We should be concerned about the world we live in, especially to protect our environment. We should all contribute in one way or another to make our planet a more sustainable, healthier, and greener place to live. We only have one Earth, so let’s make it count!
Here are the top five issues plaguing our environment today:
Climate Change and Global Warming
There is no doubt that anthropogenic activity (that is, human activity) has accelerated climate change in the last few centuries. Global temperatures are higher than ever, and sea level is rising faster than we anticipate. Massive chunks of icebergs are breaking off from the Arctic and Antartica ice sheets while other tropical regions are experiencing their first snowfalls. A change in climate is natural; we have had many cyclical ice ages and thawing periods. However, there is no denying that we humans are accelerating climate change faster than we can adapt to it.
What causes global warming? You might say it’s the greenhouse gasses we produce every day in our lives. From gas-guzzling cars to oil plants and refineries, all the gasses we emit into the atmosphere has an effect on our climate. Even the impacts of global warming can be felt in the oceans, not just on land. The Great Barrier Reef has lost its colours due to a process called ocean acidification that causes coral bleaching. On land, as climate affects local weather patterns, we are experiencing more intense heat waves and storms.
One of the ways we can drastically reduce our effects on climate change is to use renewable energy, like wind and solar power, instead of fossil fuels. Although transitioning to a fossil-fuel less society can be difficult, if we are to sustain the Earth for future generations, we must act now, before it’s too late.
Water Pollution and Scarcity
Water scarcity is a scary thought, as we humans (and other life forms) need water to survive. Water is sustenance; it helps life grow. A world without water is terrifying, and rightly so.
Many freshwater water sources around the world are drying up, simply because of longer periods of droughts and shorter periods of rainfall. As weather and climate patterns shift, areas of the world more prone to rain are receiving it less, while others are dumped more rain than they have ever seen before.
There is also another reason why we’re running out of freshwater: simply because there aren’t enough of it, and there are a lot of people!
As the human population continues to grow over the next decades, more resources are needed. But when only 2.5% of the world’s water bodies are freshwater (and not saltwater) and only 1% of that 2.5% is accessible, the odds don’t look nice. Most of our water is trapped in glaciers and snowmelt. When our world warms up, and these ice sheets melt, the freshwater inside these sheets does not end up in our freshwater supply. Instead, the freshwater melts into oceans, turning into undrinkable salt water.
One way we can combat water scarcity is by conserving our use of water to necessary tasks, like for cooking, cleaning, and washing.
We can also, surprisingly, reduce our water consumption by reusing and reducing the food and textiles we throw away each year. Agriculture and the clothing industry are big consumers of freshwater resources. A pair of jeans for example, take a lot of water to process and make, and lots of clothes are thrown out due to fast fashion each year. Agriculture is also energy and water intensive. The food we eat took countless of water, energy, and fuel to transport to our grocery stores. Yet so many food is wasted around the world each year.
One of the reasons why fossil fuels are being phased out is because of its damage to our air. CO2 emissions from transportation and industrial activity, along with other chemicals like carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide contaminate the air we breathe. Too much of these chemicals also seep into our soil, contaminating our supply of water and food. When animals are at risk for bioaccumulation, we are too. Everything we ingest can contain bioaccumulated toxins starting from the plants that herbivores consume.
How do we stop our air, water, and land from being so polluted?
We can decide where to spend our money, what corporations we support, and altogether consume far fewer resources than we need. We can choose more sustainable methods of travel, or better plan our travels to reduce our CO2 emissions. If all 7 billion people on Earth do something small to pollute less, imagine what our world will be like.
Trees and forests are natural carbon sinks. They take harmful chemicals like carbon dioxide out of the air. Forests are also home to rich, diverse ecosystems where many animals live. Vegetation near rivers and streams (riparian) help maintain balance in the water and provide a home to important species that apex creatures depend on.
When we cut down forests, we lose soil stability. This makes sudden flash floods and rainfalls more deadly, as the trees’ roots cannot stop the soil from washing away. Clear-cutting forests also destroy the habitat of creatures living in them and make the soil unstable for decades to come.
We need to reduce the number of trees cut to keep our ecosystems alive.
Ecosystems and Endangered Species
As ecosystems continue to decrease, the number of endangered species continues to rise. Both the species and the ecosystem are continually being affected due to all the environmental issues. When a habitat is lost, the species living there will also be lost. Others may find a new place to stay while it may not be possible with others. Giving full support to organizations dedicated to fighting the extinction of species is one of the most effective ways to save species.
We have to take these issues seriously, as we are already seeing the consequences of our inactions. If we all do our part to take care of the environment, champion a green revolution, and conserve what we have, we can sustain the beauty of the Earth for many generations to come.