Global warming is one the biggest threats to this planet. Read on to know what are some of the top 10 environmental issues that need to be addressed with immediacy.
Environment is a resource, which is being consumed at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, this resource cannot be quickly and easily replenished. This has led to a lot of environmental concerns and issues which need to be dealt with on a war footing. The global scenario today is fraught with drought, famines, floods and natural calamities. The frequency of such occurrences is increasing in a dramatic fashion. Here we take a look at what are the top 10 environmental issues the world is facing today. Most of them are interlinked and might have the same cause. They are listed separately as the strategies that need to be undertaken to combat them might be different.
This is one of the most talked about environmental issues in the world. Given legitimacy by Al Gore and his documentary “The Inconvenient Truth”, climate change around the world remains a cause of major concern. It has wreaked havoc on some ecosystems around the world. The Inuits are one of the main races to be affected by the climate change phenomena. Their first hand reports complain of rising temperatures in summers, winters not being cold enough and the freezing land mass that cause home getting smaller every year. Climate change has bought upon severe droughts in some regions. This affects their cultivation, both in pattern and quantity. The entire world is affected by it, which are far reaching in nature. Its effects are not just deadly for human beings but also for other species inhabiting this planet.
Closely linked with the rapidly growing population across the world and the rate of consumption, waste, and its management has become a major issue around the world. Waste is created in many forms, which can be broadly categorized in two forms. Some waste is bio-degradable and some not so. Just the quantum of waste that is created everyday on our planet is proving to be a major source of concern. The problem takes root in our lifestyle, which is fast moving and callous in thought and action. We need to shift our focus to reuse instead of the throwing out option. This problem manifests itself more clearly around most urban regions of the world. Quick fix solutions of landfill sites and recycling centers are not proving enough to combat it. In fact, overflowing landfill sites, especially in the developing economies around the world, are causing more serious health and environmental issues in the region. A change in perspective and a change in lifestyle are needed to deal with this issue at hand.
Biodiversity and Land Use
The term biodiversity essentially means variety of life that exists in any given area. Today with growing population and growing demand for the basic needs, biodiversity is threatened in many regions around the world. High demand for food, clothing and shelter has led to a skewed land use pattern. More land is coming under cultivation which may lead to problems of water shortage and land salinization. This also leads to other problems like excessive mining for example. Irreparable damage is caused to other natural resources and ecosystems to fulfill this demand for more. Land use patterns are changing across the world. They might be for cultivation of food or grains or even trees, but the effects of such changes have a lasting and damaging effect on the environment making them serious environmental issues.
This is a major issue that might be seen as a cause of many other environmental issues. According to some, if every human starts consuming the same amount as the developed world consumes, we will need resources of at least four earths in a year! Consumption can be dealt with in a very effective way. We definitely cannot reduce the population of the earth overnight, but we can definitely educate the masses about smart consumption. This awareness needs to be spread especially in the developing economies who are aping the developed economies. Sustainable and smart consumption is the way for the future. Consumption patterns need to be monitored and governed in all the countries across the world to make them sustainable. New products and materials can be created to substitute the ones that might prove to be highly unsustainable and a threat.
Water as a commodity and a resource is very scarce. Only 2% of the water available on Earth is pure and fit for consumption. To make matters more grave, it is the most consumed resource on this planet. Water has already been the cause of many fights and strives in some regions across the world. Many regions also depend on rainfall as the source of water, with the rainfall patterns changing across the world due to climate change, some regions have been affected severely with droughts and famines. At the same time, too much of rain has also caused flash floods across some regions destroying natural and man made ecology of the region. Too much of water or too little of it both cause a problem. Also, one of the major health concerns directly linked with this environmental concern is of the access to potable water. Very few people across the world have access to potable water. This causes a grave health issue for those people inhabiting such regions. Water, its use, its availability and its changing seasonality causes it to be one of the main environmental issues across the globe.
Deforestation can be seen as a trickle down effect of increase in consumption, change in land use and also increase in quantum of waste generated. Increase in consumption of food has led to a lot of forest area being used for cultivation. Similarly, forests are also cut down for wood which still remains a main building material in many countries. Deforestation also takes place around urban areas when they expand to accommodate more population. Creation of landfill sites is also another cause of deforestation. High demand for minerals, oil and other such resources that can be mined has also led to deforestation in different regions of the world. With deforestation a lot of endangered species have lost their natural habitats. The green cover reduces globally and causes more damage to natural ecosystems and climate system of the world. Soil erosion, dramatic climate changes and in some cases natural calamities like land slides, flash floods etc. can be attributed, directly or indirectly to deforestation.
Chemicals, Toxic Waste and Heavy Metals
Lot of emissions created by humans contain high amounts of chemicals and toxins. These have an adverse effect on the environment. The problem of acid rains is a small example of the same. Some chemicals and heavy metals have a potentially fatal effect on human as well as animal life. Care needs to be taken to prevent this from happening. Stricter emission control norms and regulations need to be in place to protect fragile ecosystems as well as health of human beings from this deadly issue.
Renewable or non-renewable sources of energy, their demand and consumption is a cause of environmental concern around the planet. The insatiable demand for crude oil has led to regions being raped of their other natural resources. The consumption of crude oil and its derivatives are directly the cause of several other environmental issues. Electricity, generation and consumption both seem deceptively clean, but cause a lot of damage. Any source of electricity, thermal, hydro or nuclear has a flipside of environmental problems. Even clean sources like tidal, geothermal, wind and solar can have lasting negative impacts on the environment. So energy in totality can be seen as one of the top 10 environmental issues in 2011.
Ecosystems and Endangered Species
Lot of ecosystems are facing a complete breakdown and collapse because of extinction of some key species existing in it. The loss of these ecosystems can be catastrophic in nature. People usually take ecosystems for their aesthetic value, but the function of ecosystems and the species that exist in them can be multi dimensional and extremely important to maintain an ecological balance. Conservation of ecosystems and endangered species is often neglected as an issue, but still remains a very critical environmental issue.
Science of Genetics
This is a very sensitive and highly debatable issue. Are we right to play God and tamper with nature? Science has helped humans a lot and has achieved lot of breakthroughs in terms of medicine, technology, health, communications, etc. In fact, all aspects of human life are improved tremendously with the help of science. But there seems to be a need to draw a line some place. Genetic modifications of plants, animals and probably even humans in the near future may cause more damage than good. We cannot disagree with the fact that research in genetics has improved life beyond measure, but who is to monitor the ethical side of this research?
So these were the top 10 environmental issues that require immediate attention. The toughest challenge is spreading awareness and educating people about the degeneration of green resources, that the planet is facing. Many of the issues are caused because of the lifestyles we follow, without a sense of consequence. There is a burning need to lead a much more sustainable way of life and make more people adapt to it as soon as possible. We have only one planet, only one home, let’s not lose it to our greed!
Author: Mukta Gaikwad2011-05-10