GOAL 7 – AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
The long-term sustainability of any means of energy production epends on its environmental impact, not just on the global level (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions) but on the scale of local ecosystems, all of which are interconnected and essential to the health of the whole biosphere. Energy production must therefore be undertaken with the deliberate intent of minimizing harmful effects on local fauna and flora. To this end, ecological impact assessments should precede and inform new energy construction and extraction projects. Additionally, studies should be regularly undertaken to determine ongoing actual impact on local ecosystems, as measured by indicators such as species populations and distributions, numbers of project-related animal fatalities, pollution or toxin levels in the environment, etc. Major expenditures of energy are associated with transportation and industrial labor. While in developed nations these sectors are mostly the domain of machines, in developing nations the use of working animals remains widespread. Animal labor is considered less energy-intensive and less environmentally destructive than mechanical labor by some researchers and NGOs.
However, there are a number of factors involved that complicate this assessment. These include water and land resources necessary to produce animal feed; the much higher potency of methane emissions (produced by animals) in trapping heat compared to their equivalent in carbon dioxide; and high mortality rates among working animals due to poor veterinary care, abuse, and neglect, increasing the number used and therefore their total ecological impact.
Further study is needed to determine the total relative ecological impacts of working animals, widespread mechanical equivalents, and potential high-tech alternatives (e.g. electric and hydrogen powered tractors). In the mean time, provision of comprehensive veterinary services and instruction in humane animal care would reduce mortality and the number of animals required, improve health and work output, and thereby greatly lessen the ecological impact of animal labor.