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|Environment and population|
Today, in a rapidly developing world, raising population growth is a main concern for sustainable development. As population booms a great pressure is placed on a study of sustainability of natural resources as well as on the improvement of living standards without destroying and depleting the unity of the environment. In fact, this issue is very challenging, because it is almost impossible to improve quality of life in the present while safeguarding the ability of future generation to meet their needs in future. Economic progress towards higher standards of living inevitably causes environmental damages due to great pressure placed on land, water, energy, and biological resources by abundant population world wide.
In this paper I try to elucidate the negative impacts of population growth on the environment. The main focuses of the paper are the causes of global warming, ozone depletion, the biodiversity loss, and regulations to prevent depletion of ecosystem.
Today, in a rapidly developing world, human population is booming without the realization of the environmental changes and its costs. It is commonly accepted, that the twenty first century is an epoch of unanticipated population growth throughout the world, which leads to changes in the ecosystem as a whole. The “big picture” becomes even clearer when one refers to population growth in statistics. According to data from United Nations, world population grew from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion from 1900 to 2000 (UN). With the larger population the demand for nourishment is greater and with a greater consumption of nourishments the more negative impacts to the environment occur. As a human population rapidly expands, there is a great concern about the growing imbalance between the world’s population and scarcity of the resources that support life on earth. Evidently, enlarged population size demands more land for crops, natural resources for industrial and domestic use, and more water supply for supporting life and agriculture. As a result, damage to the environment in terms of climate, water shortage, deforestation, soil erosion, and decline in the level of biodiversity and slowness of economy becomes an inevitable fact.
Due to the population growth, the motto “live better” became the major force towards better economic development of many countries all over the world. Later, with technological advancement, Industrial Revolution was based on burning coal and together with burning of other fossil fuels humankind has been rapidly releasing carbon dioxide. Today, global warming and depletion of the ozone layers are two problems of the atmosphere have become major international issue due to the emission of carbon dioxide from industrial activities. Global climate change, or global warming, is a long-term rise in the average world temperature (IR). Many scientists underscore the rising danger of global warming from the ongoing greenhouse emission, mainly from burning fossils fuels and timber. According to most estimates, over the last few decades, a rise in global temperatures of four degree Celsius is most likely to occur during the 21st century (CNN). The occurring rise in the global temperature threatens not only the lives of human beings, but also the lives of many animals and plants. In fact, the higher temperature is the basis of the massive melt-offs of the Arctic caps, which in turn causes the sea level to rise by as much as few feet. For instance, a study by British and American researchers in 2009 found that one arctic ice shelf had vanished and that glaciers were melting at a faster rate that previously believed (IR). Even more startling, the rise in sea level also means more intense major storms, more rain followed by longer and drier droughts, changes in the ranges in which plants and animals can live, and loss of water supplies that have historically come from glaciers (National Geographic). Moreover, the glacier melt-offs endanger the natural habitat of polar bears, penguins, and fish, thus, putting them under the risk of extinction. For instance, researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years (National Geographic). Another major issue facing the humanity is the possibility of disappearance of most of the islands. One of the precise paradigms of this phenomenon is Maldives Islands. If the sea level rises at least for two meter, it means that Maldives would simply disappear because the island is only two meters above the sea level. Therefore, if people continue to use broadly by-products of fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) for activities that drive an industrial economy—to run cars, tractors, furnaces, factories the emission of greenhouse gases will not stop. And unless the emission of greenhouse gases are not stopped the danger for whole ecosystem will be growing. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report from scientists around the world, approved by more that 100 countries, calling global warming “unequivocal” and expressing “very high confidence” that human are the main causes (IR). This human-made phenomenon illustrates how desire for better life, in fact, deteriorates the whole ecosystem.
