This page addresses various broad issues currently affecting the environment. These are issues impinging on the health of Mother Nature, our Human species and our Earth in general.
- Population Explosion - The sharp rise in our world's population from 1800 to the 21st century is staggering and has put much stress on our planet and its once abundant resources and wildlife. You can view population statistics at the Worldometer website. The Earth's Human population exceeded 7 Billion in 2012.
- Loss of Habitat - Species are suffering from dwindling habitats that are constantly shrinking due to human needs and activities. Loss of habitat is one of the major reasons you now see wildlife migrating down into cities, towns and human developments. They are desperately searching for resources they need to survive but can no longer find in their last shrinking habitats.- See this WWF website page for info: Impact of Habitat Loss on Species.
- Endangered Species and Loss of Species Biodiversity - Biological diversity of species and ecosystems are important to human survival. The loss of species (or ecosystems) reduces the stability of other species (or ecosystems) and the survival of all species (including humans) becomes compromised. - See the pages on Biodiversity and on The Extinction Crisis at the Center for Biological Diversity.
- Greenhouse Warming and Climate Change - Some like to deny it but most educated people now realize that human actions have greatly contributed to an increasingly rapid climate change on Earth. This will inevitably affect how we are able to survive on what could now be a dying planet. The biggest question is whether we will continue to allow damaging activities or will respond quickly enough to halt the progression of climate change. See this website for more info: http://www.global-greenhouse-warming.com.
- Melting of polar ice caps and rising sea levels - Global warming causes the melting of polar ice caps, which in turn increases the rate of melting through loss of the white ice reflector effect, which increases the warming of arctic seas through absorption of (formerly-reflected) sunlight which then accelerates the melting process. The jet stream is affected and weather patterns are disprupted and altered. The repurcussions snowball on from there. And sea levels rise with increased melting. For an amazing National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) Chart showing the changes in the polar ice cap see: http://nsidc.org/soac/sea-ice.html#seaice and use the slider at lower left of screen to view the changes from 1979 to 2013. Note especially the rapid increase in changes developing in the years since 2005. The habitat of Mother Nature's regal polar bears is slipping away! See this Climate Change Guide article for more info. And see NRDC's article Global Warming Puts the Arctic on Thin Ice.
- Drought and Drought-Related Planning - Drought occurs when areas receive lower than average rainfall for prolonged periods, generally due to changes in weather patterns. The severity of droughts is now increasing with climate change and global warming. For example, the California Drought, still ongoing in 2015, is of special concern. The consequences to agriculture have been alarming, forcing farmers to drill deeper and deeper for water depleting acquifers in the absence of rainfall and usual water resources. - See this article: Drought:The Creeping Disaster for general drought facts. Also see Causes of Drought: What's the Climate Connection? - There is no reliable data on exactly how long a drought will last, or whether global warming has permanently altered the climate conditions in some areas. When water resources have become depleted and scarce, everyone must address drought planning to reduce their water consumption and more effectively use water resources. For eg., people can switch to drought-tolerant lanscaping instead of water-hungry grass and lawns.
- Desertification - Lands that were once productive, such as grasslands, are now turning into deserts. Many factors have contributed to this phenomenon, including our initial lack of understanding on how to stop it. See facts on Desertification at the greenfacts.org website. Also see the wonderful TED.com presentation by grassland studies pioneer Allan Savory on desertification and how changes in livestock management through consolidated grazing practices (rather than killing animals) can actually reverse the effects of desertification and help to restore some of the areas previously lost.
- Toxification of air, water and soils - Many substances used in manufacturing and in agriculture are transformed into toxic and poisonous substances during their manufacture or use or disposal. The aftermath of these human activities degrade and harm our bodies, our water, our lands. A brief definition of toxification can be found on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxification. And information on soil contaimination can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_contamination.
- Contamination of our food supplies - The use of pesticides on crops and antiobiotics in raising of livestock have become favorites of corporate farmers, as well as genetically engineering our food so that it is more attractive to consumers (at the cost of nutritional value) and presumably more cost-effective for corporate farmers. This engineering has resulted in the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) in our food, which is now being protested by many groups and and consumers. See the Non-GMO Project for more info. Use of GMO's generally benefits the financial interests of corporations while posing health risks to us run-of-the-mill humans. For a related look at the food industry, see the documentary film Food Inc.
- Fracking and over-dependence on Oil - Fracking for oil has become more widespread in the United States in an effort to reduce over-dependance on foreign oil. However, the environmental consequences are huge, while corporate oil and even local governments seek to hide or obscure the consequences (spills, explosions, toxic contamination) from the average American consumer. For eg., see this NY Times article: The Downside of the Boom (11/22/2014) addressing the Bakken Shale formation oil boom in North Dakota. - Big Oil's greenwash marketing techniques tend to concentrate on claimed "safety" of this process and temporary job creation possibilities rather than admiting to the toxic byproducts of this process and problems in transporting of fracked oil. - We desperately need to reduce our consumption of oil and make better use of alternative energies.
- Management of Hazardous Waste and Non-Hazardous Waste - Humans and human activities generate waste. Solid wastes do not vanish simply because they are not included in your present line of vision (your TV or cellphone?). They need to be dealt with and generally are categorized either as Hazardous Waste or Non Hazardous Waste through laws. This About article addresses the differences: http://www.lonestar.edu/16715.htm. Even wastes categorized as Non-Hazardous in themselves can become very hazardous, for eg. to animal life, such as dead beached whales who were found to have consumed not plankton but many pounds of trash and plastic disposed of in the ocean. Wildlife is unable to distinguish between trash and real food.
- Sustainable vs. Non-sustainable or Unsustainable development - Burgeoning human populations result in human development activities. How those activites are conducted and the choices we make may be categorized as either sustainable or unsustainable development. We need to be aware of whether developmental goals and activities are harming our natural resources and ecosystems in an unsustainable way that will result in degradation or loss of resources needed for present and future generations. If we can reach our development goals without harming or critically depleting our resources, we all come closer to winning. Although a subject that has local, state and national repurcussions, it has also been addressed at the global level through the U.N. Conferences on Sustainable Development (1992, 2002 and 2012). The 2012 Conference resulted in a working document entitled The Future We Want which was followed up on through formation of a working group Proposal for Sustainablity Goals. - Also see Wikipedia on Sustainability for more information on the sustainability concepts.
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