At Save the Earth, we believe it’s high time that environmental issues receive the attention they deserve. Our planet is on the brink of a severe environmental crisis. If ignored today, these problems will threaten human existence for the generations to come.
Earth has a natural environment, known as an ecosystem, which includes all humans, plant life, the atmosphere, mountains, glaciers, oceans and seas. It also includes natural resources such as water, fire, air, magnetism, electric charge and climate. In recent decades, modern technologies used in the engineering and manufacturing industries have caused dramatic resource depletion and environmental destruction.
Many of us gripe about dirty air, polluted water and stinking rubbish, missing the irony that WE are the ones responsible for these adverse circumstances. Unless we address what is happening to our planet, we will continue to hurtle towards irreparable disaster.
Here are ten current environmental issues which require urgent attention:
1. Global Warming
Global warming is the result of human practices such as the emission of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour. These gases possess heat trapping capacities to create a greenhouse effect so that the planet remains warm, enabling us to survive. Without these gases, Earth would become too cold for life to exist. However, in recent decades, there has been a rapid accumulation of greenhouse gases, meaning that more heat gets trapped in the atmosphere and fewer of these gases escape back into the space. Instead, they heat up Earth’s surface and this results in global warming. According to Environmental Protection Agency reports, Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius over the past century. Global warming is both a serious environmental concern and public health concern. It can have long-lasting effects which can result in climate change, droughts, diseases, the melting of glaciers and an increase in the frequency of hurricanes.
With the population growing at a rapid rate, the need for food and shelter has almost tripled in the last few decades. To overcome growing demand, forests have been cut down and green cover cleared to make way for agriculture, industrial and urban use. This process, known as deforestation, has had a devastating impact on Earth. Our forests are natural sinks of carbon dioxide and produce fresh oxygen as well as helping to regulate rainfall and temperature. The long-term effects of deforestation can be severely alarming, causing floods, soil erosion and wildlife extinction, among many other serious environmental issues. At present, forests cover 30% of the land, but according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest are lost each year – that’s an area equal to the size of Panama!
3. Over Population
Currently standing at 7.6 billion, our planet’s population is reaching unsustainable levels and is facing shortages of vital resources such as water, fuel and food. Recent estimates suggest that today’s population size is roughly equivalent to 6.5% of the total number of people ever born. Human population began to exponentially soar after the discovery of fossil fuels. Population explosion, especially in developing countries, is straining the already scarce resources. Intensive agriculture practiced to produce food is damaging the environment through the use of chemical fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides. Despite efforts by many governments to promote awareness of family planning in many countries, over population is difficult to control at an international level.
4. Ozone Layer
The ozone layer is an invisible layer of gas around the planet that protects us from the sun’s harmful rays. It sits in the stratosphere, 10-30 miles above Earth’s surface and is capable of absorbing 97-99% of these damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiations. Depletion of the ozone layer is attributed to pollution caused by bromide and chlorine from man-made compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Once these toxic gases reach the upper atmosphere, they cause a hole in the ozone layer, the biggest of which is above the Antarctic. CFCs are now banned in many industries and consumer products. The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances responsible for ozone depletion. Some ozone-depleting substances are not yet controlled by the Montreal Protocol, including nitrous oxide.
5. Acid Rain
Acid rain occurs due to the presence of pollutants in the atmosphere. Many factors, including the combustion of fossil fuels, erupting volcanoes and rotting vegetation release sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Acid rain can occur in the form of rain, fog, snow or dry material that settles to the earth. It can have a devastating impact on aquatic life, forests and architecture as well as having a serious effect on wildlife and human health.
6. Climate Change
Climate change is a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns or average temperatures. These shifts have been occurring for thousands of years, but over the last few decades it has become far less of a natural process. Increased burning of fossil fuels and the release of harmful gases by industries has increased the atmosphere’s temperature at an alarming rate. In fact, if global average temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius over the next hundred years, as many climate models predict, given relatively high CO2 emissions, much of Europe and North America would experience increases in the intensity of extreme rainfall of approximately 25%. Already, the effects of climate change predicted by experts are occurring: melting of polar ice caps, accelerated sea level rise, frequent flooding, a surge in wildfires and longer, more intense heat waves.
7. Urban Sprawl
Urban sprawl refers to the expansion of human populations away from high-density central urban areas to low-density, mono-functional and usually car-dependent communities. This process results in conurbations spreading over more and more rural land. Today, almost all countries are using land irresponsibly to meet the ever-growing demand of its populations. The expansion of industrial areas has led not only to land degradation and soil pollution, but to the destruction of flora and fauna in their natural habitats.
The damage caused by air, soil and water pollution will require millions of years to recoup. Air pollution is caused by toxins and gases released by industries, factories and the combustion of fossil fuels, while ocean dumping, oil spill and urban runoff all contribute towards water pollution. A major cause of soil pollution is industrial waste that deprives the soil of essential nutrients.
9. Industrial and Household Waste
The over consumption of resources and the creation of plastics, fast food packaging and cheap electronics are creating a global waste disposal crisis. At present, tons of rubbish are produced by each household every year. Much of the waste which cannot be recycled is buried in landfill sites, affecting human health, degrading soil quality, causing air pollution and disrupting wildlife. Developed countries are notorious for producing an excessive amount of rubbish and dumping it in the oceans as well as shipping it out to third world countries. Tonnes of toxic waste from municipal dumps in the UK are illegally being sent to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. According to The Independent, at least 10,000 tonnes of defunct televisions and 23,000 tonnes of computers classified as hazardous are being illegally exported every year.
10. Loss of Biodiversity
Major extinction events are nothing new on our planet, but species are the dying out at an alarming rate. Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events such as asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions and natural climate shifts, the current crisis is almost entirely caused by humans. According to the Centre for Biological Diversity, 99% of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss and global warming. Ecosystems, which took millions of years to perfect are in danger when the species of any population decreases. Balances of natural processes such as pollination are crucial to the survival of eco-systems. Giant whales are dying in the hundreds and insects and birds are disappearing, while the coral reefs in our oceans which support rich marine life are being destroyed.
If you want to do something to help prevent mass extinction, then Save the Earth urge you to sign this petition to the United Nations. Please act now, before it’s too late.
Scientists’ warning to humanity ‘most talked about paper’
A chilling research paper warning about the fate of humanity has received 4,500 additional signatures and endorsements from scientists since it was first released last year.
If you’d like to learn more, you can download the paper here.
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