Environmental Issues

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Nature in Danger!

Environmental Pollution! Climate Change! Loss of Biodiversity! Threatened Species! Global Warming!

Our news is often filled with such alarming topics. The spread of human civilization and rapid industrialization have increasingly been having an impact on our environment.

Humans over the years have been blamed for the deterioration of our environment in many ways –

  1. Over-hunting and over-fishing, leading to the extinction of many species and threatening many more species
  2. Over-population, which makes survival difficult for other species
  3. Excessive burning of fossil fuels, leading to poor air and water quality, collectively termed as environmental pollution
  4. Needing more and more land for farming and industry, leading to deforestation and soil erosion
  5. Impact on global temperatures, climate, and weather, causing conditions known as global warming, climate change, acid rain, ozone layer depletion, and many more

Let us understand some of these environmental impacts in more detail.

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Environmental Pollution

Environmental Pollution refers to all the ways in which people pollute their surroundings.

This takes many forms –

  1. Air pollution – gases, smoke, ash, are released into the atmosphere as a result of industrial and domestic combustion.
  2. Water pollution –harmful chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, other waste products, are dumped by factories and homes into our lakes, rivers, and oceans.
  3. Soil pollution –chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides also harm useful bacteria and other organisms in the soil, preventing adequate decomposition of plants and animals.
  4. Deforestation –clearing forests, grasslands, cutting down trees, for making cities, factories, and other construction purposes.
  5. Solid waste –garbage and litter such as plastics, junked automobiles, tires, household goods, and electronic waste find their way into landfills and take hundreds, even thousands of years to decompose.
  6. Noise Pollution in urban areas affects human and animal life.
  7. Radiation Pollution found in waste from nuclear power plants and from certain electronic devices.

Climate Change

Recently, scientists have discovered a new phenomenon caused by Global Warming whereby weather conditions, such as temperature and rainfall,are impacted in a region over long periods of time. They have discovered that earth’s surface has warmed considerably over the past century, and the warmest years have been in the last couple of decades. As a result, glaciers are melting at a faster rate, average sea levels are rising, ocean temperatures are rising. This can have unpredictable and disastrous effects on life, weather, and climate around the world.

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Greenhouse Effect

Greenhouse gases are an important contributor to Global Warming. The Greenhouse Effect is a phenomenon in which certain gases in our atmosphere absorb heat from the sun’s infrared radiation and remain trapped in the atmosphere, thereby increasing the overall temperature on earth. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are the primary greenhouse gases. Many of these gaseous emissions, such as CFCs, are man-made. These gases deplete the ozone layer in the stratosphere and allow more harmful radiation from the sun to enter the earth’s atmosphere.

Habitat Loss

Many human activities such as agriculture, mining, harvesting, construction, urban growth, result in Habitat Loss whereby several species of plants and animals are displaced from or destroyed in their natural surroundings. This reduces biodiversity and abundance of species and affects the health global ecosystems. The tiger, cheetah, mountain gorilla, Asian elephant and Javan rhinoceros are all in threat of extinction because of these human activities.

Over-hunting and Over-fishinghave caused serious reduction in species population, sometimes to the point of extinction. Over-hunting in the past has led to the extinction of elephant birds, giant lemurs, giant kangaroos and moas. Over-fishing is resulting in depleted species of sharks, monkfish, Atlantic halibut and bluefin tuna.

All this detrimental impact on life and environment has led to greater awareness and increased focus on Conservation of environment resources. (See also: Conservation of Earth)

Check Point

  1. Poor air, water, soil quality is often the result of ________.
  2. Global warming affects weather conditions such as ______ and ______ in a region over long periods of time.
  3. Harmful gases trapped in the earth’s atmosphere are referred to as _______ effect.
  4. Plants and animals displaced from or destroyed in their natural surroundings is termed as ________.
  5. Which of these are greenhouse gases?
    1. Methane
    2. Nitrogen
    3. Ozone
    4. Oxygen

Answer Key

  1. Environmental pollution
  2. Temperature, Rainfall
  3. Greenhouse
  4. Habitat loss
  5. a) Methane and c) Ozone

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