The environment includes all the living and non-living natural things that are a part of Earth. We are surrounded by air, water, insects, birds, flowers and many more. All of these, including human beings, constitute the environment.
During, the last few decades, actions of human beings have caused rampant damage and destruction to our environment. Some of the major challenges related to environment facing us today are:
l Global Warming
l Waste Disposal
l Depletion of ozone layer
These issues are slowly destroying our environment. Steps must be taken towards prevention and environmental clean up.
Global warming means the average increase in temperatures around the world. From mid-20th century, global air temperatures have increased by 1.33 ± 0.32 ° F. The Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the temperatures will increase by a further 2.0° to 11.5° F during the twenty-first century. There are many reasons for this increase in temperature.
The causes for global warming listed below, are mainly man-made, although the role of nature is being researched.
- Carbon dioxide is called as green house gas because it lets in the energy from the sun but does not let it out. This is a cause for the rise in temperatures. Carbon dioxide is released through many actions. Fossil fuels, like coal, are burned to produce electricity. This releases carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. Forests use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Destruction of forests has resulted in increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is emitted from cars, airplanes, power plants and buildings also.
- Methane is another harmful gas. It is released from rice paddies, bovine flatulence and fossil fuels. Nitric acid is another greenhouse gas caused by the use of fertilizers and burning of organic materials. These gases are also harmful to the environment.
- Population is one of the major causes of global warming. Increased population puts more pressure on natural resources and newer ways are being discovered to sustain the ever-growing population. These newer ways include burning of more fossil fuels for electricity and increased use of pesticides to produce more crops. These actions will add on to global warming.
Global warming has a significant impact on all living organisms including human beings. The sea levels will rise because of increased flow of water from the melting of ice caps. Many glaciers found in early twentieth century are extinct now. This may submerge the coastal cities in future. Quality of agriculture will reduce due to increased pests. Humans will face many heat-related diseases. Water resources can dry up and climate will be completely unpredictable. In order, to avoid these drastic effects, environmental clean up is very important.
The remedy for global warming is global awareness and collective and conscious environmental clean up through reduction of carbon dioxide and pollution by the people. Prevention is always a better solution when compared to environmental clean up. Afforestation, use of renewable energy like wind and solar energy, energy efficient appliances, decrease in population, non-carbon dioxide emitting vehicles, reduced release of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are some of the ways to enhance environmental clean up.
Pollution is the release of contaminants into natural resources like air, soil and water. This has a very harmful effect on human beings. So, it is an important part of environmental clean up.
When population increases, it puts more pressure on natural resources like water and soil. Over a course of time, these resources can get depleted forever. Air pollution is caused by the release of smoke and other toxic chemicals from various industries. Also, air quality is affected by increased use of cars and other transportation vehicles that release poisonous gases into the air. We have to take steps towards environmental clean up before we start breathing in toxic air.
Water pollution happens because of excessive dumping of industrial and human wastes into the water bodies. This pollutes the water and makes it unfit for consumption. Global warming is causing many water bodies to dry up and if the existing resources are contaminated, then it will make survival impossible in the near future. This makes environmental clean up very important.
Soil pollution is another form of pollution that we face. Various pesticides and chemicals are used to increase the production of agricultural products. This in turn affects the quality of the top soil. Deforestation or cutting down of forests also causes rain water to wash away the top soil, resulting in more barren lands that are unfit for cultivation. This in turn, puts more pressure on the cultivable areas.
The effects of pollution are lasting. First and foremost, it will affect the health of human beings. Air and water are the elixirs of life. When these are contaminated, it naturally affects the health and survivial of humans and other organisms. The delicate ecosystem around us is being affected and steps must be taken towards environmental clean up.
The primary step of environmental clean up is to reduce the population and thereby reduce it's effect on natural resources. Many countries have come together to sign a treaty called Kyoto Protocol. According to this treaty, all members countries must take steps towards environmental clean up.
Waste disposal is another challenge facing us today. Waste is unwanted substances that are thrown out by human beings and other living organisms. Biodegradable wastes are wastes that are naturally broken down by microorganisms. A lot of care must be taken to ensure that they are disposed off properly because it may result in the growth of harmful pathogens. These pathogens will have an adverse impact on human health. Biodegradable wastes can produce methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.
Another major problem is the disposal of non-biodegradable wastes, which are not broken down naturally. So, disposal of this waste results in harmful effects like pollution and release of toxins. Non-biodegradable wastes include plastics, metals and glass. They have to be recycled properly, otherwise they will release toxic fumes when they break down after many years. In the meantime, the landfills and other dumping yards will be full to the brim and there will be no more place for trash. We have to perform environmental clean up to avoid this unpleasant situation.
As human beings, we have the responsibility to handle the waste created by us. Non-biodegradable wastes must be recycled and biodegradable wastes should be disposed off carefully at specified sites that are far away from human habitation. We should employ methods for speedy degradation of these wastes. We must work towards environmental clean up.
Depletion of Ozone Layer
Ozone layer is a layer of air that surrounds us and prevents the harmful ultra-violet rays of the sun from reaching the earth. The ozone layer has reduced to a large extent and this has been observed by scientists who are stationed in the north and south poles of the earth. The primary reason for the depletion of the ozone layer is Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). They are mainly found in refrigerators and air-conditioners. The CFCs, when they come in contact with the sun's rays, release chlorine gases that deplete the ozone layer. This will have a big impact on human beings. The ozone layer absorbs the harmful UVB rays from the sun. When this layer, thins down, UVB rays will reach the surface of the Earth. These rays are known to produce various kinds of cancer on humans. Crops will also be affected by UVB rays. The good bacteria in the crops will be destroyed and so the plants will not be able to absorb nutrients from the soil. Another research shows that UVB rays have a drastic impact on planktons. Planktons are the major source of food for many aquatic organisms. They are first organisms in the marine food chain. Without this, many aquatic organisms will not survive. Every aquatic animal will have a prey and a predator. When an organisms's prey becomes extinct, that organism will become extinct too and it's predator will not be able to get the food. So, over a period of time, entire marine life may be destroyed if planktons do not survive. It is very important that we ensure proper environmental clean up is done.
It is our duty to perform environmental clean up because we are the root-cause of most problems. Some of the measures that we can take include:
l Reducing or stabilizing the population of the world.
l Decreasing the usage of pesticides or other toxins on crops.
l Framing proper and safe policies for the disposal of waste, both biodegradable and non-biodegradable.
l Reducing the emissions from industries and nuclear plants.
l Avoiding emissions of poisonous gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitric acid.
l Planting more trees is one of the best ways to clean up the environment. This will retain the top soil so that there will be more areas for cultivation and also trees will absorb more carbon dioxide.
l Using fuel-efficient cars that will drastically reduce the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
l Saving water and other natural resources by consciously conserving them.
l Harnessing solar energy and wind energy can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
l Eliminating arsenic or asbestos usage.
l Cutting down on nuclear production.
The above mentioned steps can go a long way in protecting and preserving our environment from any kind of damage. This cannot be done by any one individual or group. The entire world has to come together and each person must consciously do his or her part. Let us join hands to preserve our environment for posterity.