“The problem of environmental degradation is a social problem “Discuss
Environmental degradation-Environmental degradation is a process induced by human behavior and activities that damage the natural environment. It is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources like air, soil and water, destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife. Any change or disturbance to the environment is perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. Industrialization and its subsequent fast population growth and concentration are the main contributors to environmental troubles in both developed and developing countries. The magnitude of the problem varies from country to country. It depends on various factors, including stage of industrial development and the degree of enforcement of environmental regulations.
Today environmental pollution is one of the most serious problems on earth people are facing. Air, water, and soil are essential to the survival of all living creatures on planet earth, but unfortunately they are debilitated by pollution. Air polluted beyond tolerable levels can cause sickness, and even demise. Pollution damages land, water and air. It can cause contamination of the earth’s environment with materials that interfere with human health, the quality of life, and the natural functioning of ecosystems (living organisms and their physical surroundings. Pollution is usually caused by actions of human, but can also be the result of natural disasters. Pollution can also occur from disruption or damage to waste-water collection and treatment infrastructure due to severe natural events like hurricanes or flooding. Pollution is caused by the garbage and waste material especially non recycled material that people most often throw on the ground or into oceans, lakes or rivers. People have always polluted the environment, but pollution in early days was not a major problem since machines were not there. Most of the people lived in rural areas and the pollutants (waste products) they produced were scattered widely. At that time pollution-causing machines such as factories industrial plants or motor vehicles, were not introduced. The rapid growth of Industrialization and the development of busy cities in the 1700’s and the 1800’s made pollution a major problem to mankind, plants and animals. Factories and human beings in these urban cities released enormous quantity of pollutants into small areas. Societies everywhere are closely linked to the natural environment in which they are embedded. Environmental degradation, including depletion of renewable and non-renewable resources and pollution of air, water and soils, can be a significant source of stress upon societies. It can act on social integration indirectly, through the constraints that it puts on productive activities, and it can also have more direct social impacts. Environmental decline may induce changes in settlement patterns and thus disrupt established social relation. Therefore, environmental degradation can only be understood within the context of the society that the environment supports.
A question may arise at what point the environment becomes degraded. Different people have different perceptions. Some see the ideal environment as being as close as possible to a pristine state of nature, and believe that the biosphere has its own needs which must be respected independently of human needs. At the opposite extreme, others see the value of the physical environment as resting primarily in its utility to human. While some people see beauty in uninhabited forests, others find it in cultivated croplands, and still others prefer the artifices of the city, and the buildings, pavement and lights of the spaces constructed for intensive human use.
Principal Health and Productivity Consequences of Environmental Problems
The World Bank has distinguished the effects of the major environmental problems on
Both health and productivity:
* Water pollution and water scarcity:
More than two million deaths and billions of illnesses a year are attributable to water pollution. Water scarcity compounds these health problems. Productivity is affected by the costs of providing safe water, by constraints on economic activity caused by water shortages, and by the adverse effects of water pollution and shortages on other environmental resources (for instance, Declining fisheries and aquifer depletion leading to irreversible compaction).
* Air pollution:
Air pollution is responsible for 300,000-700,000 deaths annually and creates chronic health problems for many more people. In addition, 400 million to 700 million people, primarily women and children in poor rural areas, are affected by smoky indoor air. Restrictions on vehicles and industrial activity during critical periods affect productivity, as does the effect of acid rain on forests and water bodies.
* Solid and hazardous wastes:
Diseases are spread through uncollected garbage and blocked drains. The health risks from hazardous wastes are typically more localized, but often acute. Wastes affect productivity through the pollution of groundwater resources.
* Soil degradation:
Depleted soils increase the risks of malnutrition for farmers. Productivity losses on tropical soils are estimated to be in the range of 0.5-1.5 per cent of GNP, while secondary productivity losses are due to situation of reservoirs, transportation channels and other hydrologic investments.
Death and disease can result from the localized flooding caused by deforestation. Loss of sustainable logging potential and of erosion prevention, watershed stability and carbon sequestration provided by forests are among the productivity impacts of deforestation.
* Loss of biodiversity:
The extinction of plant and animal species will potentially affect the development of new drugs; it will reduce ecosystem adaptability and lead to the loss of genetic resources.
* Atmospheric changes:
Ozone depletion is responsible for perhaps 300,000 additional cases of skin cancer a year and 1.7 million cases of cataracts. Global warming may lead to a shift in vector-borne diseases and increase the risk of climatic natural disasters. Productivity impacts may include sea-rise damage to coastal investments, regional changes in agricultural productivity and disruption.
Major Environmental Issues
Few major issues related with environment to illustrate how environment is affected by life and how it is affecting life are shown here.
Unsustainable Development: The landmark report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, entitled “Our Common Future”, warned that unless we change many of our lifestyle patterns, the people of the world will have to suffer from unacceptable levels of environmental damage.
