Category Archives: Environment

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Environmental Degradation: What We Are Doing To The Environment

The "environment" refers to the surroundings or conditions in which an organism resides. This includes the climate, the land, natural resources, flora and fauna. Over the past few decades, we have heard the term environmental degradation used over and over again: something that was not really talked about in the last century.

The current era--also known as Anthropocene--is a geological period in the history of the earth when mankind has had the most significant impact on the environment. Scientists believe that in the last 50 years alone, the stress on the environment has doubled, while the amount of resources required for human survival have declined by more than 30%.

The environment that we live in has a natural uninterrupted climate and resource cycle that has been operating for millenniums without halting. Recently though, man-kind has interrupted and disrupted this natural cycle in a big way. Research shows that many hydrologic, geologic, atmospheric, and biospheric systems of the earth have been altered by humans. The collapse of the natural balance of the environment due to man-made activities is what we know today as environmental degradation.

What Is Environmental Degradation

Disintegration of Natural Assets

The earth is a vast store of natural resources like land, water, air, fossil fuels, and plants that serve many purposes. These resources have been around for years and regenerate themselves from time to time. Every natural resource has its own place, temperature, area and path of movement, be it rain water, polar ice, desert sand, minerals, or animal species.

Extensive interference by man in the natural cycle of these resources has put a spoke in the wheel of the planet’s recurring systems, leading to climate changes and problems like soil erosion, a rise in sea levels, pollution, and the extinction of various plant and animal species.

Environmental degradation does not occur in an isolated system but across all spheres on the earth. Water bodies are dirty and marine life is affected due to garbage dumping, fishing trawlers, oil spills, and soil erosion. This in turn renders all water reserves unhealthy and reduces the volume of potable water. The various modes of transport on land, sea and air pollute every layer of the atmosphere. Excessive agricultural practices spoil the land, resulting in poisonous crops. Environmental degradation ultimately causes more and more health problems for people everywhere.

A Serious Threat

The environment is a complex cluster of different ecosystems that are inter-dependent. When one ecosystem fails, there is a ripple effect all across the systems, resulting in the breakdown of other ecosystems as well. Environmental degradation is considered one of the gravest issues for the world today. Every country is trying its best to control the harm being caused to the environment and reverse some of the negative effects of it.

Scientists believe that human overpopulation and overconsumption has led to the extinction of numerous animal species, a phenomenon they are calling ‘the 6th extinction’ and which may very well result in a worldwide biological annihilation.

Is There a Need To Understand Environmental Degradation?

trash around empty trash bin

Deteriorating Living Conditions

The habitat in which we live is no longer healthy. The air, water, and soil are polluted due to industrial effluents and inadequate sewage treatment. To produce crops in large quantities, pesticides and artificial fertilizers are used, which decreases the volume of arable land over time and also renders food unhealthy. These fertilizers and pesticides get into the water system of a region and pollute it. This in turn contaminates the drinking water. Large-scale deforestation and land clearing has led to silting of rivers and extinction of many animal species that were an indispensable part of the food chain.

In order to reverse the pernicious effects on climate, it is necessary to understand what environmental degradation is and what causes it. Only when there is large-scale awareness of the causes and consequences of climate deterioration to mankind, will different agencies be able to find solutions to combat it.

Small Actions Have a Large Impact

Another reason why it is extremely important to understand environmental degradation and its causes is to so we can reduce acts of pollution that go unnoticed but have a great impact on the climate. There are numerous daily activities we believe don’t make a big difference. But when one family adds to pollution with this belief in mind, we cannot forget that there will be millions of families who feel the same way and go about destroying the environment one day at a time.

If everyone is aware of the waste they leave on the planet and the resources they expend, it will be easier to reduce the same and build a better habitat. Large scale afforestation, promoting the use of solar energy, recycling, the segregation of garbage, and a ban on plastic uses are some global measures climate agencies are harping on to slow down environmental degradation. But all of these measures must be put into place at the local household level in order to bring about results on a massive scale.

Information On Environmental Degradation

water pollution

Population Control

The planet we live on provides us with resources that help sustain human and animal life on earth. It has taken many years for these resources to form in quantities enough for a particular size of population. Unless population explosion is brought under control, the resources that have already taken years to get replenished will deplete at an alarming rate and no conservation measures will suffice.

International Organizations for Climate Conservation

Various groups at governmental and non-governmental level are working to find sustainable solutions to climate change, scarcity of resources, and deterioration of living conditions across cities. The United Nations Environment Program addresses serious climate issues of different countries through its key bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

Environmental organizations like Greenpeace, Worldwide Fund for Nature, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency also actively take part in conservation and awareness programs to counter environmental degradation.

