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Water is the common thread that links all aspects of human development. Water security is therefore vital to all social and economic sectors as well as the natural resource base on which the world depends. But an expanding population, growing economies and poor water management are putting unprecedented pressure on our freshwater resources (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).





  • Large parts of the world are already experiencing significant water shortages and stress, this is likely to worsen as global populations, economies and consumption rates continue to grow (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

  • Over the past century, the global population has tripled, but our water usage has increased over six times this number (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

  • Water usage in the UK is now around 150 litres per person per day. If you take into account our daily embedded water (the water we consume through foods and associated production) it is 3400 litres per person (Waterwise, 2012).

  • Unless action is taken now water insecurity will become a global issue, we only have a finite amount of water on Earth (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

  • One in every sixth person on Earth does not have daily, immediate access to safe drinking water (Do, 2014).

'If every drop of water in the world was collected in a sphere, it would be just 869 miles across - barely big enough to cover Eastern Europe...' 

'This picture gives you a perfect idea of how much water there is on Earth compared to the solid materials that form its main body. The sphere includes all the water in the oceans, seas, ice caps, lakes and rivers as well as groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.' 

Image: Adam Nieman,, Data source: Igor Shiklomanov's chapter "World fresh water resources" in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World's Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York).



The current level of energy use plays a huge role in global climate change, frequency of extreme weather events, water pollution and regional air pollution (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).


  • 60 - 80% of the worlds population live in towns and cities which amounts to over half of the worlds total energy use, (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

  • Since the industrial revolution there has been an explosive growth in the use of fossil fuels for energy, which are a huge contributor to global pollution levels.

  • Carbon dioxide emissions and energy use are inextricable. Nearly all use of energy results in increased CO2 emissions somewhere – even nuclear electricity and renewable power require energy (and emit CO2) to build generating capacity and, for nuclear, in extracting and refining uranium (DECC –Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2013).

'The use of energy is extremely unbalanced, the poorest three quarters of the worlds population use only one tenth of global energy. Around 3 billion of these people do not have access to cooking appliances or fuels.'

(Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

Solar Impulse aircraft powered by solar energy, only. Earth Champion, 2005, Switzerland.



In Europe, exposure to particulate matter (PM) decreases the life expectancy of every person by an average of almost 1 year, mostly due to increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and lung cancer (World Health Organisation, 2014).


  • The earth's surface has warmed by about 0.75°C since the 1900s and about 0.4°C since the 1970s. Average global temperatures may rise between 1.1°C and 6.4°C above 1990 levels by the end of this century. More than 30 billion tonnes of CO2 are emitted globally each year by burning fossil fuels (Committee on Climate Change, 2014).

  • Air pollution is hugely harmful to our health, particularly those who suffer with respiratory problems such as Asthma.

  • Air pollution causes damage to plants and animals, affecting biodiversity and crop yields. It can also pollute areas of water creating ocean acidification, ecosystem damage and polluted freshwater supplies.

    (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).

You often can’t see it, or smell it, but air pollution kills. Air pollution is linked to 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK - the first of 20 shocking facts about air pollution.

Friends of the Earth 2017

This image represents all of the air in the atmosphere (5140 trillion tons of it) gathered into a sphere at sea-level density. 



Almost 50% of the total amount of food waste in the UK each year comes from our homes. This amounts to over 7 Million tones of food and drink waste (Love Food Hate Waste, 2014).


  • The average British family throws away six trees worth of paper every single year. About one fifth of the contents of household dustbins are paper and card, this is equivalent to over 4kg of waste paper per household each week (Reduce the Use 2012).

  • Recycling just one tonne of paper saves up to 70% energy used in manufacturing from virgin materials and requires 40% less water to produce, than making the product from new (Reduce the Use, 2012).

  • 54 per cent of our waste is still being sent to landfill, over 80 per cent of waste that could be recycled is not, and raw materials continue to be consumed at an unsustainable and environmentally destructive rate (Waste Watch, 2014).

'The world's annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today.' (WRAP, 2014).



Transport is responsible for around a quarter of EU greenhouse gas emissions making it the second biggest greenhouse gas emitting sector after energy (European Commission, 2014).


  • At the end of March 2014 there were 35.3 million vehicles licensed for use on the road in Great Britain (Department for Transport, 2014).

  • Vehicles have a major impact on the environment through their construction, use and eventual disposal. During a vehicles lifetime its CO2 emissions break down as 10% from its manufacture and 5% from its disposal and 85% coming from fuel use and servicing operations (Environmental Protection UK, 2014).

'Road transport accounts for 22% of total UK emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) a major contributor to climate change.'

(Environmental Protection UK, 2014).



Urbanisation reinforces the impacts of climate change such as increased temperatures, increased rates of flash flooding, and reduced habitats (London Climate Change partnership, 2014).


  • The energy used in our homes accounts for more than a quarter of the UK’s Carbon Dioxide emissions and energy use, housing therefore provides a huge opportunity to cut emissions and energy usage (DoECC, Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2013).

  • Out of the total energy consumption in an average household, 50% goes to space heating, 27% to run appliances, 19% to heat water and 4% goes to air conditioning (Buildings and their impact on the environment, 2009).

'Construction has a major impact on the environment through the materials used, energy used to create materials and transport these, increased dust and pollution, and reduced green spaces. The construction industry consumes around 4.5% of energy used in the UK each year, and buildings once completed consume 40%.'

(Futur Energia, 2013).



We share this planet with millions of other species and varieties of life, and depend on ecosystems for all our basic needs. While current trends in biodiversity and ecosystem services are sharply and dangerously negative, the right actions, developed and implemented promptly, can restore a biologically rich and ecologically viable planet. (Planet Under Pressure Report, 2012).


  • Human pressure on the worlds natural ecosystems is unprecedented, although some measures have been taken to try to reduce the rates of ecosystem deterioration, it is still continuing and in some cases accelerating (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

  • Targets set by the World Sustainable Development summit for 2010 were not achieved, around one third of vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list remain threatened (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

  • Traditional varieties of crops and domestic livestock are also threatened despite their ability to adapt well to their local environments. They are being replaced by homogenised farming systems and polluted aquatic ecosystems (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

  • Habitat change, over-exploitation, invasive alien species, pollution, and climate change are the most important direct drivers of change in ecosystems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).

Natural ecosystems are vital to provide buffers against extreme events such as floods, fires and extreme weather events. If these buffers are no longer in place vulnerability of people and settlements are greatly increased.

(Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

British Butterfly - Francis J Taylor Photography 



Our rapidly increasing and urbanizing global population is facing unprecedented food, energy, economic and security crises, which are being compounded by climate change and extreme environmental events. As planetary boundaries are placed under increasing stress, so too are social bonds, relations and thresholds.'


  • Current trends in population change mean that huge pressure is placed upon communities, the environment and countries as a whole, which is driving nations further into poverty (Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

  • Inequality is a key factor in peoples wellbeing, the greater the inequality the lower the reported levels of happiness and wellbeing (Graham and Felton, 2005).​

'Key features of wellbeing include health, agency, physical freedom, education, material wealth, ecological security, and affiliation to others.' 

(Planet Under Pressure, 2012).

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