This year’s Earth Day theme is ‘Restore Our Earth’, which basically covers everything under the sun, and suggests we humans have been doing this ‘living on planet earth’ thing all wrong.
Until recently many of our fellow humans didn’t even believe there was a problem. Today many still deny environmental degradation is linked to human activity, making the entire idea of needing to ‘restore’ our earth just a bit of challenge. But regardless of where you sit on this issue there are certain human and economic activities that can’t be denied since they show up in plain sight. Case in point plastic pollution.
Portugal is particularly sensitive to plastic pollution because it needs not only to worry about plastics on land, but in our marine environments, and 1,794 km of coastline. A good size area and awesome responsibility for a small country to protect – precious organisms, species, resources and of course human health that are all interdependent.
Something as small as a cigarette butt for example, can seem irrelevant but in reality it’s loaded with toxins and can take five years or more to fully degrade. A tea bag isn’t just tea, the bag is a packet made from plastic microfibers similar to those in a cigarette filter. When waste even as small as this isn’t properly disposed and makes its way into the ocean it can have drastic effects on marine ecosystems; coral, fish and eventually – you – when you consume what comes out of the ocean. And just one of these would hardly make an impact, but waste is going into oceans and land en masse. The same type of pollutants that affect oceans cause similar havoc on land by infiltrating the earth crust, fresh water systems and again back to you through consumption of vegetation, meats, dairy, and anything consumed. So no one is spared.
Understanding the potential risks associated with land, ocean and air pollution, Portugal has taken a strong position on environmental protection and sustainability. Committing to decarbonising through alignment with the 5ps of the UN’s sustainable development goals – People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.
Why should you care? If you’re looking to live or invest in a property in Portugal this will impact your life and investment. Firstly, you’re not just buying property, you’re making an investment where leaders are actively working to protect valuable resources like physical assets, aka your property, the environment around it and betterment of national living standards. And in making these changes create a positive feedback loop that safeguards human health – you – and your loved ones. By also committing to an economic green future, the value of your investment in the future is also better assured.
Why aren’t more countries doing this? It would of course be helpful if most of our 8 billion fellow humans roaming the earth, and contributing to these issues, agreed to a solution, but consensus has proven difficult. Business and political interests are also at play, so there are no easy answers, and a rabbit hole too complex for this post. You can however get involved, learn more and follow negotiations – here.
Eco neighbourliness plays a large part of sustainably also, because each country/state can makes their own rules and these may not align with those of a nearby country. A recent report on plastic pollution collected in Portugal – identified a large percent of it originated from neighbouring countries. This can happen due to ocean currents or more sinister methods such as waste dumping. Tourism can add to the pollution problem as well. So regardless of how disciplined one country may be, if our neighbours and visitors don’t share the same principles and practices, sustainability becomes a hard problem to solve. More so if there are no consequences for those who pollute.
Improving on all of this can sometimes feel futile. Especially if some of our fellow humans are still in denial of human impacts. Strangely the pandemic brought about some interesting insight, “Pandemic restrictions reduced global nitrogen dioxide concentrations by nearly 20%’, reported Nasa. Other similar environmental benefits were also found.
The evidence is getting hard to refute and admitting human activity is contributing to an unhealthy planet may be a bitter pill to swallow for some, because it means change and discipline are needed, and change is liked by few. The good news is our planet seems somewhat forgiving. If we badly behaved humans learn from our unhealthy activity and change our ways, we’ll be rewarded with the positive benefits our planet was always intended to provide.
Breathing clean air, eating good food, enjoying healthy lives with our families for many years, in healthy homes and enjoying beautiful wonders like stunning beaches seem like a good trade offs. Now if we could find a way to agree.
Portugal has made the committed and is seeing the benefits, and active engagement from citizens and businesses is growing. We hope our neighbours, near and far, visitors, and you reading this share in idea – a healthy environment and lifestyle – is in everyones best interest and secures our futures and investments.
Below we’ve included Portugal’s 5P commitment list for sustainability, as well as some everyday practical inspirations for a healthy environment and lifestyle. We also invite you to explore sustainable living projects happening in Portugal, if you’re looking to live in a healthier and more sustainable environment.
Portugal's 5P UN Sustainable Development Goals
- People – determination to end poverty and hunger, in all forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment;
- Prosperity – ensures all humans can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature;
- Planet – strengthens the conviction that the planet needs to be protected from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations;
- Peace – emphasises the determination to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence, while recalling that there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development;
- Partnership – to mobilise the means required to implement the 2030 Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people, leaving no one behind.