While the world is focused on the damage being done by plastic and fossil fuels, our excessive use of concrete has become perhaps the biggest issue of all.
Most of us are now fully aware of the damage the human race has done and continues to do to the planet. The finger of blame is currently being pointed firmly at our excessive use of plastics and fossil fuels. Quite right too. The gases created by using fossil fuels are a leading cause of global warming, while our oceans are quickly filling up with plastic waste.
Meanwhile, The Guardian recently reported on a material we all use that may well be doing more damage than fossil fuels and plastic combined. A material that is all around us all of the time. Concrete. It is something humankind has used for literally thousands of years, and one that is so integral to our way of life that we have ignored the damage that it does.
Let us outline a few pretty terrifying stats for you regarding concrete. For starters, it is the second most widely used substance on the planet, only being beaten to the top spot by water. In a single year, enough concrete is poured worldwide to pave over all of England. If the concrete industry were its own country, it would rank number three for carbon emissions behind the US and China.
While the US has been responsible for a lot of concrete production, China's use of it has dwarfed America's in recent years. Up until recently, China used the same amount of concrete every three years as the US did during the entire 20th century. Experts even estimate that we have reached a point where all the concrete on Earth outweighs all of the trees and bushes. A scary thought.
So why should we be worried? Well, concrete is not a naturally occurring material. We have to create it, and that process is extremely bad for the environment. It contributes 4-8% of the planet's CO2. The most worrying statistic of all is how much water the process requires. 10% of all of the world's industrially used water goes to creating concrete. Considering its production often takes place in countries that are typically short of water, this final statistic is perhaps the most damning of all.