Implications for hospitality and travel: Hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other large-scale waste generators can expect to face the same kind of recycling requirements that many private homeowners have been complying with for years. This will increase handling expenses for recyclable bottles, cans, plastics, and paper, but it should ultimately reduce the cost of disposal.
This may bring even more scrutiny to cruise lines. Any ship caught dumping waste at sea can expect to bring its company catastrophic publicity, with a risk of boycotts. The rest may profit from advertising their “green” credentials, especially if they donate to ocean-oriented environmental groups.
43. Preference for industrial development over environmental concerns is fading slowly in much of the developing world.
The Pew Research Center reports that less than one-fourth of respondents in any African country rated environmental problems as the world’s most important threat. In Ethiopia, where desertification is at its worst and drought is a constant threat, only 7 percent did so. Beijing has made repairing the environment a national priority. Yet 70 percent of the energy used in China comes from coal-burning power plants, few of them equipped with pollution controls. The country intends to build over five hundred more coal-fired plants in the next ten years. Even Germany has committed to building more power plants fired by high-sulfur brown coal.
Assessment: View this as a counter-trend to Trend 40. It will remain largely intact until the poor of India and China complete their transition into the middle class, around 2040.
Implications: Broad regions of the planet will be subject to pollution, deforestation, and other environmental ills in the coming decades.
Acid rain like that afflicting the United States and Canada will appear wherever designers of new power plants and factories neglect emission controls.
In India, an area the size of the United States is covered by a haze of sulfates and other chemicals associated with acid rain. Look for this problem to appear in most other industrializing countries.
Diseases related to air and water pollution will spread dramatically in the years ahead. Already, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is five times more common in China than in the United States. As citizens of the developing countries grow to expect modern health care, this will create a growing burden on their economies.
This is just a taste of future problems, and perhaps not the most troublesome. Even the U.S. government now admits that global warming is a result of human activities that produce greenhouse gases. It now seems that China and India soon will produce even more of them than the major industrialized nations. Helping the developing lands to raise their standards of living without creating wholesale pollution will require much more aid and diplomacy than the developed world has ever been willing to give this cause.
Implications for hospitality and travel: All these problems will make the worst afflicted areas much less attractive to travelers in the coming years. They also will subject hotels, resorts, cruise lines, and other segments to new regulations designed to minimize their use of energy and to promote recycling and other environmentally friendly practices.
44. Concern over species extinction and loss of biodiversity is growing quickly.
An estimated 50,000 species disappear each year, up to 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction, according to the United Nations Environmental Program. By 2100, as many as half of all species could disappear. Eleven percent of birds, 25 percent of mammals, and 20 percent to 30 percent of all plants are estimated to be nearing extinction. Some 16,118 species are now listed as threatened (7,925 animal species and 8,393 plant and lichen species), according to the 2006 Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. This is an increase of nearly 2,700 in four years. The real list is likely much larger, as the group has evaluated only 40,000 of the 1.5 million species on its list. The chief cause for species loss is the destruction of natural habitats by logging, agriculture, and urbanization.
Assessment: This trend has at least three decades to run.
Implications: Saving any significant fraction of the world’s endangered species will require much more effort and expense than many governments find acceptable. For species such as corals, if the loss is attributable largely to climate change, it may not be possible.
Species loss has a powerful negative impact on human wellbeing. Half of all drugs used in medicine are derived from natural sources, including fifty-five of the top one hundred drugs prescribed in the United States. About 40 percent of all pharmaceuticals are derived from the sap of vascular plants. So far, only 2 percent of the 300,000 known sap-containing plants have been assayed for useful drugs. Most of the species lost in the years ahead will disappear before they can be tested.
The Indonesian economy loses an estimated $500,000 to $800,000 annually per square mile of dead or damaged reef.
Australia may lose even more as degradation of the Great Barrier Reef continues. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that the Reef will be “functionally extinct” by 2030.
Diverse ecosystems absorb more carbon dioxide than those with fewer species. Loss of biodiversity thus is a potential cause of global warming.
Implications for hospitality and travel: For the near term, environmentally conscious travelers will flock to endangered regions such as the Galapagos, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Amazon rain forests to witness their biological diversity while it is still available. However, in the long run the loss of coral and other extinction events will destroy the tourist appeal of some of the world’s favorite destinations for environmental and adventure tourism.
45. Urbanization, arguably the world’s oldest trend, continues rapidly.
Forty-eight percent of the world's population currently lives in cities, according to the Population Reference Bureau's 2006 World Population Data Sheet. By 2030, that figure will grow to 60 percent, as some 2.1 billion people are added to the world’s cities.
Cities are growing fastest in the developing world. In 1950, there were just eight megacities, with populations exceeding 5 million, in the world. By 2015, there will be fifty-nine megacities, forty-eight of them in less developed countries. Of these, twenty-three will have populations over 10 million, all but four in the developing lands.
Natural increase now accounts for more than half of population increase in the cities; at most, little more than one-third of urban growth results from migration.
Assessment: After surviving for some 3,500 years, this trend is unlikely to disappear in the next 50.
Implications: Cities’ contribution to global warming can only increase in the years ahead. As the world’s supply of potable water declines, people are concentrating in those areas where it is hardest to obtain and is used least efficiently. This trend will aggravate water problems for so long as it continues. Many more people will die due to shortages of shelter, water, and sanitation. Epidemics will become still more common as overcrowding spreads HIV and other communicable diseases more rapidly.
Since urban growth is now due more to natural increase than to migration, programs designed to encourage rural populations to remain in the countryside may be misplaced.
Education and family planning seem more likely to rein in the growth of cities.
Implications for hospitality and travel: Many cities in the developing world will become even more congested and polluted, reducing their appeal even when historical arts and artifacts might otherwise draw tourism.