Air, Land, Water and Waste

Interested in other sustainability issues?

Click here.

Air is the colourless, odourless, tasteless gaseous mixture that surrounds the Earth. It is composed of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%) and a mixture of other gases. Air and water are both necessary for life on Earth. Pollution of air by other gases or from dispersion of solid particles can occur as a result of human activity such as urbanisation and industrialisation.

Land is that part of the Earth’s surface that is not covered with water. To manage land sustainably means to manage it without damaging ecological processes or reducing biological diversity in terms of the variety of species, populations, habitats and ecosystems. It also means maintaining stores of natural capital such as fresh water and clean air.

Like air, water is essential to life on earth. Although much of the earth’s surface is covered with water, very little of it is suitable for human consumption and more than 10% of the world’s population do not have access to clean water. Water is also necessary for industry and agriculture so water allocation planning is necessary for the management of our water resources.

Waste refers to material which is no longer of use to its generator and is not being safely recycled. Waste does not exist in nature and occurs solely through human activity. It has social, environmental and economic costs.  

Air, Land, Water and Waste Teaching Resources

Resources on Global Water Challenges and Related Business Risks

The UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate

Water poses one of the greatest sustainability challenges of the 21st Century. Water scarcity and pollution, among many other issues, threaten our ability to grow strong and stable economies, meet basic human needs, and protect healthy ecosystems (and the services they provide), while also posing severe human health problems.

Business organizations are greatly affected by – and also often contribute to – these important issues. Because of this, they are increasingly seeking more information and trying to understand how to address these challenges.

Launched in July 2007 by the UN Secretary-General, the CEO Water Mandate is a unique public-private initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices.

The web site provides easy access to CEO Water Mandate governance documents, Mandate research and guidance materials, as well as resources developed by other organizations, initiatives, and businesses that are relevant to corporate water stewardship and the Mandate’s work.


Global Change Institute (UQ) - Healthy Oceans

Our oceans and coasts are changing at a rate unprecedented in human history. Ocean warming, acidification, rising sea levels, unsustainable fishing, pollution and coastal development are threatening the future of our marine environments, and the services they have provided to us in the past.

The University of Queensland's Global Change Institute features the following projects and resources focussing on " healthy ocean" issues - 

Capturing coral reef and related ecosystem services (CCRES)

Healthy coastal ecosystems are essential for healthy communities and a sense of cultural identity for one billion people living in low-lying coastal areas across the East Asia-Pacific...

Read More

Australian water and environment research alliance

Alliance combines best in water and environment science As the environment continues to be shaped by human impacts, our responsibility as global stewards becomes increasingly important....

Read More

Legal and governance frameworks - rapid sea-level rise

Project objectives The objective of this project is to develop effective legal, policy and insurance responses to sea-level rise and extreme weather events in coastal developments in...

Read More

Individual and organisational responses to sea-level rise

Project objectives This project focuses on the socio-economic impacts of sea level rise and climate variability. These impacts affect different levels and entities such as households,...

Read More

Planning natural resource management - changing landscape

Project objectives This project focuses on scenario planning to better understand the impacts of development and sea level rise on natural ecosystems, ecosystem services and communities....

Read More

Ecological impacts of rising sea levels on coastal habitat

Project objectives Sea level rise will alter the distribution and function of important coastal ecosystems,such as seagrass, mangroves, saltmarsh, and coral reefs, which may have...

Read More

Physical characterisation of the sea-level rise threat

Project objectives The project looks at the effects of the ‘super wicked problem’ of global climate change on coastal systems, including coral reefs and reef islands. The...

Read More


Carbon sequestration and storage by coastal vegetation (‘blue carbon’) has to date been overlooked in global carbon budgets, but it is becoming clear that these systems are...

Read More

IPCC fifth assessment report

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) will provide an update of knowledge on the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of climate change. It will be composed of three Working Group...

Read More

The Catlin Seaview Survey

The Catlin Seaview Survey is the first comprehensive study of the Great Barrier Reef to document the composition and health of the world’s coral reefs across an unparalleled depth...

Read More

Coral reef targeted research and capacity building

Phase One of the Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management (CRTR) Program ran from 2004 to 2010. Its aim was to fill the gaps in our global understanding of what...

Read More

Australian sea level rise partnership (ASLRP)

The Challenge More than 80% of Australia’s population lives within 50 kilometres of the coastline. As a result, rapid sea level rise poses a serious yet poorly understood threat to...

Read More

Two degrees too much for most coral reefs

A modelling study from an international collaboration involving German, Canadian and Australian scientists has concluded that increasing global temperatures to 2 degrees above...

Read More

Mangrove Forests - Mitigating Coastal Erosion and Storm Surge

Mangrove forests provide important ecosystem services, including protecting coastlines from the impacts of extreme weather events, such as storm surge and erosion. Unfortunately, these...

Read More

The Great Barrier Reef: an obituary

Is climate change the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef in 10,000 years?

A haunting multi-media exploration of the fascinating history and troubled present of our most iconic natural place, from Oliver Milman, Christian Bennett and Mike Bowers at the Guardian.

Click here to view