communicate and provide favorable regulatory and legal backdrop to support NBS. As we seek to replace our ageing grey infrastructure and invest in new water management systems, we should consider redirecting some of the existing financings to NBS when it makes sense. For more information on NBS, please refer to the UN Water Development Report 2018.

 
Rising Marine Pollution Calls for Sustainable Lifestyle
Supriya Batra

Marine pollution across the world has reached an unacceptable level. The amount of plastic in the ocean is projected to treble between 2015 and 2025 unless action is taken to deal with it, according to the Foresight Future of the Sea report. Water bodies contaminated with plastic bags, bottles, styrofoam, cigarette butts, straws and pesticides, etc. pose a severe threat to marine organisms.

More than eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the world's oceans each year, damaging marine life. But it is not only marine life that suffers from pollution – the damage is far reaching.

"Much of the world's population is dependent on, seafood and it is a fair assumption that if we consume these contaminated marine species, it will, in turn, affect our health as well", says Harry Chan, a 66-year old Hong Kong citizen who undertakes underwater and shoreline beach clean-ups every week in his city.
Coastline debris in Hong Kong following Typhoon Mangkhut
In the past five years, he, along with many volunteers, has cleaned up at least 90 tonnes of debris from several beaches in Hong Kong collecting plastic materials and discarded fishing nets. Much of the plastic contains styrofoam, mainly composed of styrene, a hazardous chemical linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, damage to the nervous systems and depression. The recent devastating Mangkhut typhoon which hit Hong Kong, the Philippines and mainland China washed ashore shameful evidence of just how much we are polluting our waters and should act as a global wake-up call for all of us to be more environmentally conscious.

A few simple steps which could help save the oceans:
  • Carrying a reusable water bottle;
  • Storing food in non-disposable containers;
  • Bringing reusable bags when shopping;
  • Recycling whenever possible.
Remember that each drop in the ocean counts.
 
Combating Asia’s Polluted Waters
Yuanlin Koh
Fact #1: 42% of all deaths related to water pollution happen in Asian countries.
Fact #2: 86% of the plastic dumped comes from a single continent – Asia.
Fact #3: Asia has the highest number of polluted rivers. Most contain bacteria from human waste.
The United Nations suggests that each person requires a minimum of 20-50 liters of water a day for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Yet, there are places in Asia where not even one litre of water is available for any of these purposes. In China, for example, 500 million people are without clean drinking water. Other countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia are also facing water shortage and pollution.

Primary sources of water pollution in Asia:
1. Growing population: Increased demand for clean water impacts the limited sources of fresh water, which is being consumed at a rate faster than it can be replaced, leaving underdeveloped areas of Asia without access to clean water.
2. Expanding industries: Industry regulations, particularly in developing countries, may not be as strict, and so spills, leaks, and runoffs are frequent. These contaminate groundwater supplies and eventually reaches surface and drinking water.
3. Domestic waste: Again, in developing countries, there are insufficient systems to manage domestic waste. In the absence of landfills, sewers, and septic systems, this may cause severe water pollution. In turn, this can cause illness, disease, and even death, if out of control.

While measures are being taken to remedy water pollution in Asia, it’s a big job and will take a lot of effort over many years to make a difference in water quality. And while it’s true that freshwater availability across Asia has improved, there still isn't enough of a change to bring clean drinking water to much of the population. Below are a few ways in which different Asian countries are trying to improve the quality of their water sources:
1. Construction of wastewater treatment facilities improving the quality of wastewater and filtering dangerous and harmful contaminants out of polluted freshwater sources. China, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, and Thailand are some countries which have successfully begun to introduce these types of facilities. It is one of the most effective methods, but a slow-moving one.
2. Taxation of industries: Some countries like China have begun taxing industries that may contribute to pollution, including water pollution. China introduced its new environment tax on 1 January 2018, designed to reduce air, soil and water contamination. Under the tax implementation, there is a levy of about US $0.20-2.02 per pollutant equivalent value. Water pollution is a problem that is faced by the whole world, not just specific to the region in the area you reside. We all need to be conscious of water pollution and make every effort at home or at work to reduce waste flows into our water sources.

