Sie sind auf Seite 1von 5

UNIT 8: MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES

THE LIMITS OF OUR PLANET


ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS
Our planet has a finite amount of natural resources. This means that there are
environmental limits, beyond which we upset the ecological balance. This usually
has a negative impacto n the economy (food supply problems), the environment
(rise in natural hazards) and society (armed conflicts for control of certain
resources).
Human economic activities that use resources to meet the needs of a growing
population are primarily responsable for exceeding these limits and for the
transformation of the environment:
- Environmental degradation
This is the total or partial disappearance of the natural environment and natural
areas as a result of human occupation, such as the felling of forests to plant new
crops and urban sprawl.
-

Overexploitation

This involves removing or using natural resources at a faster rate than they can
regenerate.
- Pollution
This involves discharging or emitting waste into the environment as a result of
human activity.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Sustainable development is a development model base don generating economic
growth while also maintaining social equality and adequate levels of environmental
protection so that we do not compromise the wellbeing of future generations.
Improving the environmental situation on our planet requires the involvement of
states, international bodies, work by environmental nongovernmental organisations
(NGOs) and environmentally responsable behaviour by citizens.
2

MANAGING NATURAL RESOURCES


OVEREXPLOITATION OF RESOURCES
A natural resource is any natural element from which we can obtain some benefit.
Natural resources can be:
-

Non-renewable resources:
These have a very slow rate of replenishment and overuse means they will
finally runo ut.
88 % of the energy we use comes from burning these resources.
Petroleum derivatives are consumed as an energy source for agricultural and
industrial production, transport systems and manufacturing plastics and
fertilisers. As a result, many deposits are getting closet o running dry. In

addition, oil is highly polluting and contributes to the global warming of the
planet.
Renewable resources:
These do not take long to replenish themselves naturally (foods we obtain from
crops, forests and fish).
However, the indescriminate felling of forest can cause deforestation and soil
loss, which will prevent the forest from regenerating naturally. In the case of
fishing, many fishing grounds have disappeared because the fish have been
caught at a faster rate than the natural reproduction of the species.

Therefore, some resources which should be renewable can become nonrenewable.


WATER MANAGEMENT
The main environmenal problems associated with the management of water are:
-

Higher consumption due to the rise in poplation and concentration in urbana


reas, the expansion of intensive irrigation faring and the increase in the amount
of water needed for industrial uses and services.
Water pollution caused by waste produced by industrial and agrarian human
activities.
Uneven distribution of poable water reserves, in erms of both space and time,
making it necessary to build infrastructures for water storage and transport.

THE PROBLEM OF WASTE


WHERE WASTE COMES FROM
Waste is made up of useless materials which become rubbish after they have been
used or performed their function.
Production and consumption of goods and services generates different types of
waste:
-

Solid waste
These are waste products generated in urban and surrounding areas.
Uncontrolled disposal of this waste in large areas of land known as landfills and
dumps can lead to the following problems:
o When waste decomposed and dissolves in water and other liquids, it
produces leachates. These are absorbed by the oil, contamining the
different strata and reaching the aquifers, which contain groundwater.
o Degradation of areas. The landscape is transformed by the accumulation
of waste, altering its ecosystems and threatening its biodiversity.
o The landfills and dumps can act as a source of infection , fires and
unpleasant odours caused by the combustin of gases emitted during
decomposition of the waste.

Liquid waste
Water can be contaminated by liquid waste from industry, domestic use and
irrigation water containing dissolve chemicals. If this water is left untreated
not processed to make it safe- it can cause problems:

o
o

Surface water and groundwater can be contaminated by run-off


(rainwater that flows across the ground into bodies of water)and
dumping (ilegal disposal), causing fauna and vegetation to die.
Eutrophication, or an abundance of nutrients, in standing water, such as
lakes or reservoirs, causes excessive algae growth , decreasing the
amount of oxigen in the water and killing fish and plants.
Oil spills in ocean waters cause environmentalcatastrophes, such as
conaminated areas on the surface known as oil slicks.
Run-off of amurca, a highly polluting substance produced when olives ae
processed to make oil.

WASTE MANAGEMENT
The first step in waste management is to apply the 3Rrule: reduce, reuse, recycle.
-

Reduce the production of waste


Reuse things before disposing of them.
Recycle elements that can be used as raw maerials in other production
processes.

In addition, to prevent uncontrolled polluting emissions and run-off into the


environment, the government enacts regulations and monitors compliance. It has
also created purification and waste processing plants, where the various types of
waste are separated and processed differently.