As it is mentioned earlier the second major atmospheric problem caused by greenhouse gases is the depletion of the world’s ozone layer. The ozone layer is the “coat” of reactive gas that forms a protective covering in the Earth's upper atmosphere (Buzzle). Hence, the main function of the ozone layer is protection of the Erath from the ultraviolet rays send down by the sun. Certain chemicals expelled by industrial activities float to the top of the atmosphere and interact with ozone in a way that breaks it down (IR). Accordingly, the main cause of ozone depletion is “the increase in the level of free radicals such as hydroxyl radicals, nitric oxide radicals and atomic chlorine and bromine” (buzzle). Another important consequence cause of the ozone depletion is destruction of forests. Because the trees are no longer “there” they cannot act as a store for carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Moreover, the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) in refrigeration, in aerosol sprays, and cleansing fluids in the electronics industry accounts for almost 80 per cent of the total depletion of ozone in the stratosphere (buzzle). CFCs are considered to be thousands times more potent as greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide because “they absorb infrared radiation in a region of the spectrum where there is little absorption by other gases” (green or bust). In addition, CFCs contribute 25 per cent to current greenhouse warming, and even dramatically, CFCs levels are still increasing by between 4 and 6 per cent a year (green or bust). Thus, if the ozone layer splintering occurs, more ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth’s surface and the increased radiation could eventually kill off vegetation, reduce agricultural yields, cause skin disease, and disrupt ecosystem (IR). Ozone depletion is a collective good problem and an increased concern about possible effects of ozone depletion led to the adoption of Montreal Protocol in the 1987 to reduce and control CFC emission (IR). The international agreement is the most important success achieved in international negations to preserve the global environment. Yet, everyday greenhouse gases are still releasing from burning fossil fuels and nothing is done to prevent it.
Of all many worries about the effect mankind is having on the environment there is one above all others which gives most causes of concern—the biodiversity loss. Biodiversity, the tremendous diversity of plant and animal species making up the earth’s ecosystem, is an important part of an environment that is experiencing several threats from diverse activities taking place in modern society in the face of transformation, industrialization, and technological advancement (IR). During the 18th century through combination of scientific, technological, and industrial innovations humans obtained an opportunity to advance the means of productivity. The introduction of brand new equipments allowed people to harvest far faster than species could replace themselves. To put simply, the progress shoved extinction of other species. Consequently, overuse is a major assault against biodiversity, responsible for 23% of recent extinction (Text book). Unfortunately, mankind occupied with daily desire for better way of life, forgets to understand that ecosystem based on complex interrelationship among species, the extinction of few species can cause deeper changes in the environment. For instance, the loss of the native microorganisms can lead to chronic pollution of rivers or to the transformation of arable land into deserts (IR). Ironically, however, human beings in most of the cases fail to realize the importance of biodiversity as well as consequences of its loss. Today, more than 99% of the world’s food supply comes from the land, while less than 1% is from oceans and other aquatic habitats (David Pimentel, Huang). Accordingly, production of a sufficient food supply is directly dependent on fertile croplands, water, and climate. Since the croplands are considered to be as a major supplier of food, a great pressure put on it. As human population grows, the requirements for these resources also grow. Moreover, the desperate poverty, and the global market for timber and other natural resources are powerful forces that will continue to draw down biological wealth all over the globe. As a result, because of overharvesting fertile croplands are being lost at an alarming rate. For example, nearly one-third of the world’s cropland (1.5 billion hectares) has been abandoned during the past 40 years because occurring erosion has made it unproductive (David Pimentel, Huang). Evidently, most of the replacement for eroded agricultural land is coming from forest land. The pressure for agricultural land accounts the loss of “16 to 20 million hectares of tropical forests and woodlands” (UNFPA). If the current rate of destruction keeps continuing, in near future most likely there would be no forests left at all.
Consequences of deforestation is not just only the fact that the trees that are being cut off, but also plants and animals that occupy the ecosystem, are either permanently or temporarily suffering. For instance, it is estimated that “in the Amazon one species become extinct everyday” as a consequences of deforestation (Green Bust). It is important to taking under the consideration the fact that ecosystem consists of various organisms, each with a unique community role. Thereupon, the loss of one organism can drive the extinction of another due to symbiotic relationship. Furthermore, the logging increases land erosions and run-offs due to the lack of trees that would infiltrate some of the precipitation. The run-off from the rainfall dashes into the fresh water reservoirs, which leads to degradation of the quality of reservoir water. Taking under the consideration that the fresh water is limited resource, it is especially important to prevent the disaster caused by rainfall dashes. As the world population tripled, the water withdrawals also increased by over six times. Currently, water scarcity defined as “less than 1,000 cubic meters per person per year” (UNFPA). In addition, “87 per cent of the world’s fresh water is consumed by agriculture,” while 458 million people in 31 counties face water shortages (David P). Competition over water resources among individuals, regions, and countries is already occurring with the current world population. At the same time, the pollution made by factories and other human activities also threatens human health and welfare. According to the UNFP, waterborne diseases infect some 250 million people each year, about 10 million of whom fatally perish (UNFP). This problem is considered to be the most serious issue in developing countries.