Canadian Packaging

Mother Nature’s Fury a Painful Payback for Our Environmental Neglect

George Guidoni   

To say that we live in interesting times is to utter the understatement of the century, so far at least. Unfortunately, the word “interesting” does not necessarily mean positive or beneficial.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Never before have the “once in 100 years” and “once in 1,000 years” natural disasters—from devastating forest fires to scorching heat and epic floods—have been recorded in such a short time frame. It’s as if Mother Nature has gone on a major counteroffensive to punish mankind for decades of continuous environmental abuse and degradation with lethal ferocity and a staggering body count.

With last month going down as the hottest month ever recorded on the planet, and 2023 already predicted to end up as the hottest-ever year since records on such things have been kept, the link between human economic activity and sweeping climate change has never been as painfully obvious as it is today for most right-thinking people.

For a world still coming to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic fallout and the brutal reality of modern trench warfare raging in Eastern Europe, the resulting “perma-crisis” is fast morphing into an existential threat to humanity’s survival.

And while acknowledging the threat is a welcome first step to addressing it, it still seems like the world is quickly running out of time to reverse the disastrous natural catastrophes unleashed by the planetary global warming.

For all the recent advances in renewable energy and vehicle electrification in the transportation industry, the rush to reduce the volume of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in time to prevent or prolong the arrival of the dreaded tipping point for getting climate change under control has the ominous look and feel of as doomed last resort that is both too little and too late.

Which does not mean that we should give up trying. For those old enough to remember the once-dreaded disaster scenarios related to the infamous “acid rain” and “ozone hole” man-made calamities in the late 20th Century, mankind’s ability to shied itself from the worst with continuous technological and scientific innovation offers some beacon of hope that it can conceivably get through its current predicament, just.

The noxious convergence of a fast-growing global population and the accelerated disappearance of livable living space across the globe suggests that as bad as things are now, they’re about to get much worse still in the not-too-distant future.

Which is why the time for time for action, rather than continuous lip service sloganeering and consensus-building, is long past overdue.

And while it would be sheer folly to blame the global packaging industry as a main culprit behind the environmental dire straits we find ourselves in, the introduction of some sort of workable EPR (extended producer responsibility) schemes throughout the industrialized world should be an urgent priority for all countries eager to preserve their existing social order and standards of living.

As a new report from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, points out, “Sustainability continues to be a key theme within packaging and processing, as national and regional governments pass more legislation mandating companies reduce the impact their packaging has on the environment.

“Increasingly, in addition to meeting their statutory requirements, companies are also putting in place their own strategies and committing to making their operations and packaging more sustainable.”

For all that, it seems painfully clear that for some packaging-related ills plaguing the earth’s natural order of things—ocean plastic waste, microplastics pollution and the ‘forever chemicals’ impact, to name a few—damage limitation and mitigation may now well be that best outcome we could realistically hope for.

But in a world quickly going full-on FUBAR right before our eyes, the price of continuous inaction and neglect is the price none of us can afford to pay.

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