 
Making Every Drop Count
Steph Rushton

For as long as humans have lived on earth, we have carelessly disposed our waste into rivers and oceans. Despite technological advancements, the last century has seen water pollution drastically increase as product ingredients and manufacturing processes become increasingly toxic.

According to the United Nations, by 2050, two-thirds of the world will face a shortage of clean water, making conserving and preventing water pollution a critical environmental issue.

Ecological building design is a pivotal opportunity to combat water pollution and provide water conservation solutions. Known as green buildings, they utilize innovations such as dual plumbing, grey water recycling, rain gardens and rain water harvesting to increase water quality and provide recycled clean water within their facilities. These innovations reduce water consumption and enable grey water to be cleaned and re-used rather than being expelled into waterways, a critical solution when such runoffs account for approximately 70% of water pollution.

Several countries have striking examples of ecological building designs with an emphasis on water quality and conservation. In Singapore for example, most buildings have systems that collect condensed water from air conditioning units to re-use in toilets. Green roofs and vertical gardens capture rainwater to reuse in the ventilation systems and restrooms, in addition to state-of-the-art grey water recycling systems. Singapore’s successful implementation of these sustainable practices has inspired water conscious architectural designs in Tianjin Eco-city, China, and Amaravati, India.
The ParkRoyal on Pickering hotel in Singapore
Photo: 贝莉儿 NG on Unsplash
You can make your building more water friendly and sustainable by:
  • Using less plastic – most plastic ends up in waterways, so provide biodegradable or reusable cups and utensils instead
  • Using biodegradable and natural cleaning materials
  • Inserting toilet tank bags into toilets to drastically reduce water use per flush
  • Installing roof rainwater tanks for an alternative source of fresh water
As the global population grows, challenges surrounding water pollution become more relevant. We live on a blue planet where water is an intricate part of our lives, so it's our responsibility to be conscious of how much of this precious resource we use and what we put back into it. As we continue to innovate and change the ways we interact with the planet, ecological building design is an excellent sustainable solution.
 
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Major News
60% of wildlife has been wiped out by humans since 1970, finds WWF

The WWF has found, in a new major report, that wildlife has declined 60% since 1970 due to human causes.
ESD Forum 2020
The ESD Forum 2020 is planned in Tokyo, from 03 to 14 August, alongside the 2020 Summer Olympics. ESD Forum focus is on Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development.
Water and Polluters Giants – The Impact of Ships to Sea and Oceans
Tatiane Santos Silva
 
Concern over water quality is a worldwide issue but only gains global attention when environmental disasters happen. Closely linked to concerns on our water quality, is the manner in which we dispose of our industrial and domestic waste. We have finally begun to recognize that we are putting our planet through continuous environmental degradation by carelessly dumping waste, much of which is transported through sewers to the sea, causing severe damage to marine life.
However, our seas face even greater enemies: the so-called polluting giants. Research indicates that pollutants emitted by ships account for 50% of the contaminants produced by all vehicles in the world, making them the biggest polluters of the air. Directly responsible for 2 to 3% of all polluting gases accumulated in the atmosphere and estimated to grow between 50% and 250% by 2050.
In 2017 it was estimated that there were more than 50,000 merchants ships worldwide, a number which increases annually. The environmental damage these ships cause is devasting. Ships engines emit gases such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, carbon monoxide and non-volatile organic compounds. These pollutants are directly linked to the greenhouse effect and consequently, global warming. Substances such as sulphur dioxide, one of the most dangerous pollutants, is present in acid rain, causing severe damage to animal and plant life. Measures taken to reduce sulphur emissions has resulted in some ships using controversial "clean fuels"; fuels that use a lot of oil in their composition. However, as ships discharge large amounts of fuel (oil) into oceans which either kills off marine species or forces them to mutate, there is no environmental benefit.
The damage caused by these polluting giants is not just limited to deep water areas but also to the coastal and port regions where the ships docks. Much of the waste discharged during voyages washes up onshore impacting damage to coastal marine life. Research indicates that sea turtles are the most affected species, as they must reach shore to lay their eggs.

