We are always talking about how we harm the environment with our activities. But not everybody knows as a matter of fact, that nature is capable of hurting itself. Nature has been cursed with several natural disasters that commonly include tsunami, earthquake, tornado, hurricane and flood. All the natural disasters leave an enormous footprint of dangerous, unrecyclable chemicals in the ecosystem that have a deleterious impact on the environment. It is not just such untoward happenings but also daily activities of the environment that leave a residue of harmful chemicals. It is a well-known fact that human activities release a lot of pollutants into the environment, and we lack the scientific expertise and the sophisticated equipment to help neutralize these problems. However, it may come as a shock to us, to know that nature destroys itself at a much faster rate than humans do. Natural calamities are mainly caused by factors beyond human control. Some of the common disasters and the way they harm the environment are as cited below.
Damage to the environment during an earthquake can cause devastation and loss of life. Ground failure is a major impact of the quake. When the faults rupture and cause an earthquake, large cracks are caused on the surface. Ground failure may be caused either by intense shaking of the land near minor errors or by liquefaction, a process where the wet solid liquefies and turns to liquid due to the intense pressure from the earth. Sandy soils, which lack stiffness are the most prone to liquefaction. When soft rock or soil collapses due to an earthquake, it causes a landslide. Massive amounts of rock, soil, and vegetation, slide downhill destroying everything in their path, occluding streams and filling valleys. Landslides can also let out a large amount of dust which carry spores and infection along with them. However, much of the environmental damage is caused by the secondary effects of man-made materials on the environment. Broken water pipes can flood the land. Ruptured gas lines and electrical and fuel lines can cause a fire. Due to the sudden shock, hazardous material, like sewage, radioactive waste, medical waste or other noxious gasses may contaminate the air, water or the earth. The explosions caused in the nuclear plant of Japan after the 2011 earthquake precisely exemplifies the secondary effect of earthquakes. The risk of contracting infectious diseases in a disaster prone area is several fold higher than in a peaceful place. By disrupting water supplies and sewage systems, important aspects of hygiene and sanitation may be compromised. Population displacement and urban overcrowding that happens as a consequence of disasters can also lead to poor medical attention that in turn can fuel the spread of diseases.
Tsunami is caused by seismic waves from an earthquake. The gigantic waves drown an enormous area of the inland and carry back an olio of objects when draining back into the sea. It changes the landscape. It uproots trees and plants consequently destroying the habitat for animals and birds. Land animals are killed by drowning. And the sea animals are murdered by the poisoning from the dangerous chemicals that drain along with the water into the sea. Salination of fresh water bodies like wells, rivers, and groundwater aquifers are a common effect that has long-term impacts on the environment and human life.
Forest fires are the primary reason for the large decrease in forest areas in the world. Albeit there are many positive impacts of forest fires like regeneration of seeds through increased sunlight, clearing of a forest of dead and decaying matter and maintaining the ecosystem balance by removing diseased plants and harmful plants, the negative effects of forest fires, especially the man-made fires, overshadow these. Apart from deforestation and the enormous release of carbon dioxide into the environment, forest fires also destroy the natural habitat for animals and deprive the nesting places for birds. The fires create heavy smog, which not only exacerbates the poor air quality but also causes respiratory diseases in humans. They use up a lot of resources like water eventually leading to extended periods of water preservation. The damage caused to the soil due to forest fires can make the soil impervious to water thus leading to a disruption in water distribution consequently leading to floods.
Ammonia is a common compound found in the environment. It is produced mainly from decaying organic matter, excreta of animals and humans, and man-made sources like fertilizers and certain industrial processes. Ammonia in the soil can cause eutrophication. Eutrophication is the process in which excessive growth of undesirable weeds and plants stifles the growth of crops by hindering the water supply and availability of nutrients. When ammonia settles on the soil, it reacts with moisture and gets converted to nitrate and nitrite ions by the action of nitrification bacteria, eventually making the soil acidic. The acidity of soil makes for an inhospitable environment for plant growth. To neutralize this, additional fertilizers may be added which only further deteriorate the soil quality.
A recent research by scientists at the Brown University has identified the source for increased accumulation of ammonia in the ocean. While conducting the research at the Island of Bermuda, the scientists found out that there are was a large amount of ammonia present in the atmosphere there. However by comparing the isotopes of nitrogen present in the ammonia of that atmosphere to that of the ammonia in the United States, they found out that the ammonia at the ocean is not by being blown from the US but is being produced in the ocean. In fact, it was found that a major proportion of the ammonia collected was that generated by the ocean. This conclusively proves that nature is harming itself more, in certain aspects, than humans do.
All the instances cited above are evidence to prove that nature is in several aspects is harming itself. Human activities work further in aggravating these negative factors. As people who utilize the gifts borne by nature, we must also learn to take care of it. As dutiful residents of the planet Earth, even though controlling the nature is not possible, we should develop awareness about the ways in which we harm our environment and devise methods to curb them effectively.