Economic Effects

air pollution

Environmental degradation is largely caused by economic development. The mechanization of work, industrialization across sectors, new modes of transport and sprawling urbanization is causing more stress on the environment in the form of increased pollution, felling of tress, or exploitation of ground water. Courses of rivers are erratic and soil erosion is increasing, causing roadblocks in irrigation projects. Oil spills are extremely tough to clean and cause a lot of damage to marine life.

At the same time, more economic resources are required to deal with the consequences of climate change. Natural calamities induced by man-made activities, like floods and fires, are increasing in number. In such emergencies, large amounts of capital are needed for rescue and relief efforts, rehabilitation of affected people, and rebuilding of infrastructure. Hence, a progressive economy is causing environmental degradation as well as bearing the brunt of it.

Social Impact

crops

Environmental degradation greatly affects the lives of people. Many places face untimely rains, cyclones, or drought conditions and ruined crops or harvest which in turn affects the income of the people. Rising pollution and smog levels cause grave health conditions and respiratory illnesses, especially in children and senior citizens. Increased smog levels are often a major cause for accidents.

Conservation Efforts

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a global convention with the aim of limiting greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The Paris Agreement (one of the most significant agreements in recent times) under the UNFCCC was adopted in December 2015 and is to date ratified by 181 parties out of the 197 parties to the convention. The main aim of this agreement is for all countries to ensure that the increase in global temperature is restricted to below 2 degrees in the current century. This should be accompanied by conservation and enhancement of GHG (greenhouse gas) sinks and reservoirs everywhere.

Conclusion

people protesting

Many agencies have taken up the task of searching for earthly resources on other planets or sustainable options on earth. This is an expensive endeavor in itself. But even if alternatives are found, no environment can stand up to the excessive exploitation of natural assets. Human activities have ruffled natural climate systems so much that we now need artificially created cycles like cloud seeding to bring rainfall.

Unsustainable practices and abuse of renewable resources costs a lot. The global economy, health, as well as community living is under threat and can come to an end if viable ecological solutions are not put into place. And because climate change has been set in motion a while back, it will take some time before it comes to a halt or even reduces considerably.

Even if all unwanted emissions stop completely today, the effects of the same will continue for centuries due to the cumulative impact of all the emissions that are already present in the atmosphere for so many years. It is late, but slowing down the environmental degradation that is affecting every organism across the various ecosystems is crucial for a healthy, sustainable habitat for the coming generations.

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coal tower

Pros & Cons of Nuclear Energy

No matter how many years go by since the 1940s, we have all remained somewhat apprehensive about the stability of nuclear energy, and sadly this fear has only been fueled by a few catastrophic events that have occurred: Chernobyl (1986), 3 Mile Island (1987), and Fukushima (2011), but these events did not result in the death of anywhere near as many people who have died in coal and oil related disasters. However, it's still important to know the pros and cons of nuclear energy so you can better understand why it's so desirable despite the dangers associated with it.

The world's demand for more energy only continues to grow and we have to find the technology that will rise to the occasion. However, we would ideally do so in the best interest of our environment. Despite our unpleasant run-ins with nuclear power, it is one of the most environmentally friendly sources of power and it is in our best interest as a growing population to find alternative sources of power that don’t harm our planet. This article will compare some relevant pros and cons of nuclear energy as an alternative source of power.

WHAT IS NUCLEAR ENERGY?

Nuclear energy is the product of a phenomenon called Nuclear Fission. Fission occurs when splitting the atom of a nucleus. Because of this occurrence, it releases a large amount of energy. Despite the fear and anxiety still left by nuclear energy it is understandable that people are hesitant to accept it as anything but destruction.


The reason it is still being considered as an alternative source to fossil fuels, is ultimately that the process results in far less damage to the environment overall in comparison. There are many pros and cons of nuclear energy, what it can do, and how it compares to other forms of generating power. But this article will not be expanding on the scientific attributes of this form of energy and its production process.

nuclear fission

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF NUCLEAR ENERGY

Nuclear energy produces around 10% of the world's power and we could produce several times that amount of nuclear energy at will. It is the cleanest form of energy we know of at present, and it offers much lower emissions including carbon dioxide. In addition, it takes a rather small amount of uranium to output a massive amount of power and the average nuclear reactor lasts around 40 to 60 years, but the lifetime of a nuclear reactor is contingent on the how much power it is intended to produce and the quality of its function. Let's move on to the pros and cons of nuclear energy for this article.
 

Pros of Nuclear Energy

source of nuclear energy

Listed below are some positive attributes of nuclear energy and what it offers in terms of clean energy, reliability, quality, and cost.


