The theme of the 2018 World Environment Day (5 June 2018) was Beat Plastic Pollution. Plastic pollution is indeed a serious problem, severely affecting animals, humans, and ecosystems. Removal of the pollutants that are already in the environment is exceedingly difficult, so in this blog post for Justice Everywhere, I try to address the question as to how we can avoid plastic and other pollutants entering the environment in the first place?
Three variables determine environmental impact: Population, Affluence, and Technology. It is appealing to focus on only one of these variables and expect an easy-fix solution, but we should really address all three factors simultaneously.
There is not one panacea, because there are some physical, social, and ethical limits to the extent to which we can reduce the impact of each factor. Moreover, on all three dimensions, we can already take small actions, which combined already significantly reduce humanity's environmental impact. We would also have to take the three factors into account because there are some interactions between them that we should monitor.
Finally, there are a lot of ethical issues involved, such as the relation between individual actions and political institutions, gender justice, power relationships between rich and poor, and the traditional (but arbitrary and artificial) separation between private and public sphere. These issues cannot be avoided if we focus on one factor only. An integral approach is likely to do better in this respect.
The original post for Justice Everywhere can be read here.