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Our natural environment is a key component of our health and wealth. However, our recent assessments show that the majority of habitats and species in Europe have an unfavourable conservation status despite significant improvements for many species in recent years.
Europe produces large amounts of waste. How does Europe manage its waste? Is it a problem or a resource? We asked these questions to Almut Reichel who works on waste and sustainable consumption issues at the European Environment Agency.
Many developing country economies are centred on exploiting natural resources to lift their populations out of poverty, potentially damaging the natural systems they depend on. Short-term solutions often undermine the population’s well-being in the long-term. Can governments help the markets set the ‘right’ price for nature’s services and influence economic choices? Here is a closer look at what water use in cotton production means for Burkina Faso.
Around one third of the food produced globally is lost or wasted. When more than one billion people around the world go to bed feeling hungry, it is impossible not to ask what can be done. But food waste is not only a missed opportunity to feed the hungry. It also represents a substantial loss of other resources such as land, water, energy - and labour.
Almost everything we consume and produce has an impact on our environment. When faced with daily choices to buy certain goods or services, we often do not think about their ‘footprints’ on the environment. Their shelf prices hardly ever reflect their true costs. But there are many things we can do to green our consumption and production.
Bisie is the biggest mine in the area. It is located approximately 90 kilometres inside dense forest and reaches 100 metres underground. The mines are often little more than a hole in the ground. Dozens of men and boys crowd each mine and conditions are atrocious.
'…the sheer weight of the combined aspirations and lifestyles of 500 million Europeans is just too great. Never mind the legitimate desires of many other billions on our planet to share those lifestyles.... We will need to change the behaviour of European consumers. To work on people's awareness and to influence their habits.' Janez Potočnik, European Union Commissioner for Environment (March 2010).
Key message: A major reason why consumption negatively affects the environment and causes over-use of resources is because the costs to society of environmental and resource degradation are not fully reflected in the prices of goods and services. Many goods are cheap even though they harm the environment, ecosystems or human health. (SOER 2010)
Of the 8.2 billion tonnes of materials consumed in EU-27 Member States in 2007, minerals accounted for 52 %, fossil fuels for 23 %, biomass for 21 % and metals for 4 % (SOER 2010)
In May 2008 a helicopter flew over unexplored parts of the Amazon in Acre State in Brazil, near the country’s border with Peru. Onboard were officials from Funai, the Brazilian government's Indian affairs department, on a mission to prove the existence of unknown Amazonian tribes who have never been in contact with the outside world. The few aerial pictures Funai has released show startled and intrigued people and their huts but do not reveal any landmarks which could be used to identify the exact location.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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