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In 2013, Boyan Slat began to question the large volumes of plastic accumulating in our oceans and why no one was doing anything to clean it up. At 16 years old, he began research into potential solutions to effectively recover and remove it

Population, sustainability and the green economy

There are 7 billion people on planet Earth and we talk about the “green economy” and a “sustainable future”. Just in how much trouble are we in?

Basically, we don’t have a choice – we have to do something different. We talk about 7 billion people, but what we don’t realize is that there is something called the rule of 70, which is the multiplier impact. The global population is increasing at 1% per annum, which means in 70 years’ time, we are going to double in size to 14 billion people. We are talking about people who are consuming more and more, and who have aspirations to be middle class.

Also, our current paradigm, which we’ve had since the beginning of the industrial revolution, has been a linear industrial paradigm, meaning we extract-process-consume-get rid of the rubbish into a landfill. This is unsustainable because natural resources are limited, and the earth has a limited capacity to process our pollution and waste. We need a circular or closed-loop paradigm that cycles rather than dumps resources.

There is also so much emphasis at the moment on global warming and climate change. We must understand that human activity has caused at least nine massive issues – planetary boundaries, as we call them – and global warming is just one. We have actually changed this planet almost irreparably through global warming, biodiversity loss and damaging the nitrogen cycle, so already for three out of the nine planetary boundaries we’ve passed the point of no return.

So the short answer to the question is that we HAVE to do things differently, because we are in serious trouble.

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