Our planet, Earth is unique in the universe and the whole of the solar system. Compared to the conditions on other planets in the solar system, temperatures on the earth are mild and relatively constant. Plentiful supplies of clean air, fresh water and fertile soil are regenerated endlessly and spontaneously by various geological and biological cycles like the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, phosphorus cycle, sulphur cycle, etc. The most amazing feature of the blue planet, earth is the rich diversity of life that exists here. Millions of beautiful and intriguing species populate the earth and help sustain a habitable environment.
While there are many things about the earth, which makes it unique, there are many environmental problems created because of its uniqueness in giving life and which need to be addressed:
Rapid Population Growth: human populations have grown at alarming rates in this century, from 2.5 billion to 6.25 billion in nearly 50 years. Unless birth rates are balanced with the death rates, it may reach 10-11 billion for the next 50 years and 14 billion by the next century.
Most of the growth is in the developing and poorer countries where present populations already strain resources and services. The problem of rapid population growth gives way to the problem of rapid pollution because higher population demands more resources and this is where the problem lies: Wants are infinite but resources are limited. More population would mean more technological human races are supposed to be, which increases the risk of polluting the environment.
Food shortage and famines:
These are too familiar in many places and may increase in frequency and severity if population growth, soil erosion, and nutrient depletion continue at the same rate in the future as they have in the past. Food Security often is linked to poverty, democracy, and equitable distribution than it does with the amount of food available.
Water deficits and contamination of existing water supplies are threatening environmental issues in the future for agricultural production as well as for domestic and industrial uses. Many countries already have seen serious water shortages and more than one billion people lack access to clean water and proper sanitation. This may lead to violent conflicts over control of natural resources if we do not learn to live within nature’s budget.
For instance, the Kaveri River Water Dispute.
The water of river Kaveri has been the cause of a serious conflict between Karnataka and the state of Tamil Nadu. While the state of Tamil Nadu has historically enjoyed a vastly greater usage of the waters compared to the state of Karnataka. Karnataka on the other hand, sees it as a grave historic injustice that has been forced upon it. The dispute however, seems to be far from over with all four states deciding to file review petition seeking clarifications and possible renegotiation of the orders made previously. The four states include Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry and Karnataka.
Depletion of Non-Renewable fossil fuels:
Fossil fuels are rapidly depleting due to their overutilization by the growing population, along with the growth in the industrial field all over the globe. Their use is leading to all sorts of pollution, but mostly air pollution and soil pollution and damage to the environment because of their extraction. Cleaner renewable energy resources like solar, wind, thermal and biomass, etc. together with conservation may replace environmentally destructive energy sources if appropriate technological ideas and skills are applied.
Damage to the Environment:
Burning of fossil fuels and biomass fuels release carbon dioxide and other heat absorbing species like black carbon, hydrocarbons, etc that cause global warming and may bring about sea level rise due to melting of glaciers. Catastrophic climate change is the key weapon of this enhanced greenhouse effect called global warming. Acids formed in the air due to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion cause extensive damage to the building materials and sensitive ecosystems in the form of acid rain. Chlorinated compounds, such as chlorofluorocarbon carbons used in refrigeration and air conditioning, also contribute to global warming, as well as damage to the stratospheric ozone that protects us from cancer causing ultraviolet radiation in sunlight.
Deforestation and threat to biodiversity:
Deforestation of tropical forests, coral reefs, wetlands and other biologically rich landscapes is causing an alarming loss of species and a reduction of biological variety and abundance that could severely limit our future options. Many rare and endangered species are threatened directly or indirectly by human activities like agriculture, the building of dams, factories, highways, mining operations, etc.
Disposal of solid and hazardous wastes:
Mountains of solid and hazardous wastes are becoming an overwhelming problem throughout the world. We produce millions of tons of these hazardous materials annually, and much of it is disposed of in dangerous and irresponsible ways.
The health effects of pollution, toxic wastes, stress and other environmental problems of this modern age have become a greater threat than infectious diseases for the whole world. The serious Global issues illustrate the importance of environmental science and environmental education for everyone, from kids to the older generations. These seeds of environmental consciousness should be shown well at the early stages of life.
“We have not inherited this beautiful earth from our ancestors; rather we have borrowed it from our children.”
What we are doing to this world and what they may mean for our future and to our children is of paramount concern as we proceed through the twenty-first century.
Solutions toward Global Issues (Ray of hope…)
Increasing awareness towards the environmental issues have led the society to work towards finding solutions to these problems. Progress has been made by establishing laws, policies and treaties in controlling air and water pollution and reducing wasteful resource uses. We individually and collectively can do much more to protect and restore our environment. Being aware of the problems we face is the first step towards finding their solutions. We are in a position to address these issues because we have resources, motivation and knowledge to do something about our environmental problems.
“If we don’t act now, we may not have another chance to do so.”