40. People around the world are becoming increasingly sensitive to environmental issues as the consequences of neglect, indifference, and ignorance become ever more apparent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3 million people die each year from the effects of air pollution, about 5 percent of the total deaths. In the United States, an estimated 64,000 people a year die of cardiopulmonary disease caused by breathing particulates. In sub-Saharan Africa, the toll is between 300,000 and 500,000 deaths per year. Pollution-related respiratory diseases kill about 1.4 million people yearly in China and Southeast Asia. And contaminated water is implicated in 80 percent of the world’s health problems, according to WHO. An estimated 40,000 people around the world die each day of diseases directly caused by contaminated water, more than 14 million per year.
Though some debate remains about the cause, the fact of global warming has become undeniable. At Palmer Station on Anvers Island, Antarctica, the average annual temperature has risen by 3 to 4 degrees since the 1940s, and by an amazing 7 to 9 degrees in June—early winter in that hemisphere.
Anticipating a three-foot rise in sea levels, the Netherlands is spending $1 billion to build new dikes.
Assessment: A solid majority of voters throughout the developed world, and even some in the developing lands, now recognize the need to clean up the environment, and especially to control greenhouse warming. They will keep this trend intact for at least the next 30 years.
Implications: Throughout most of the world, polluters and private beneficiaries of public assets will increasingly confront restrictive regulations designed to serve the interests of the community at large.
CO2 will remain a problem for many years to come. If air pollution were halted instantly, it would take an estimated 200 years for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to return to pre-industrial levels.
Impurities in water will become an even greater problem as the population of the developed countries ages and becomes more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Recent analyses say there is a 90 percent chance that the planet’s average annual temperature will rise between 3 and 9 degrees Centigrade over the next century. This will cause severe dislocations both for plant and animal populations and for many human activities.
Environmental policies will provoke a political backlash wherever they conflict with entrenched interests, as they have long done in the American West.
Implications for Hospitality and Travel: Hospitality operators throughout most of the world can expect many more legal mandates for cleaner facilities and practices.
Once the airline industry’s current economic problems have been survived, aviation will face more demands to reduce emissions linked to global warming.
In the long run, incentives for “green” practices will take some of the financial pain out of making the necessary changes. So will long-term savings on energy, waste disposal, and expendables.
Eco-friendly travel will continue to be one of the fastest growing segments of the industry for the next 15 years. After that, it will simply be the way things are done.
41. Water shortages will be a growing problem for much of the world. In many regions, they are severe already.
The northern half of China, home to perhaps half a billion people, already is short of water. The water table under Beijing has fallen nearly 200 feet since 1965. Australia’s Murray-Darling river system, which supplies water for 40 percent of the country’s crops and 80 percent of its irrigation, no longer carries enough water to reach the sea without constant dredging. Salinity in the Murray is rising so quickly that the water is expected to be undrinkable in 20 years. There is worse to come. According to U.N. studies, at least 3.5 billion people will run short of water by 2040, almost ten times as many as in 1995. Ten years later, fully two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in regions with chronic, widespread shortages of water.