By Nayeli Medina
Modern humans have been present on this earth for about 200,000 years, with roughly 7 billion people inhabiting the world to date. Seven billion people on this earth are enough to make an environmental impact, good or bad. For example, if enough of us call attention to a situation in which we do not agree with, we can call out those causing the problems until the problems are resolved. However, if enough of us dump trash in the ocean, or support oil companies with their dangerous initiatives, our earth will begin to spiral out of control.
Soon, future generations will have to suffer the environmental impacts we refused to resolve because the economic advantage was much more beneficial to us than the protection of our Mother Earth. This is a visual representation of what is happening to our earth and the places that are being seriously affected. Links have been added under each description just in case you would like to educate yourself a bit more on one of these subjects:
Pollution is the addition of materials or energy into our landscapes and the earth’s atmosphere. For now, we will be focusing on materials that are not biodegradable such as plastic, foam, cardboard, etc. as pictured above. Littering causes materials to end up in our oceans, affecting various ecosystems in the ocean, and even on land. Many animals end up consuming these materials, which will either cause them to choke to death or become sick enough to cause death, and they may even get caught up in trash in which they cannot escape from. For example, creatures such as turtles and ducks get their necks trapped into six pack rings and squirrels and raccoons get their heads stuck in yogurt cups or other plastic materials. Not only does it affect defenseless animals, but it affects humans as well. Litter that is left on land has the possibility of starting a fire, causing much harm to animal and human homes alike. Chemical waste also affects people by seeping underground or into rivers, and causes water, in specific drinking water, to become contaminated.
Countries that contribute to this disaster are usually ones with big populations, such as India, China and the US. How can we prevent trash from ruining the lives of thousands of animals and people? Easy. Keep your trash with you until you can reach a place where you can dispose of it, and become more involved by finding out whether your community has a beach clean up crew of some sort.
2) Bleaching of Coral Reefs
Coral reefs house thousands of fish and sea dwellers, yet many of them are becoming homeless because of something called “bleaching.” Bleaching of coral reefs means that algae that once lived on the coral has disconnected itself from the reefs, making them vulnerable and pale in color. Coral and algae are codependent, therefore, a reaction like so is expected. This is typically caused by “rising sea temperatures, pollution, overexposure to sunlight, and extreme low tides,” according to NOAA’s Conservation Program. If the stress is not prolonged, coral reefs can bounce back and become healthy again, but if the damage is too much to handle, the coral will soon die. Biodiversity within the oceans begins to decline when coral reefs begin to die off, since many species of fish, sea turtles, lobsters, etc. depend on coral reefs for nourishment and shelter. Places that are being deeply affected are reefs in Belize and The Great Barrier Reef. The health of these corals are declining at a rapid pace and if something needs to be done, we have to act fast.
3) Oil Spills
Oil spills are caused by accidental dumping of petroleum into our oceans caused by “tankers, barges, pipelines, refineries, drilling rigs, and storage facilities,” according to the NOAA. Oil usually spreads out quickly, so if action is not taken soon, it can become even more destructive as time passes. These spills can cause harm to fish and birds that feed off of the ocean’s fish. These birds, for example the pelican pictured above, can get absolutely soaked in oil, causing their wings and body to become so heavy that it prevents them from being able to fly or move. Many mammals ingest the oil, causing them to become sick and die.The Gulf War oil spill in Kuwait, and the Deepwater Horizon spill on the Gulf of Mexico—one of the worst oil spills in US history—have had such a tremendous environmental impact that we are still paying the price today. There are various methods of cleaning up these spills, and it all depends on the weather and the intensity of the spill.
Smog has not really been an environmental issue up until industries began booming and cars became the main source of transportation in the 20th century. Smog, a combination of the words “smoke” and “fog,” contains air pollutants that are dangerous for our health. A dramatic change of weather and the burning of fuels all fused together causes a layer of smog to build over a city. The “Great Smog” which occurred in London in 1952 is a prime example of the effects smog can have on both humans and animals. The “Great Smog”, also commonly known as the “Big Smoke”, was caused by cold weather and a mixture of air pollutants due to burning coal. About 4,000 people died as a result, and if you want to include those who suffered from breathing problems and passed away after the event. then the numbers tripled to around 12,000 people. For current day Chinese citizens, smog is becoming a normal thing as China begins to industrialize. The Chinese government, however, is not taking this situation as seriously as they should and health problems among citizens are rising.
Deforestation is a problem that is increasing quickly, but is given little to no attention. People know it is happening, yet not much is being done to protect our forests. Deforestation is the mass clearing of land which destroys forests, leaving many animals that call trees home, leaving many animals homeless, promoting a decrease in biodiversity. This is usually done to make space for livestock or to utilize trees for various resources. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated 18 million acres of forests are being lost every year. A vast number of species lose their homes and resources, and humans also suffer, since many resources we depend on—such as natural medicine and food—are being taken away during the process. Most of the world’s endangered species call forests home, therefore, deforestation and extinction work hand in hand. The Amazon forest is one of the places with a rapid loss of forest due to clearing for cattle containment, building roads to reach such prized possessions as mahogany and other woods for business.