It is time we recognized that there is an environmental disaster happening every day in our oceans and that we need to make sustainable changes to minimize the damages from these giant polluters.
A Surprising Source of Water Pollution
Patricia Repolda

When considering a primary cause of water pollution, you might immediately assume plastic or oil spillage. You would, however, be wrong. Rather, the most significant source of water pollution today for many countries is agriculture.

Earlier this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE), and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) released a joint publication entitled "More people, more food, worse water? A global review of water pollution from agriculture". Their findings are alarming.

Unsustainable agricultural practices produce large quantities of agrochemicals, drug residues, organic matter, sediments, and saline, all of which end up in streams, rivers and oceans. Pollution from the agriculture sector is compounded by municipal wastewater – with 80% released untreated to the environment.

Agricultural water pollutants have increased dramatically over the last 50 years. Research correlates this intensification to the increase in the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And while irrigation systems are an important element in improving agricultural productivity, they are also responsible for transporting these pollutants into our drinking water. Over the last twenty years, we have seen a new type of agricultural pollutants arising from veterinary medications including increased antibiotics, vaccines and hormonal growth promoters, which travel through water from farmlands and eventually ending up into our drinking water.

Farms, livestock operators, pesticide and fertilizer suppliers, governments, food suppliers and many other stakeholders need to come together to resolve water pollution. However, change can happen through the choices families and individuals make every day. Something as simple as reducing food waste helps, as nitrogen pollution from food waste (which also ends up in water) adds up to 6.3 teragrams of pollution to our water sources per year.

 
Endless Thrills vs. Nasty Spills
Sinéad Mangan
 
Taking a luxury cruise offers a world of adventure and thrills, but behind the glamour, there is a very dirty secret.

According to Friends of the Earth (FOE), cruise ships, depending on their size, generate up to an estimated one million gallons of greywater and 210000 gallons of human sewage on a one week voyage. Taking into account the growing list of exotic locations undertaken by cruises, it's clear that this waste is often dumped directly into some of the world's most beautiful but vulnerable ecosystems.
So what are these nasty spills?

Grey Water
The wastewater from showering, cleaning and laundry contains harmful chemicals and traces of metals and minerals. FOE estimate that up to one million gallons, or to put it into perspective, approximately 40 swimming pools, of greywater pollution can be deposited into the sea by just one ship on a week-long voyage.

Ballast Water
Ballast water taken onboard for stability can contain thousands of aquatic or marine microbes, plants and animals, which are then carried across the globe. Untreated ballast water released at the ship’s destination could potentially introduce a new invasive marine species sometimes with devastating consequences for the local ecosystem.

Black Water/Sewage
A somewhat more unpleasant spill which includes waste from the toilets and the health facilities. FOE estimate that during one week alone, a large cruise ships deposits 210000 gallons, equal to 10 backyard swimming pools, of sewage into the ocean, directly impacting marine life.

Air Pollution
The massive engines of the cruise ships emit toxic fumes continuously while a cruise is underway, leading to air pollution of immense proportions in oceanic areas. Some research has equated the soot released in just one day to an equivalent discharge from over one million cars in the same period.

Noise pollution
Noise pollution from the ship’s machinery and other onboard activities is another significant cause for concern. The noise levels have detrimental impacts on the sensitive hearing of marine mammals who rely on sound for survival, communication and hunting for food.

Oil Deposits
It is estimated that over 100 million gallons of petroleum based products seep into the oceans travelled by the cruise ships resulting in substantial scale threats for ocean plants and creatures.

It is only fair to note that cruise ships are only a fraction of the shipping industry; however, they are the most visible to the public and journey through some of the world's most beautiful but vulnerable ecosystems.

There is no evidence that the damage done by cruise ships is intentional; instead, it's a result of poor management, minimum accountability and a lack of comprehensive global legislation across all areas of cruise liners' waste disposal. To raise awareness and encourage the use of more environmentally friendly cruise liners, FOE developed a cruise liner report card across 19 cruise lines and their 171 ships. The report appointed grades between A to F across; sewage treatment, water quality, air pollution, and transparency. Shockingly, few companies earned the top scoring A in at least two of the categories, with the majority receiving mostly F's. These results indicate that there is much to be done to protect our marine ecosystem from a growing cruise liner industry.

 
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