day where everything runs quickly and people use technology and mass production to make their life easier and comfortable, it is obvious that human beings have had a significant role on the deterioration of the planet and have made it worse for themselves. In the YouTube video “the story of stuff” a serious question is presented. As an example, the cost of a radio, which is $4.99, is questioned. How could a radio whose metals are extracted from one part of the world, plastics are produced in another part, the assembly is done in another part, manufacture require fuel extracted in another part and costs of display and transportation are more than the price itself can be purchased for $4.99? The answer is something called “externalizing the cost.” So in this system, we are not paying for the actual production of the radio or it's marketing our paid price is the profit for the manufacturer and actual cost is paid by someone else. The cost is paid by the children forced into child labor in third world countries, it is paid by the people of third world countries who lose their resources. The cost is paid by low paid industrial workers with loss of good health, which includes having asthma and cancer, and retail workers pay by getting minimum benefits. Although I am not talking about the direct Scio-economic effects of human activities I am just providing the environmental effects that it arises. There are many negative consequences of human activities, like urbanization and industrialization, for example, deforestation, greenhouse effect, climate change, ozone layer depletion, species extension, and these have affected many aspects of socio-economic life, ecosystem, human health, biodiversity, and also various normal functions that make life possible on earth.
If the extraction of fossil fuel is continued at this rate it is certain that they will be completely dry within the century and there are hazards to the environment due to oil spills. Also, the extraction of water from underground has hollowed our earth's crust. As we call our current world a “concrete jungle” the lack of exposure of land prevents the water from rain to enter the ground and due to this many urban areas are susceptible to earthquakes. Another concern is land pollution with non-biodegradable substances like plastic, concrete blocks etc. has degraded the quality of soil we have. Mass agriculture's waste and their use of pesticide and artificial fertilizers also provide to the pollution of the environment.
Extinction of species is happening at an alarming rate since the introduction of the industrial revolution. Biological diversity provides various functions and resources to make life possible on this planet. Losing this diversity might result in human extinction. But due to overpopulation the biodiversity is at loss. According to US Endangered Act of 1973 threatened species are those which are about to be endangered, and endangered are those which are on the verge of extinction. The red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) contains thousands of species which are considered endangered or threatened, but this number should be in tens if the endangerment was due to natural causes(Marcus 28). As the human population increases many species are threatened due to loss of habitat which is caused by deforestation, loss of grazing land and water pollution. Many are also endangered due to hunting for food and profit. Some lose their existence because of increasing temperature. Pollution to oceans, ground and rivers also result in the extinction of animals.
30% of the world's land area is still covered by forest; however, it is decreasing at the rate of 75,625 km2 per year on average. The reasons for this practice is to provide firewood, land for agriculture, land for urbanization and wood for furniture and construction purposes. Studies have estimated that 70-79% of Pakistani use fuelwood as the main source of energy (Faiza et al.). The effect of global warming is immense as fewer trees mean less consumption of CO2 and this causes global warming. It also causes soil erosion which leads and intensifies as a result of landslide and flood, and effect of both can be minimal if there are trees planted. Deforestation also means the destruction of terrestrial ecosystem and vegetation.
The greenhouse effect is the process of heating of earth's surface or lower atmosphere by greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, water vapour and others. Sunlight, after hitting earth's surface, radiates back as infrared radiation which heats up the atmosphere and such heat is captured by greenhouse gases and the stored heat is further released to provide more heat; however, as the concentration of greenhouse gases increases the heat is more intense. It is estimated that from industrial activities 900 billion tons of carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere and 450 billion tons are still remaining. Activities like deforestation also serve to the emission. Since the start of the industrial revolution there has been an increase in temperature of 6.75 0C due to the burning of fossil fuel and during the twentieth century the sea level increased by 22 cm. It is estimated that by the year 2100 the global temperature will increase by 5.3 0C and the sea level by 51cm(Stojanović 49).
Change in climate can have many consequences on morbidity rates, climate disasters and the availability of food and water. Especially due to the change in climate, the rate of disease is more significant than other countries. In Europe alone there were 70,000 additional deaths during the heat wave in 2003(Robine, et al 171). The rise in temperature also increases the population of vectors and rodents. In today's world rodents' effect on the human world is underestimated. The plague of thirteenth and fourteenth century almost wiped out half the population, and it was caused due to a disease that was originated in the rodent population. The availability of fresh water will be considerably lower due to the melting of glaciers. Global warming also causes early and intense melting of snow leading the river to change its course and flood human settlements. Various island nations like the Maldives are on the verge of sinking due to the rise in sea level.
Ozone layer contains 90% of the total ozone in the atmosphere (Vermishev, M. K. and V. I. Danilov-Danilyan 360). Ozone layer serves to protects living-organism from harmful effects of the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. While continuous cycle keeps on forming more ozone in the layer, it also keeps on depleting due to natural and anthropogenic causes. Many human activities have also resulted in significant depletion of the ozone layer. Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) which was formerly used in refrigerators had a huge effect on depletion of the ozone layer. Jets emit nitrogen oxides in a significant amount and this has also had an adverse effect on the layer. Other compounds emitted by humans like halogens and nitrogen oxides disturb the chemical balance in the stratosphere which eventually leads to the decrease in ozone concentration. During the last couple of decades, the decrease in ozone is estimated to be 5%(Vermishev, M. K. and V. I. Danilov-Danilyan 361). The effect of radiation on living organisms is adverse. It is harmful to various kinds of oceanic plankton and various land microorganisms. In the context of human beings, it can cause skin cancer, cataract and other diseases(“Health and Environmental Effects”).