AIR POLLUTION
The gaseous waste emitted as a result of economic activity is dispersed into the
atmosphere.
Increasing amounts of emissions and the concentrtion of pollutants in certain places
have negative environmental effects, which have an impac on our entire planet.
-

The hole in the ozone layer


The ozone layer is a level of the stratosphere whose basic function is to filter
out the Suns harmful ultraviolet rays.
The thickness of the ozone layer has decreased as a result of an accumulation
of CFCs over the poles. This is called the hole in the ozone layer.
Certain chemical substances known as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)- used in
some industrial processes, aerosols and refrigeration systems- interact with
ozone molecules, destroying them. Massive emissions of these substances,
which take decades to break down, have significantly reduced the amount of
ozone in the atmosphere.
Movements of air masses have concentrated the CFCs in the atmosphere over
the polar regions. As there are more CFCs over the poles, atmospheric ozone is
reduced more there than in other areas.

Urban air pollution


Air pollution is primarily caused by the use of fosil fuels in industry, transport
and domestic heating.

In major cities, one posible effect is an accumulation of pollution in the lower


layers of the atmosphere. This occurs when the increase in pollutant emissions
coincides with stable meteorological conditions.
When high pressure dominates, there is very little wind to disperse the
pollution. This produces smog, causing health problems for residents.
-

Acid rain
Some pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide, acidify when they
are diluted in atmospheric water.
Precipitation in the form of rain containing polluted water is a global problema.
It can occur in places very far from where the pollution originated, as pollution
can be carried by the wind before falling to the surface in the form of acid rain.
Acid rain has harmful consequences:

Damage to natural vegetation and crops.


Acidification of terrestrial and marine water, which affects fauna.
Corrosin of limestone or marble buildings and monuments due to the action of
the acids.

GLOBAL WARMING
NATURAL CLIMATE VARIATIONS
The Earths climate has evolved in a constant, cyclical way. During the ice ages,
temperstures were so low that an ice sheet extended over the Earths surface.
However, during interglacial periods, like the one we are currently in, temperaturas
increase and te ice sheet is limited to the polar regions and glaciers.
THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT
Carbon dioxide (CO2 ) and other greenhouse gases occur naturally in the
atmosphere. They fulfil the function of maintaining a suitable temperature on the
planet. They allow solar rafiation to enter the atmosphere and retain part of the
heat from the Sun.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Solar energy reaches the surface of the atmosphere.


Some of that solar energy is reflected away.
The radiation that enters the atmosphere heats the Earths surface.
The Earth heats the air in the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases trap some of the energy emitted by the Earth, causing the
temperatura to increase.

GLOBAL WARMING
Current climate studies have identified a steady rise in temperatura over the past
century, caused by both natural variability and human activity.
Large-scale burning of coal and oil derivatives since the Industrial Revolution has
produce dan increase in CO2 emissions. This intensifies the greenhouse effect and
contributes to global warming.
It is getting more and more difficult for part of the Suns radiation to escape, and
our planets temperatura is rising. This is producing changes in the global climate
with affect all ecosystems.

There is a correlation between the rise in global temperatura and increased levels of
greenhouse gases such as CO 2. Over the last century, the Earths average
temperatura ha sincreased by 0,74 C. This has caused a number of glaciers to
retreat and se levels to rise. It does not appear that this increase can be explained
only by natural climate variations.
6

BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity isa ll the living things on our planet and the ecosystems they inhabit. It
is essential to achieving an ecological balance on Earth. The abundance of different
species is he result of the evolution of life over millions of years and its adaptation
to conditions in the physical environment.
The areas of the plante that are richest in biodiversity are the equatorial and
tropical regions. This is due to their temperatura and moisture conditions. As
latitudes increase, the number of species in the ecosystems drops.
LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
Human acivity has negative effects on ecosystems and leads to the loss of
biodiversity. These effects include:
-

Species of extinction caused by changes in their natural environment. This


disappearance then affects the other organism and their ecosystem. For
humans, this means a decrease in food and th loss of other natural resources.
Deforestation is the destruction of forests due to tree feeling or burning to
obtain Wood or to use the land for agricultura, livestock farming or construction.
Desertification is the loss of soil fertility due to erosion. It is often aggravated by
human activity, such as overgrazing and deforestation.

PROTECTING BIODIVERSITY
Preserving the Earths biodiversity is a global necessity for every country in the
world. Any change in one pat of th Earth can have consequences in another region
of our plante.
Some of the environmental policies intended to protect biodiversity are:
-

Protecting endangered species through laws which prohibit hunting, fishing or


felling these species (or limit these acivities to specific periods or locations),
control the methods used to capure them or regulate their international trade.
Protecting the hbitat of species by creating protected natural areas (national
park, nature reserves, etc.) where certain activiies are limited or prohibited.