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SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production - An Essay on Advocacy

Planet earth and its inhabitants are no strangers to misfortune. Every year, thousands are exposed to catastrophic natural disasters, devastating conflicts, and perilous living conditions. Nonetheless, humankind has found ways to rise above these tragedies and continue being humans—at the cost of the earth’s health. The United Nations, an organization tasked with keeping peace in this tumultuous world, established a set of sustainable development goals to improve the quality of life for all humans, while defending the world they depend on. The current SDG budget cut is truly unfortunate for humanity, although it is also an opportunity to evaluate which issues are worthy of attention. Most people do not consider irresponsible consumption and production of resources to be unusually dire, but this unsustainable practice is secretly sabotaging the environment. It masquerades behind the mask of irrelevance, pretending to be unworthy of both humanity’s acknowledgment and ire. However, irresponsible consumption is a serious issue, and it will continue to be, as long as the world is still exhausting natural resource supplies. Humanity’s callous nature will not only drive these resources towards depletion, but it will hasten global warming and negatively impact numerous ecosystems. Even worse, those who are aware of humanity’s irresponsibility decide to ignore it in favor of convenience and comfort. It is vital that SDG #12, responsible consumption and production, remains in the SDG budget due to its importance for a healthy environment, humanity’s continuing existence, and the progress of other SDGs.

Preserving the health of the environment is essential now, more than ever. Natural resources are one element of the environment that humans simply cannot live without; goal 12 encourages humankind to be kinder to the environment, whilst operating—and thriving—off fewer resources. Humanity’s dependence on natural resources has only increased in the past 100 years, especially for nonrenewable resources like fossil fuels. Humanity is consuming such resources at an alarmingly rapid rate. Statistics explain how the “demand for oil rose by 1.3% - which is almost double the average annual rate seen over the 10 years prior… it’s estimated that our known oil deposits will be gone by 2052” (Howarth 1). Even as discouraging as the evidence may seem, it proves that mindful consumption is a necessity to counteract the rate at which humans are draining oil deposits. For such an essential resource in the lives of billions, the reckless way humans regard and consume oil must be altered. Alas, it is not merely the impending depletion of oil that humans should be worried about. Oil’s inherently harmful effects, coupled with the mass amounts that are being consumed, are devastating the environment. Oil pollution is notoriously stubborn to eliminate; its greasy tendrils leave lasting effects on wildlife, ecosystems, and communities. If even one species becomes endangered by oil pollution, the rest of the ecosystem is thrown into a struggle to adapt. Therefore, the responsible consumption and handling of natural resources remain necessary for nature’s health. The Joint SDG Fund also notes how the food production sector “accounts for around 30 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption and accounts for around 22 per cent of total Greenhouse Gas emissions” (Joint SDG Fund 1). The evidence above indicates that food production directly impacts energy consumption. Sustainable methods of producing meals can lessen irresponsible waste generated in the food production process. To be specific, the resources used for energy in food production emit environmentally damaging gasses that are gradually warming the climate. Global warming has already resulted in rising sea levels, extreme weather patterns, and the displacement of many animals. The environment is being severely overwhelmed by humanity’s poor habits. If food is consumed responsibly, it decreases the demand for staggering food production and reduces greenhouse gas emissions produced by unsustainable energy sources. Given that reasoning, goal 12’s importance among the other SDGs is evident, for it is imperative for protecting humanity’s beloved planet earth.

Moreover, sustainable efforts are needed to guarantee the world can continue to cater to the growing human population. SDG 12 concentrates on how humans can reverse their damage on their environment and subsequently extend their existences. One way to be a proactive protector of humanity is to recycle; this practice “saves non-renewable resources. For example, by not recycling paper, 80% more wood will need to be harvested by 2010 to meet growing paper consumption demands. However, through active paper recycling, only 20% more wood will need to be harvested by 2010” (Benefits of Recycling 1). As proven, recycling has a plethora of benefits for the environment, such as conserving natural resources that are frequently wasted. This “menial task” is necessary to safeguard the precious natural resources needed by future generations. For instance, humans rely on trees for construction and providing ample oxygen for all living life. Trees basically make up the foundation of human life. When considering their importance to humanity, it seems imprudent to squander these precious resources on paper, especially when there are greener alternatives for this simple material. The very least humans can do to conserve trees and prevent deforestation is to do as SDG 12 urges: recycle. Even with sustainable practices like recycling becoming more widespread, the ever-growing human population is a noticeable reminder of all the work that must be done. According to recent estimates, “[t]he global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050. The equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles” (Joint SDG Fund 1). The numbers suggest the earth cannot naturally sustain humanity in a few decades. Even now, “[l]and degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing and marine environment degradation are [already] lessening the ability of the natural resource base to supply food” (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations 1). Earth’s inability to yield food threatens the survival of humanity, for every being on the food chain relies on the earth for food. For humans, soil fertility is essential for agriculture, and those same crops need fresh water for sustenance. All of these fundamental resources—air, water, and soil—can only be offered by Mother Nature. Every creature large and small indirectly relies on similar resources; the food chain is a delicate balance of life bound only by the earth’s generosity. If the earth cannot provide those resources, it seems as if the existence of humans and their precious home planet are confronting an urgent, genuine, and grave issue. Nevertheless, this harsh, looming reality humankind has put itself in is reversible by lessening the worldwide per capita consumption. Some may point out that those living in underdeveloped countries cannot even access necessities like food, let alone live sustainably. Indeed, the consumption