As we see the global narrative adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year, we find ourselves gravitating towards one powerful prefix in our global language, ‘re.’ Words like recover, rebuild, and revive are becoming increasingly commonplace in news and everyday stories. Meaning to act again, starting afresh and anew, this new focus signifies the beginning of a new chapter, urging us to emerge from the pandemic with new hope and inspiring us to act, whether it’s rebuilding our communities, job recovery, or reigniting our global economies.
The same needs to be said for our environmental efforts. With the onset of a global health crisis of such an immense scale, it comes as no surprise that other issues fall by the wayside, including our work in mitigating climate change. However, we can no longer press pause on this, and the time is now to kickstart our efforts once more.
In fact, a recent United Nations report revealed that as greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm the world, there is a greater chance of global temperatures reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the next five years. Closer to home, Indonesia has seen its fair share of extreme weather events. Ranked the world’s most environmentally vulnerable city, Jakarta’s flooding issues last year drove thousands of residents from their homes, costing an estimated Rp 1 trillion in economic losses as stores were closed and supply chains disrupted.
As we take each measured step towards recovery, we must not forget that the effects of climate change can set our efforts many steps back. Not to mention the natural resources we benefit from – whether it's running water or the fertile land we cultivate in – it is all intrinsically tied to how we thrive as human beings. Therefore, as we reflect on World Environment Day’s theme of “Ecosystem Restoration,” we are not just restoring our natural environment but our eroding relationship with it.
Re-evaluating Our Relationship With Water
We need to especially look at how we approach our water and energy resources, two of our most crucial environmental pillars.
As a result of years of rapid urbanization and industrialization, we have been using up these resources indiscriminately. With energy, the greenhouse gas emissions generated from fossil fuel use have led to a warmer world, raising sea levels that have been progressively threatening natural ecosystems globally. Meanwhile, with water, natural sources such as rivers and lakes are feeling the brunt of our demand, leading to declining streams and impacting water flow, devastating the world’s aquatic ecosystems. Managing how we use these two key resources can fundamentally reverse or mitigate some of the impact climate change has and subsequently restore our ecosystems.
And so, for us to truly restore our ecosystems, we need to find a more sustainable approach towards water and energy use – and digitalization holds the key. For water, digitalization allows us to change our relationship with the water system, which is traditionally a one-way process of moving water from supply to demand to one that is a dialogue.
Achieved through data analytics and sensors in the water systems, we can effectively create a feedback loop throughout the entire process. This ensures that the water supply can be intuitively adjusted based on current demand, reducing the risks of water being wasted in excess or unnecessarily wearing down our water infrastructure due to the pressures of a water supply that runs at a consistently high level.
Utilities globally are already leveraging digitalization to support their daily operations and working closely with water solutions providers like Grundfos to explore different ways to integrate
intelligence into water technology. One example is a cloud-based platform that allows water and wastewater utilities to connect their pumping solutions to the cloud. By leveraging advanced
analytics and algorithms to predict leaks, the application helps fix problems in the water network before they happen, preventing wastage of resources and energy.
And this doesn’t have to stop at the municipal level – our renewed relationship with water can start right at home. As homeowners, we can adapt our consumption rate for the better through
digitalization and data, keeping an eye on our water usage, and respond with water-wise behavior. This includes utilizing sensors in our water systems to adjust their performance intuitively to the household’s demand, ensuring we use only as much as needed.
Adopting New Perspectives on Energy Use
This also applies to how we approach fuel and energy. Energy is responsible for every aspect of our daily life – from lighting up homes to heating and cooling to driving water supplies. But this means we use a lot of it, and as we use more fossil fuel, we end up contributing significantly to climate change. This resource is also quickly depleting. In response, Indonesia recently unveiled plans to reduce its reliance on coal and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, which is an encouraging move.
But if we don’t look to fossil fuels, what is the alternative? The clear answer is tapping into renewables, like solar. Renewables allow us to have a new perspective on power generation.
However, widespread adoption of renewables still has a way to go, and looking to it as the sole solution is not enough. As we work our way to transition our energy use model, we need to urgently adopt ways to use less of our finite energy resources.
Whether it be industries, municipal, or homes, there can be inefficiencies across operations, processes, and systems that are hidden from plain sight, using up more energy than it really needs.
For example, poorly designed pumps in water systems account for a significant portion of global energy consumption. We must do our part in identifying these gaps and tackling them. To inspire action, governments and policymakers can also outline how businesses and communities can be conscious consumers regarding energy use.
While the pandemic is still very much a big part of our lives, it can be challenging to relate to the idea of caring for the environment and restoring our ecosystems. But as we look to rebuild ourselves from this health crisis, we must realize that both are intrinsically linked and that only by repairing our relationship with Mother Earth can we truly thrive in the new normal. The tools are already in our hands – all it takes is for us to spark action.
Radinal Rachman Latuconsina is a senior area sales manager of domestic building services for South and North-East Asia and the country director for Grundfos Indonesia, the local unit of Danish water pump maker Grundfos.