Disruptive changes to the natural environment resulting from the climate crisis are causing fundamental shifts in behavior and raising greater concerns about the future health of the planet and global population. Whether it’s sea-level rise, droughts, wildfires, or increasing frequency of extreme weather events, every part of the world has been impacted and forced to confront the implications to current and future generations. The importance of clean air, water and food are obvious, but what sets regions apart are the investments they make to secure these needs now and in the future.
Clean air initiatives. Clean air is increasingly a global concern. For example, 99% of cities in the WHO South-East Asia region are exposed to pollution levels that exceed WHO guidelines.157 In 2019, the United Nations, World Health Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, and Climate and Clean Air Coalition jointly announced the “Clean Air Initiative” to combat the 7 million premature deaths per year caused by air pollution.158 Similar initiatives on a national level have led to marked decreases in targeted compounds in the air.
Water stress. Climate change continues to contribute to precipitation change, which is causing ever more extreme weather events and droughts across the globe. This is leading to challenges in the agricultural sector as farmers struggle to deal with the new normal for their climates, the manufacturing sector as it adapts to water stress near facilities, and the ramifications from increasing demand and decreasing supply of clean water for communities across the globe.
Antibiotic concerns. Increasingly consumers and health experts are focused on the downstream effects of heavy antibiotic usage. Concern is mounting over antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” for which we have no defense. A specific area of concern is meat production, which uses 70% of the antibiotics produced.159 In many cases for growth promotion, not disease treatment. Concern for animal, human and planet health is causing a shift towards more plant-based food, regenerative agriculture and alternative protein products.
As consumers become increasingly educated about clean air and water, more companies will provide solutions for customers, and more governments will enact legislation to protect their citizens. With many air pollutants linked to overall climate change, steps to mitigate those pollutants will improve air quality. In the meantime, consumers and governments will focus on purification (mechanical or through increased green spaces). In the U.S., recent rollbacks of environmental protections have occurred, but in the long run, measures are expected to increase, slowing the pollution of air and water where enacted. The trend toward “clean” foods will continue as new studies emerge and consumers become more conscious of their choices. Additionally, environmental impacts of business operations, be they from pesticides from conventional farm practices, solvents from dry cleaners or a variety of chemicals from manufacturing, will become more widely publicized and will become further regulated and prompt more aggressive mitigation.