Environmental Degradation - Causes, Effects and Solution
Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. As indicated by the I=PAT equation, environmental impact (I) or degradation is caused by the combination of an already very large and increasing human population (P), continually increasing economic growth or per capita affluence (A), and the application of resource-depleting and polluting technology (T).
Environmental degradation is one of the ten threats officially cautioned by the High-level panel on Threats, Challenges and Change of the United Nations. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction defines environmental degradation as "the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives, and needs". Environmental degradation comes in many types. When natural habitats are destroyed or natural resources are depleted, the environment is degraded. Efforts to counteract this problem include environmental protection and environmental resources management.
Environmental degradation is a process through which the natural environment is compromised in some way, reducing biological diversity and the general health of the environment. This process can be entirely natural in origin, or it can be accelerated or caused by human activities. Many international organizations recognize environmental degradation as one of the major threats facing the planet, since humans have only been given one Earth to work with, and if the environment becomes irreparably compromised, it could mean the end of human existence.
We do not have to look far to see the impacts of environmental degradation on our Earth.
How Environmental Degradation Occurs
Environmental changes are based on many factors including:
- Population growth
- Economic growth
- Intensification of agriculture
- Increase in energy use
- Increase in transportation
Cutting down massive forests impacts our biosphere.
Our land, water and soil are compromised when people exhaust resources or release harmful chemicals into the air. Deforestation, wasting resources, and pollution all add to the demise of an environmentally-sound and safe planet. For example, when trees in forests are cut down in large quantities, so that more homes can be built on the land, the birds and wildlife who lived in the forest must find a new place to live. The vegetation that once grew on the land is destroyed. Trees that absorbed carbon dioxide to help the biosphere are now unable to do so. If the wood from the trees is used to make products and those products (such as paper) are later recycled, that is one hopeful aspect for the planet. However, sometimes trees are just cut down and burned. This is what is known as slash and burn, a practice that only destroys forests and all that live in them.
Unfortunate Impacts of Environmental Degradation
When factories produce harmful chemicals and toxic waste into bodies of water, humans suffer. Pesticides and fertilizers can also get into a region's water system and pollute it. Drinking water is contaminated. Some residing in third-world countries are highly effected by the degradation of our planet and these unhealthy practices cause the following:
- Death in children
- Death in adults
In many countries in Africa, crop harvests are falling as consumption increases. People are finding less nutritious food to eat. One argument held is that while fields in wealthier nations are used to grow crops for biofuel, poorer countries, especially those around the Equator, are vulnerable to weather changes, water shortages, and urbanization. All of these factors are increasing the health and lives of thousands. Some scientists and environmentalists are asking that non-food items and agriculture waste be used as alternative fuel for vehicles instead.
Losing Earth's Beauty
As humans dump waste products, use chemicals, and over fish in the oceans and seas, areas of beauty such as coral reefs are damaged. At times the destruction is so great that is cannot be reversed. We are killing our planet and the consequences are tremendous.
One example of this lies within the coast lands of Thailand. Here marine and coastal resources 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. Not only is the degradation causing marine and coastal resources to be lost, but this issue holds large economic problems. 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. This results in an annual loss of more than six billion baht ($150 million) in economic terms.
How to Stop Degradation
There are ways which you can help to decrease degradation in our environment. Some of these include:
- Purchase recycled products
- Conserve water
- Do not litter or toss waste into inappropriate places
- Conserve energy
- Join an awareness group
- Talk with others about the impacts of environmental degradation
- Be an advocate to save our planet!