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Threats to the Environment and Concerns

Threats to the Environment and Concerns


We have discovered that there are numerous threats to the environment such as overpopulation, global warming, disposal of wastes, and even eco-terrorism.   Do you believe that these concerns are real or are they overstated to satisfy industrial and political agendas?  Of these problems, what concerns you the most?


  1. Introduction

We find ourselves increasingly aware of major concerns about issues in the environment; some so widely known that those not “environmentally aware” are aware of only by name. Depletion of the ozone layer, widespread deforestation, air and water pollution, and the extinction of countless species are all leading examples of issues that have far greater effects than most of us realize. It is important to realize that every action has a reaction, even if we do not see the effects firsthand. These problems are all contributed to human interference in the environment, directly or indirectly. With an expanding population comes the need for more land to support the greater numbers of people, and while providing living space may be a direct cause of habitat destruction, the greater indirect cause is the need for more food sources and economic growth. Economic well-being is important to people all over the world, and this has driven the need for resources and energy. Using cleaner, sustainable energy sources and preventing energy waste can reduce harmful effects on the environment. Unfortunately, the trend is that richer countries are able to move in this direction of sustainable energy, while those countries and communities who are poor often rely on cheaper, dirtier energy sources. These contribute to not only pollution, but damage to ecosystems and health problems for the inhabitants. All these issues are deeply interconnected and are all contributors to the overall issue of global change. This report aims to explain the progression and interconnections of these issues in a logical manner, and to come out with a clearer understanding of the bigger issue at hand. The purposes of my work are to explain and demonstrate through various examples and statistics the vast array of environmental issues that are of global concern today. By increasing awareness and understanding of these issues, we can hope to enable a world that will seek to prevent further damage to the environment, and through active participation each make an impact as an individual. This leads to the next purpose of this work, to show that all these issues are of equal importance when considering their effects on the environment. It is quite often the case that people are aware of only the most publicized issues such as pollution and climate change, and while being big issues in themselves, they are all rooted from a wide array of other issues discussed in this report. An awareness of the global effects and solutions of these issues is necessary on all levels from the individual to the political, so in knowing that the big issue is global change, individuals who are better informed can make better choices and influence others to do the same.

1.1. Background

In the 1960s, concern for the environment resulted in an explosion of environmental legislation and the establishment of such agencies as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the UK Environment Agency. These agencies were designed to protect the environment and also to regulate the exploitation of the environment—development, industry, and land use. In many ways, given its concern for environmental sustainability—the ability to have our increasing material needs met without jeopardizing the quality of life now and for future generations—environmental economics is part and parcel of ecological economics. This field, which emerged in the late 1980s, is a policy-driven effort to change the way the economy affects the environment in largely the same way environmental economics emerged from the concerns of the 1960s regarding environmental degradation. The primary difference between the two is that while ecological economists are inclined to regulate the economy for the sake of environmental protection, environmental economists are inclined to change environmental policy using market-based tools. Despite the economic and environmental concerns, there are many who criticize the SMS process due to its overemphasis on science and economics and its failure to adequately involve the public in defining what is meant by the “healthy ecosystem” that is to be restored or preserved. This charge is founded on a belief that a healthy ecosystem is one whose preservation allows for human activities and settlement patterns that have already encroached upon the ecosystem. Though the SMS process is still new and its efficacy still unproven, the current trend in environmental management—whether market-based or regulatory—is consistent with the field of environmental economics and its underlying doctrine that the environment is valuable for the sake of human welfare. This holds great promise for graduates of economics programs.

1.2. Purpose of the Work

It is asserted that in order for a student to devise solutions for the future, he or she intending to begin a career in these areas should first have an understanding of the problems and their scope. Therefore, a major area of this work is to address the paradox that we face in 1992: that we know the environment is threatened, but we still do not understand precisely why this is so. It is hoped that these students will find the work directly and thoroughly addressing their needs and, in doing so, develop increased awareness and concern for their own environment.

The primary objective of this work is to bring the subject of environmental threats to the attention of students and, in so doing, foster concern and eventually collective action on the part of such readers. The importance of this issue is, of course, enormous, and it is the intention of the writer that some of this concern is reflected in the work to be found here. As a biology teacher, I have become increasingly aware of the desperation of the environmental problems facing the coming generation of students. Unfortunately, the subject is complex and interdisciplinary on one hand, while on the other, there is a wealth of biased and often contradictory literature available. It is therefore difficult to know where to begin in presenting a clear picture of the threats in 1992, and thus it is with some relief that the work is completed. The target audience, however, are not biologists, but rather students of environmental science, geography, economics, and social/policy studies studying within the tertiary sector.

  1. Environmental Threats

2.1. Overpopulation

2.1.1. Impact on Resources

2.1.2. Pressure on Ecosystems

2.2. Global Warming

2.2.1. Rising Temperatures

2.2.2. Melting Ice Caps

2.3. Waste Disposal

2.3.1. Pollution of Land and Water

2.3.2. Health Hazards

2.3.3. Recycling Efforts

2.4. Eco-terrorism

2.4.1. Definition and Examples

2.4.2. Impact on Environmental Security

  1. Debate: Real Concerns or Political Agendas?

3.1. Arguments for Real Concerns

3.1.1. Scientific Evidence

3.1.2. Global Consensus

3.2. Arguments for Overstated Concerns

3.2.1. Economic Interests

3.2.2. Political Manipulation

  1. Personal Concerns

4.1. Evaluation of Threats

4.2. Identifying the Most Pressing Concern

4.2.1. Impact on Future Generations

4.2.2. Immediate Environmental Consequences

  1. Conclusion


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