Less Pollution​


In no capacity does nuclear energy production burn chemicals in the process of producing nuclear energy, so there is no release of harsh gases into the air. In fact, the fluffy clouds that are given off by the stacks of a nuclear plant is only vaporized water. Those "stacks" are large cooling towers filled with water intended for keeping the nuclear reactor(s) from overheating. For the sake of this brief on the pros and cons of nuclear energy, we will also come back to this in our cons list. Nuclear energy is still the most environmentally friendly form of alternative fuel and electricity.


More Reliable than Other Forms of Clean Energy

Solar and Wind energy both rely on weather to produce power. Not to say it is impractical, but to produce large amounts of power constantly it is not exactly ideal. A nuclear power plant can run constantly, uninterrupted, making power for up to about a year. It also maintains a shelf life once produced and can even be stored for much longer than fossil fuels. Nuclear power also does not require the use of any kind of fossil fuels to be produced. Therefore, it is unaffected by the uncontrollably fluctuating costs of gas and oil.


More Electricity for Less Money

Although building new plants can be costly at first, there is a discussion of upgrading existing plants to improve volume instead of building entirely new ones. Regardless, once they are running smoothly, they are inexpensive. That is without mentioning the amount of power they produce will minimal resource. These plants produce electricity with nuclear reactors which is cheaper than coal, gas, or any other fossil fuels.

Uranium is also much cheaper than one would expect, but this does not additionally calculate the cost and expenses of the hauling and safe disposal of various kinds of radioactive material. There is no particular procedure for the disposal of the radioactive material nuclear fission creates as a byproduct.

Cons of Nuclear Energy

hydrogen bomb

Listed below are some negative attributes of nuclear energy and how it affects the environment, weaponry and warfare, disaster, and radioactive filth.


The Nuclear Elephant in the Room


The biggest concern with nuclear energy is the disposing of the used fuel remains which are radioactive and possibly dangerous. Although highly dangerous in mass quantities, which a typical plant produces around 20 metric tons of used nuclear fuel per year. This used fuel takes hundreds of years to decompose to a state that is safe enough for humans to coexist.


This is one quality other sources of fuel do not deal with. This point of Nuclear Power production evokes thoughts of the 1970s through the 1980s when plants were dumping their waste into the ocean and other bodies of water. None of those things take place in our modern world and there are now laws in place to protect against illegal dumping of toxic waste.


 

Use of Nuclear Energy as a Weapon


Nuclear power generation is far from the process of making nuclear weapons, but it poses a threat if exposed to the wrong person or group. In the wrong hands this technology can cause the entire world a whole mess of trouble. Recalling Hiroshima, imagine the potential of that on a worldwide scale. Well, that's what people imagine when they think of "weapons of mass destruction," but those with access to this technology are known and monitored. Interest in this kind of power grows every day, especially as the possibilities evolve from science and energy to weaponry.



Non-Renewable Radioactive Fuel


Uranium can not be re-used, therefore nuclear energy is not a renewable source. But there has been a discussion of the other possibilities uranium may offer to convert it into energy. If not handled properly, even the designated drops of waste can end catastrophically. It quickly contaminates its surroundings and spreads as it ages. Nuclear disasters like the accident at Chernobyl in 1986, leave the environment surrounding the plants uninhabitable by human life. The high levels of radiation have been unsafe for several years and it likely won’t change anytime soon. The damage left behind both in the people and places is still overwhelming to this day.

CONCLUSION

nuclear power

We hope this article has helped you better understand the pros and cons of nuclear energy, and here we offer our final thoughts.

Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy Compared

Good arguments can be made for both the pros and cons of nuclear energy as an alternative source of power. Although it has so many safe benefits, the negative results are dangerous and not so for the human death toll, but the environmental impact. But when you consider the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that fill our atmosphere, coal, oil fires and accidents happen more often than someone it hurt in a nuclear power workplace environment.

The nuclear industry is firm with their safety in the workplace, and catastrophic incidents are rare, but when an accident can be as devastating as a nuclear meltdown, it causes the public to worry. The shocks of the past remain at the forefront of the public's’ mind and it immediately turns them off to anything related to nuclear energy.

Don't Give into Fear

Despite the negative impacts, overall nuclear energy is technically the least threatening of all forms of energy. With every other fossil fuel dissolving our atmosphere, nuclear energy may be the only way to dismiss the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the production of nuclear energy, but if we were to fully explore the benefits of having nuclear energy, we would need to create a plan to manage the disposal of used fuel.

Until then no one will truly be ready to trust in any kind of casual use of nuclear power, we desperately need as I world continues to grow. Perhaps finding more ways to combat this issue would evolve as we further experiment within the parameters we have at present, but as much as some may not want to admit it, we are getting close to the point of needing to put the wheels of large-scale nuclear fission in motion.