How GlobalWA Members Teach Responsible Use of Natural Wealth

An abundance of natural resources on this planet has led to the unabashed expansion of civilization at an unprecedented rate, but we have reached a precipice of consumption that cannot be ignored. Sustainable Development Goal 12 outlines how a society can produce and consume resources responsibly, without causing harm. The goal is critical, for the world’s largest and most necessary industries are inexorably tied to the earth’s natural wealth.

Resource protection, equitable distribution, and responsible consumption are cornerstones of the Monterey Framework, a precedent of environmental and social consciousness that underlines the far-reaching detrimental impact of the fishing industry. Human rights transgressions, unethical business practices, and the loss of access to critical resources are some of the rampant crises that initiatives like the Monterey Framework aim to address. In that mission, the world’s seafood sector is an exemplar of a movement to respect indigenous fishers and increased demand for sustainability standards for natural capital.

The Crisis of Finite Systems

Natural resources are under the strain of depletion, exacerbated by rampant climate change, accelerated by unsustainable practices. The concept of natural capital explores how these environmental resources are crucial for socioeconomic systems that sustain global industries, commerce, and agriculture. Fertile soil, diverse marine ecosystems, and teeming forests are the groundwork for some of the world’s largest industries, both within and beyond borders.

The cumulative goods and services traded in the marine sector, for instance, was valued at 2.5 trillion USD per year – roughly 3% of the global GDP – in 2020.

Unsustainable practices highlight the finite nature of these assets: research shows that natural resources tend to be overused for short-term economic prosperity, rather than be preserved and consumed sustainably. With the example of the agriculture sector alone, a simulation by the UN WCMC revealed several impact drivers that generate heavy footprints on some of the world’s most vital resources: habitat modification of freshwater systems to produce cropland, the expansion of existing arable land through further modifications like deforestation, and unregulated water usage for irrigation leading to significant depletion of water resources.

Without frameworks to implement sustainable practice standards, these ecosystems are poised to crumble under the weight of rapidly developing sectors.

A Grassroots Approach

Smaller-scale rural farming enterprises, still suffer from the fallout of unsustainable practices, lack of access to resources and knowledge, and increasingly limited financial relief. The solution, as GlobalWA members demonstrate in their work, may be formalization: to encourage rural communities to organize and legitimize themselves as recognizable associations, so they may receive training in sustainable practices, be properly licensed, have access to financial resources, and mitigate risk for potential investors. To that end, NGOs across multiple sectors have employed innovative systems to rehabilitate unsustainable resource production, starting from assisting individual farmers to facilitating multi-sector coordination of capital and goods.

Read the full article about sustainability by Aneesh Chatterjee at Global Washington.