It’s no secret that the environment is in great danger and increasing human expansions and activities are tilting the balance precariously. In the following post, we will take a closer look at the five largest global environmental problems that threaten to change life on this planet forever.
If the world is to continue being a supportive habitat for humans and the ecosystems that support such complex life, these issues must be addressed soon. Along with a description of how bad the conditions are, we will take a look at some of the solutions available.
Climate Change and Air Pollution
While there are some who openly debate the issue, 99% of the scientific community is convinced that humans overloading the atmosphere with carbon is causing the atmospheric temperatures of our beloved planet to increase to alarmingly high levels. A recent video clip of huskies walking through expanses of water that should be ice was a startlingly serious reminder of the severity of climate change.1,2,3
Since the onset of the industrial revolution, the carbon in the atmosphere has increased by over 200%. Carbon in the atmosphere absorbs IR waves from the sun and re-emit these waves adding to the warmth in the atmosphere—a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect and climate disruption. But, the use of oil, gas, and coal as a source of energy has other problems as well, according to the World Health Organization, 1 out of every 9 deaths were caused by toxins and carcinogens in the atmosphere.4
The Solutions to Climate Change and Air Pollution
Most of the solutions involve seeking alternative sources of energy as well as practicing energy conservation on personal and national levels. Some experts say that 100% clean and renewable energy could be a reality with today’s technology but this will require considerable action by government departments.
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Planting trees and taking part in reforestation efforts is another important way to sequester carbon from the atmosphere back into the earth where it belongs.
Forests of our planet our in great danger of being cleared away to make room for human expansion. Today around 30% of the earth is covered in forests whereas a little over 11,000 years ago the figure stood at almost twice that.
Most often trees are cleared away to make room for agricultural endeavors like cattle ranching, palm oil plantations, etc. One of the major setbacks is that some of our most important forests exist in developing countries where the immediate financial and physical needs of a poverty-stricken populace take priority over the global value of forests when allocating land rights.5
The big problems are that forests are complex components of the global ecosystem and an important part of what originally made this planet habitable for the various complex life forms we see today. Forests, and especially the mighty rainforests, act as giant carbon sinks that keep the CO2 from entering the atmosphere, essentially keeping the planet at a cool climate fit for a comfortable life. Trees and forests also purify the air and provide a good percentage of the vital oxygen we need to survive.6,7,8
Solutions to Deforestation
It will be essential to preserve what is left of our forests and begin projects to bolster their size and quantity with proper forestry techniques and suitable native plants. Scientists believe that if we can halt the rapid deforestation climate change can also be reversed. As of now, it is hard to tell whether the situation is getting better or worse as evidence points in both directions.9,10,11
Animals of all types are being pushed to extinction from direct and indirect human efforts. Illicit hunting is still a major problem and many large game animals are being hunted for “medicinal products,” ivory and exotic bush meat. Urban sprawl and advanced mining, agricultural industries, and resource extraction also threaten wildlife on a massive scale.12
In the ocean, fishing ships have become so efficient that they are quite capable of wiping out entire populations of fish in one fishing trip. Bottom-trawling nets are notorious for hauling in massive amounts of unnecessary over catch and can disturb an ecosystem we are still learning about.13
The important thing to remember is that an ecosystem relies on the health and well-being of all members to survive. For example, the honey bee provides the essential task of pollination which allows plants to reproduce and life of all types to find food. Sadly, the honeybee is also in danger of extinction from the use of pesticides.
Solutions to Species Extinction
While laws and those who enforce them may take a while to function effectively, some of the most important aspects of species protection actions begin with changing perspectives and mind frames. Learning about the creatures in your area and exhibiting respect and care for their lives and habitats is the most important step.14
The soil produces the food that we eat and must be properly tended and cared for if it will maintain its healthy appeal. Modern massive agriculture does not properly replace the nutrients in the soil and rather boost the quality with synthetic fertilizers which is not a sustainable plan. Soil compaction, overgrazing, exposure to agricultural runoff, pesticides, soil additives and more have seriously degraded the natural eco-systems that keep soil healthy and suitable for produce.15
Solutions to Soil Degradation
Some of the solutions being considered involve a return to the traditional methods of farming emphasized in times past when soil additives and modern irrigation were simply not an option. These include terraced farming, no-till agriculture, crop rotation, and other more traditional local farming techniques.
Human populations have exploded not only because people are living longer but everything from diseases to infant mortality rates have been cut back. However, now it is time to face the issue of a growing population that is placing greater pressures on the world’s resources. Experts say that the population could reach 10 Billion by 2050 if drastic measures are not taken.
Solutions to Overpopulation
The good news is that overpopulation can be addressed through increased education and especially sexual education. This applies to both sexes but women stand the most to gain from being fully aware of the options available to them. Making high-quality contraceptives more readily available can also help curb a global population at 9 billion before 2050.16
While the situation has certainly gotten out of hand, there is nothing that can’t be set right with time and attention. While there are many solutions ready, the biggest solution of all involves reversing the lackadaisical mindsets that allowed for conditions to reach this advanced state. Begin small by making lifestyle choices that do no harm to the environment. Even though this is a start, if you want to help with your time, skills or financial aid, there are options here too.
Photo credits: Siyapath/shutterstock.com, AndriySolovyov/shutterstock.com, Abrilla/shutterstock.com, Oh_Apisit39/shutterstock.com, ChristianMueller/shutterstock.com, KonektusPhoto/shutterstock.com