These words were symbolically written on the Planet Earth Day, so it was a good moment to remind that humans today, as never before, endangers the nature and survival of the planet Earth. Nature has provided humans with all the conditions for the course of life. For a long time, nature controlled us, who had to live in accordance with what the wilderness offered him. However, harmony disappears the moment humans become aware that they can control nature. Since then, it did not take long for the human kind to forget that they share this planet with other living organisms. Today, we live in an age of very disturbed ecological balance, in which humans have arbitrarily taken over the role of ruler over nature and in which pollution reigns on every corner.
Excessive use of natural resources and fossil fuels has enabled the development of human society. However, nature largely delivers the bills for centuries of exploitation. Therefore, the 21st century is an age in which we will have to resolutely start solving the accumulated problems, such as polluted environment and climate change. A few years ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “We may be the first generation to stop poverty, but the last to address climate change before it’s too late.” In other words, the decisive fight against pollution and climate change through finding concrete solutions to provide sufficient resources and clean energy must begin without delay.
The average temperature is one degree higher than at the beginning of the last century. Pollution of water, air and soil and emissions of harmful gases into the atmosphere occur every day at every point on the planet. Mass production in the capitalism, stimulated by the imperative of constant growth with the promotion of intensive consumerism, results in the exploitation of resources and insatiable energy consumption. Every movement or activity of ours requires the consumption of non-renewable resources and energy, so the system is doomed to self-destruction. Also, in addition to the use of resources and energy, production processes and other human activities emit harmful gases that accelerate climate change, which in the coming period may pose to humanity some of the greatest challenges that our species has faced so far.
Israeli historian Juval Noah Harari points out that the biggest challenges for civilization in the 21st century are nuclear wars, uncontrolled advances in technology and climate change. In order to adequately address and eventually address these issues, Harari suggests that politicians should be asked the following four questions before the election: What will you do to reduce the risk of nuclear wars? What will you do to regulate the rapid advancement of technology such as artificial intelligence and bioengineering? What will you do to reduce the risk of climate change? Finally, how do you see the world in 2040 and what do you think are the worst and best scenarios? If your potential candidate does not understand what you are asking him or cannot formulate a clear answer to these questions, then he, according to Harari, is not the person who deserved your choice.
The challenges and questions that Harari asks are difficult to look at separately. We can connect them all with one common thread, and that is the normal and productive functioning of life on earth. The use of nuclear weapons can have irreversible and long-term consequences for the life and functioning of ecosystems. Nuclear weapons destroy ecosystems, destroy the long-term development potential of the living world, not only in the territory in which it is used, but also much wider. Furthermore, the use of artificial intelligence through powerful information technologies requires the use of large amounts of energy and resources to process and maintain large databases, while bionengineering can have consequences for organisms whose shape and intensity cannot be fully understood at this time. So, if we summarize these three challenges, we can ask one common question, and that is how to reduce the risk of complete collapse of all ecosystems on earth. If we had the opportunity to advise a future leader on how to answer this question, what would we tell him?
Of course, this would not be an easy task at all, because there are no individual and simple solutions to complex challenges. The most important thing in this century is that everyone must be involved in the fight for a cleaner environment and sustainable development of the planet. In other words, everyone must be part of the solution, not the pollution
What does it mean to be part of a solution? It is certainly necessary to encourage action through several initiatives at the same time. First of all, they are education and raising awareness, then defining and implementing a comprehensive legal framework, as well as encouraging local organizations and activities. In addition, encouraging the use of renewable energy sources and conserving energy and resources and stimulating regional cooperation, innovation and the provision of financial support are crucial to ensuring a sustainable life in the future.
Being part of the solution means encouraging education and raising awareness. Raising the level of knowledge is crucial for long-term solutions for sustainable development. In order for people to get a broader picture and understand this challenge, it is extremely important that at all levels in society there is a mechanism through which people will be informed and educated about the environment. To achieve this, children need to be educated from a very early age in the direction of environmental protection, and the education system must include environmental topics in all programs in primary and secondary schools and colleges. In order to achieve results, environmental protection and the fight against climate change are areas that everyone must be aware of in the 21st century. It is especially important to encourage the scientific community to research the topic of environmental protection and to transfer its knowledge in the most accessible way to the general public. This topic, perhaps like no other, requires to be brought closer to all parts of society, because only joint action supported by knowledge can yield results.
