In this project, the Global Community focuses on the importance of good environmental governance. We explore how global citizens, government managers, and business owners can foster better environmental decisions that meet the needs of both ecosystems and people with equity and balance.
The Global Community has previously defined what environmental governance means in everyday terms and how it relates to today's environmental trends and social conditions and assessed the state of environmental governance in nations around the world by conducting a systematic study of environmental governance indicators.
Better environmental governance is one of the most direct routes to reversing the world's environmental decline. Restoration of the planet, our home, requires everyone's cooperation.
In this project, the Global Community argues that better environmental governance is one of the most direct routes to fairer and more sustainable use of natural resources. Decisions made with greater participation and greater knowledge of natural systems can help reverse the loss of forests, the decline of soil fertility, and the pollution of air and water that reflect our past failures.
People consume goods and services for many reasons: to nourish, clothe, and shelter themselves. But we also consume as part of a community or social group.
Consumerism has made human development a time of opportunities for a healthy and good life, with adequate nutrition, employment, mobility, and education. Poverty is marked by a lack of consumption, and thus a lack of these opportunities. Bad consumption is the source of enormous wastes and can lead to serious pressure on ecosystems. Consumption harms ecosystems directly through overharvesting of animals or plants, mining of soil nutrients, or other forms of biological depletion.
We have destroyed many of our ecosystems through pollution and wastes from agriculture, industry, and energy use, and also through fragmentation by roads and other infrastructure that are part of the production and transportation networks that feed consumers.
Consumption of grains, meat, fish, and wood have increased substantially in the last four decades and will continue to increase as the global economy expands and world population grows. Plausible projections of consumer demand in the next few decades suggest a marked escalation of impacts on ecosystems.
World cereal consumption has more than doubled in the last 35 years, and meat consumption has tripled since 1960. Some 40 percent of the world's grain crop is used to feed livestock raised for meat. A crucial factor in the rise in grain production has been the more than fourfold increase in fertilizer use since 1960. By 2020, demand for cereals is expected to increase nearly 40 percent, and meat demand will surge nearly 60 percent.
The global fish catch has grown more than sixfold since 1950 to 122 million metric tons in 1997. Three-fourths of the global catch is consumed directly by humans as fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fish and shellfish. The remaining 25 percent are reduced to fish meal and oil, which is used for both livestock feed and fish feed in aquaculture. Demand for fish for direct consumption is expected to grow some 25 percent by 2015.
Consumption levels in wealthy nations are very different than those in middle-income and low-income nations. On average, someone living in a developed nation consumes twice as much grain, twice as much fish, three times as much meat, nine times as much paper, and eleven times as much gasoline as someone living in a developing nation.
Consumers in high-income countries—about 18 percent of the world's population—accounted for 80 percent of the money spent on private consumption in 1997 — $15 trillion of the $18 trillion total. By contrast, purchases by consumers in low-income nations—the poorest 35 percent of the world's population—represented less than 2 percent of all private consumption. The money spent on private consumption worldwide (all goods and services consumed by individuals except real estate) nearly tripled between 1980 and 1997.
Global wood consumption has increased 71 percent since 1961. More than half of the 4 billion cubic meters of wood consumed annually is burned for fuel; the rest is used in construction and for paper and a variety of other wood products. Demand for lumber and pulp is expected to rise between 20 and 50 percent by 2015. Forest plantations produce 26 percent of all lumber, pulp, and other industrial wood; old-growth and secondary-growth forests provide the rest.
The chief use of the world’s wood is not as building materials or paper, but as fuel. It is a pattern both ancient and modern, and one that is not likely to change in the next several decades. Today, hundreds of millions of people remain completely reliant upon wood for energy and can’t anticipate any rapid transition to other energy sources. In fact, woodfuels are the world’s most important form of nonfossil energy.
Of the 4.6 billion cubic meters (m³) of wood harvested in 1996, close to half—some 2.0 billion m³—are burned for cooking or to provide heat, or are used to make charcoal for later burning. Other wood products also end up being burned for fuel. Commercial wood residues—chips, sawdust, and even the "black liquor" that is a by-product of pulp and paper making—are often fuel sources for commercial energy plants and individuals. Energy plants may also burn used packaging, discarded construction lumber, and paper wastes. About 65 percent of all wood harvested is burned as fuel.
Low-income nations depend most heavily on wood for fuel. Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria account for about half the firewood and charcoal produced and consumed each year.
Wood is the most important of several biomass fuels that also include crop residues and animal dung. Biomass provides roughly 32 percent of the total energy supply in developing countries, and wood accounts for more than half of this—about 18 percent of the energy supply in the developing world. However, in many individual nations, dependence on wood is much higher. Nepal in Asia, and Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania in Sub-Saharan Africa, woodfuels provide 80 percent or more of total energy requirements.
In most industrial nations, wood energy contributes only about 6 percent of total energy supply. There are exceptions: wood energy accounts for more than 16 percent of total energy supply in Sweden and Finland, and 14 to 20 percent in some Central and East European countries.
Woodfuel consumption rose by nearly 82 percent between 1960 and 1999, slightly trailing world population growth of 94 percent over the period. The largest increases in woodfuel consumption were reported in Asia and Africa.
Demand for fuelwood and charcoal is driven primarily by growing numbers of rural poor, who depend on wood for their cooking and heating needs. Charcoal, often consumed in the form of briquettes, is also an important fuel among the urban poor, whose numbers are expanding rapidly. Charcoal is also an industrial energy source in some Latin American countries. The steel industry in Brazil, for example, depends heavily on charcoal.
Economic growth might be expected to reduce demand for wood and other biomass in coming years. The conventional view is that, as incomes rise, countries shift toward the use of commercial fuels, such as kerosene, natural gas, and other fossil fuels, and reduce their dependence on biomass. Yet trends to date suggest otherwise: it appears that, even with economic development, woodfuel use will not necessarily decline significantly.
In recent decades, economic growth in the developing world has indeed caused fossil fuel use to increase, and the relative share of energy consumption accounted for by biomass has declined. But the actual quantity of biomass consumed has continued to grow. Biomass consumption in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam grew by nearly 3 percent annually between 1983 and 1996, when these countries’ economies were growing strongly. In many developing countries, fossil fuels are simply added to the energy mix, not substituted for woodfuels.
Projections of global woodfuel consumption in 2015 range from 2.1 billion m³ (a decrease of 17 percent from 1998 levels) to 5.0 billion m³ (an increase of 140 percent).
Rising demand for fuelwood and charcoal is the cause of deforestation around many cities, towns, and roads. Anecdotal evidence exists of closed forests being affected, notably in India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
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