Affecting Poor: Poverty is considered a great influence of environmental degradation, Environmental degradation is not all about global warming, desertification or climatic change, ozone layer depletion, but it is also related with the weaker section in marginal areas are generally pretty localized in character, revolving around direct issues related with their life and living conditions, such as the degradation of a particular rangeland or soil erosion on farmland or the progressive reduction of fallow. For instance, Poor people harvest natural resources for their survival or in order to meet their basic needs such as firewood etc. Most of the poor people use this fire wood as their source of income by selling them, and art craft products are also used for income generation. The roots of the trees are dug out for medicinal purpose.
Food Problem: Population increases, aging populations, consumption patterns – living beyond means, over consumption affect the poor because they are directly related to household food security. Degradation of the resource base by and large translates into decreases in production or income and thus in the availability of food. Declining soil fertility leads to lower crop yields while rangeland depletion reduces off take, and any deterioration in water quality adversely affects the fish catch.
Vicious Circle: In their quest for food security, the rural poor have sometimes little choice but to overuse the limited resources available to them. The resulting effects of environmental degradation among poor people impose further constraints on their livelihood in what has been called a “downward spiral” or “vicious circle”.
A sentry lifestyle combined with health impacts of environmental pollution and emissions, use and abuse of pesticides, anti-biotic etc is affecting the health of the future generations. The environment influences our health in many ways — through exposures to chemical physical, and biological risk factors, and through related changes in our behavior in response to those factors.
The rate at which energy is being used is affecting the climate. Every source of energy has an environmental impact. Energy efficiency is not just technology, but also cutting back the ill effects on environments. Not only this the technology like hydropower are involved in great displacement of people from villages.
Losing Earth’s Beauty:
As human dumps waste products, use chemicals, and over fish in the oceans and seas, areas of beauty are damaged. At times the destruction is so great that is cannot be reversed. People are killing the planet and the consequences are tremendous, one example of this lies within the coast lands of Thailand. Here marine and coastal resources are at risk. Vast areas of mangrove wetlands have been lost. Coral reefs continue to suffer degradation, and the total fish available for catching is declining. When there are not enough fish to catch, fishermen are without income to support themselves and their families. In some coastal towns, the shores are eroding at a rate of one to five meters per year.
What can we do to save our environment?
Plant more trees- We should Plant a tree every month, encourage our friends and colleagues to join us. Have more and more trees planted and there will come a day when we will have a green stretch of land.
Walk more, drive less– This is not a very difficult job for us. We can choose to walk short distances instead of taking our car every time. People can walk to the gym, to work (if it’s not very far), or use a bicycle. Both cycling and walking are good exercises. And each time we avoid using our car, we are contributing to reducing air pollution. We are saving fuel, saving money and getting a good workout too. This is beneficial for both people and the environment.
Change the way of driving– We should not drive in low gear as it consumes more fuel, as well as should not accelerate and brake very often. More fuel is exhausted that way, to turn the ignition off when stop in a signal.
Save water- Water is a very important natural resource. It’s we who waste it, pollute it. The simplest ways to save water – turn off water taps after use. We should not pollute rivers by dumping garbage, sewage or other waste material in them.
Save energy-There are so many electrical gadgets we are using daily – the air conditioner, heater, refrigerator, lights and fans. Need to replace the air filters for our air conditioning unit once a month. Turn off the AC when not in use. Refrigerators and water heaters consume a lot of power, so should be used scrupulously. Switch off the lights and fans of the rooms before leaving it.
Recycle and reuse – A simple way to do this is to reduce the use of rubber and plastic. Instead, we can use paper bags and cardboard containers. Buy products that we can reuse. We can reuse daily-use items like old wood, scrap paper to make wood and paper articles and old clothes (we can donate them to the needy).
Use renewable sources of energy as much as possible. Resort to the use of renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro power. We can get a solar panel installed and start using solar power for water and room heaters.
Change habit- When in office, print only when it is absolutely necessary to. Printing every soft copy leads to heavy wastage of paper, can use emails instead of paper for correspondence, to use disposable plastic cups and plates when we have the option of using ceramic.
Go green when gardening or farming. – Instead of dumping rotten vegetables, leftover food, eggshells, teabags, vegetable stalks and fruit rinds in the garbage bin, use them to make organic manure for the garden. Replace lawns with bushes and trees. People can consider rainwater harvesting in their locality if they live in an area which receives decent rainfall.
Create Awareness– We should seek knowledge and tell others about the importance of saving nature. Put up posters or banners in the neighborhood, in schools and colleges or work place. Organize an environmental awareness campaign. Organize small activities like planting trees, cleaning an area in the locality, visiting an animal shelter or volunteer for an organization which works towards creating environmental awareness.
In conclusion I would say that our environment must be protected by all means. We must realize the fact that so long environment is there, our life is there. The day, when there will be no environment, there will be a complete doom.
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