Being part of the solution means defining and implementing a comprehensive legal framework. Due to the complexity and the need for a holistic approach to the problem, with the participation of each individual, environmental protection must be implemented with a cleverly designed and integrated legal framework. This framework must stimulate the economical use of clean energy and the reduction of pollution by hazardous substances and harmful gases. However, in order for the laws not to remain a “dead letter on paper”, it is necessary to apply them literally, to monitor and punish those who do not comply with the law. In addition, in order to preserve the environment, it is necessary to improve laws and apply good practices of developed countries. In this sense, the laws that regulate the management and recycling of waste, and especially plastic waste, which today represents one of the greatest threats to the environment, are especially important. It is necessary to abolish the use of disposable plastic that poisons the earth and water. The legal framework must prescribe the obligation to recycle or reuse a large part of waste plastics and other materials.
Being part of the solution means encouraging local organizations and their activities. In addition to education and the legal framework, it is necessary to carry out local actions in the fight for a cleaner environment. The environment is divided into a large number of parts that can consist of different cities, regions, neighborhoods, streets, etc. Each of these parts of the environment is specific and requires an individual approach. Laws may prescribe general requirements, but it is up to each of the local communities to encourage the resolution of specific local environmental problems. They must be a corrective factor for any potential polluter and should constantly monitor and encourage the progress of local ecosystems. Also, local organizations should have constant communication with lawmakers and thus enable continuous progress of regulations in favor of environmental protection.
Being part of the solution means encouraging the use of renewable energy sources and saving energy and resources. Today, only a third of electricity is obtained from renewable energy sources on a global level, and the obtained energy is not used in a rational way. In order to produce most of the required electrical energy, fossil fuels are burned and thus emit greenhouse gases. On the other hand, nature gives us the opportunity to use renewable energy from the sun, wind, biomass, water and geothermal sources. Their use today is becoming more efficient and economically viable than ever before, and in this century it is necessary to build maximum capacity for energy production from renewable sources. In addition, the development of energy storage technology needs to be promoted. By storing excess energy, accumulation can be provided for the period when that energy is most needed. Finally, it is necessary to abandon the linear model of the economy in which resources are exploited, and products are used for a short time and end up in waste. Instead, it is necessary to move to a circular model of economy in which each resource is used wisely through the design of products that can be used over a longer period and which will again at the end of its life again represent input for energy production or products.
Being part of the solution means encouraging regional cooperation. Harmful substances and emitted gases do not stop at the border of one country. Environmental problems in a region or country can by no means be a problem of that region or country alone, because these problems know no borders. If in our country, in the ideal scenario, all possible measures of environmental protection are applied, and the same measures are not applied in the neighboring countries, it means that in the end we will not be completely safe. Therefore, it is necessary to work on regional and international cooperation, especially in the field of air and water protection. Special attention should be paid to the revitalization and modernization of obsolete industries and wastewater treatment.
Being part of the solution means stimulating innovation. New challenges require new solutions. It is in this space that innovative ideas stand between challenges and solutions. Although the predicted consequences of climate change may sound apocalyptic, it also leaves room for great innovation and adaptation to changed living conditions. Therefore, now is the time to stimulate research in the field of innovation that can help use energy in a smarter way, not to use materials that cannot be reused or recycled, and to improve many industrial processes that lead to harmful by-products, waste and gases that cause the greenhouse effect and warming of the planet. Innovation in the 21st century will be particularly important in the fields of environmental policy, energy efficiency, waste management, product design and behavior models for producers and consumers.
Being part of the solution means providing financial support for environmental protection and cleaner production. Pollution prevention and management requires significant financial support. Accumulated pollution problems require a lot of money in particular. Therefore, it is necessary to provide a stimulating framework that will give priority to investments that reduce the negative impact on the environment. It is especially important to determine funding priorities, such as e.g. in our country waste and wastewater management. Also, a special focus needs to be placed on funding innovative solutions and projects, as well as scientific research and raising awareness of environmental challenges.
All in all, protecting the environment and combating climate change requires the joint initiative and action of each individual. Pollution of water, soil and air, as well as climate change, leave irreversible consequences for the life and health of all living beings on our planet. Therefore, this century will be a crucial time to come to the fore with the mentioned challenges. Joint action by individuals, the state and the business sector can reduce the negative impact on the environment only if education, local organizations and regional cooperation are encouraged. Next, it is necessary to define and implement a comprehensive legal framework and encourage innovation, energy and resource efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. Finally, it is necessary to provide significant financial support. The only solution is to implement all these initiatives simultaneously and without delay. And to finish with the words of the former Secretary General of the United Nations: “There is no plan” B “, because we do not have a planet” B “. We have to work and initiate action.”