For years the ocean and the atmosphere have exchanged CO2 leaving a very small fraction of carbon dioxide in the oceans. The concentration of CO2 used to be 172-300 parts per million by volume(ppmv) over the past 800000 years but had reached 387 ppmv in 2009(Gattuso, Jean-Pierre and Lina Hansson 1). Ocean acidification is the process when the pH value, which ranges from 1 to 14 where larger pH means the compound is more basic and smaller value refers to the compound being more acidic. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water it forms a weak acid; however, as the concentration increases, it becomes stronger. Acids are also formed by other factors including the industrial and other waste thrown by humans, and some which might even form stronger acids. Many aquatic organisms need carbonate for their growth and development and due to the process where the carbon dioxide turns into acid, the carbonate is lost. Not only that many organisms cannot resist increased acidity of water. Some might prosper by the increased acidity but the increase in the number of one type of organisms and decrease in other can seriously hamper the marine ecosystem(Committee on the Development of an Integrated Science Strategy for Ocean Acidification Monitoring 81).
Coral reefs, one of the marine ecosystems, prevent shorelines from storm and cyclones. Many marine parks depend on these ecosystems too. The combined revenue of these parks are in billions(“Ocean Acidification and Its effects”). As the acidity of the oceans increases the water becomes less soluble and can absorb less carbon dioxide and it has an adverse effect on climate.
Associated with industrial pollution, acid rain has intensified vigorously. in the early 80's rainfalls in Florida and Georgia were as acidic as the most affected areas 25 years ago. In 1980 on average in several parts of north-east America, the acidity in the rain was almost 20 times greater than 1955. This increase can be blamed on the sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emission in the air by industries and burning of fossil fuel (Rosencranz, Armin and Gregory Wetstone 7). Furthermore, Sulfur dioxide emission in a moving source in time oxidizes into sulphates. Due to its high atmospheric life, it can travel for a long time further serve acid rain. pH level of 5.5 is the lowest tolerable acidity level for many fish. Although some susceptible fish can live in water whose pH value is less than 5.5s however they cannot reproduce. Acid rain has been a massive killer of stressed fish living in acidified lakes and rivers(Rosencranz, Armin and Gregory Wetstone 7).
Studies have suggested that at high concentration, Sulphates, are more toxic than sulfur dioxide. Cumulative low-exposure can cause respiratory problems. Acid rain can lead to corrosion of various form of art and architecture, buildings, bridges etcetera. Many ecosystems and vegetation are also harshly affected by acid rain. Exposure to acid rain can cause various skin related diseases in humans and other animals(Rosencranz, Armin and Gregory Wetstone 8).
Pesticides used today are degrading natural multidrug resistance of the bacterial flora. Organophosphorus compounds used in pesticides not only are poisonous to target organisms but also affects non-target organisms. Some effects include the unnatural growth of aquatic invertebrates and minor to serious effects on human health ranging from allergies to cancer(Rangasamy, Kirubakaran, et al. 307). According to food and agricultural organization (FAO), more than 700 species of pest had no effect on pesticide(Rangasamy, Kirubakaran, et al. 305). Modern agriculture systems use four million tons of primary pesticides annually. Use of pesticide in a long-term can form a reserve of pesticide in agricultural fields, and this can lead to different levels of consequences for soil, animal and human. Same is with antibiotics. As many bacteria become resistant to antibiotic drugs and transfer their gene to the next generation. Studies have shown a relationship between the use of pesticides and increase in the antibiotic resistance(Rangasamy, Kirubakaran, et al. 304).
Mainly due to our industrialization, urbanization and due to many other human activities environment is suffering, and it eventually is affecting the human race itself. So we should be more responsible as we go forward. Renewable energy source should be focused than just relying on fossil fuels. Toxic waste and waste that harms the environment should be controlled, filtered before releasing, or in some cases completely stopped. Most of the infrastructures should be mandated to be eco-friendly. Green-city programs and use of public transport should be highly encouraged. Mass usage of non-biodegradable substances and improper disposable should be decreased by introducing laws and regulations. The list of suggestion goes on; however, why are not people implementing these means effectively? This is because although, some of them are simple enough to implement most of them are very costly. Instead of turning to a costly alternative for doing things in an eco-friendly way they could just stop the use of such environmentally deteriorating activities, but that would mean that they would end up working hard and inefficiently or losing their lifestyle. For example, you can use your gasoline engine car to get to work; it's costly alternative would be using an electric car and if financially unable your another substitute would be to take a bike or walk to work. If your walking distance to your work is very long you can use public transportations, which are increasingly becoming electric these days, and even if it uses fossil fuel the emission would be a lot less as many people share the same vehicle rather than each individual with their own car. Many people overlook their actions in their day to day life and refuse to give up their way of life. Yes conserving the environment means working hard, loss of many luxuries, spending more money and time and in some instances going back in the technological development; Moreover, after centuries of hard work of the human race, it is hard to let go of our accomplishments. Nevertheless, people should understand that none of those are worth the extinction of the human race, and possibly many other, species and degradation of the planet. And we can always rely on science to come up with technologies that make our lives easier without destroying the environment. We just have to put our effort on that and wait.
...(download the rest of the essay above)