Category Archives: Environmental Science

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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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Environmental Science Jobs: Availability, Salaries, & More

In today's world with its growing concerns about climate change and sustainable development, environmental scientists are in great demand. Environmental scientists can have many roles in both public and private sector companies, so there are many types of environmental science jobs available. Environmental science jobs are available in a range of geographical locations and can include fieldwork, office work, or a combination of both.

As awareness and concern about environmental issues increases, the number of environmental science jobs available will continue to grow, making environmental science a rewarding field with considerable growth potential.

What Is an Environmental Scientist?

Laboratory staff

Environmental scientists apply their skills and knowledge to allow for a better understanding of the environment, to identify current and future environmental issues, and to address those environmental issues.  While the specific education and training of environmental scientists vary, environmental scientists share a number of characteristics in addition to their love of the environment. Some of these characteristics are curiosity, the ability to analyze and interpret data, and excellent written and verbal communication skills. There is a broad range of environmental science jobs. Some environmental scientists are employed under that title while others work in more specialized jobs within the environmental science jobs umbrella. Examples of these specialized jobs include those of environmental engineers, environmental biologists, and environmental geologists. There are also other professions that can be combined with environmental science as with positions in the field of environmental law. 

Environmental scientists work in a variety of settings and with people in many different professions. Environmental science jobs can be office-based, field-based, or some combination of the two. Because of the importance of environmental health, environmental scientists may work with professionals of many kinds. It is not uncommon for environmental scientists to work with corporations in a wide variety of industries, with government officials or programs, or with nonprofit agencies.

Education & Certification Needed for Environmental Science Jobs

Because there is no one job description for an environmental scientist, there is no single education and certification path. For most entry-level environmental science jobs, a bachelor's degree in environmental science or a closely related field is required. Computer skills relating to geography such as digital mapping, remote sensing, and geographic information systems are in high demand. Additionally, computer skills like data manipulation and computer modeling are quite valuable for an environmental scientist. 

checking the microscope

Some environmental sciences jobs require more comprehensive or more specific education and certification. Because of the vast scope of the potential jobs available to environmental scientists, getting a double major, with the second major in an area of study that closely relates to the kind of work you'd like to do as an environmental scientist, can greatly increase your chances of getting the environmental science job you're most interested in. Though some positions do require a master's degree, doctoral degrees in environmental science are generally only required for teaching positions or for select research positions.

In areas where environmental science and another field overlap, training in both fields could be necessary. Environmental law jobs may require that, in addition to completing an environmental studies degree, a potential candidate also be able to practice law. For many environmental scientists who work primarily within corporate environments, additional degrees or certification in finance or business management may prove invaluable.

Environmental Science Job Availability, Salary, and More

There are many different types of environmental science jobs available. Though all of these jobs do share some qualities, there will be variance between different environmental science jobs when it comes to the specific focus, job duties, educational requirements, and salary

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST

checking the microscope

Environmental Scientist Job Description

Environmental scientists could be responsible for many different job duties. One environmental scientist might conduct experiments in waterways to better understand the potential impact of a toxic spill. Another environmental scientist might gather data and create maps to illustrate how different environmental factors, like air pollution or water quality, change over time. A third environmental scientist might study the interaction of people with certain aspects of their environment, like wildlife. These are only a handful of many options.

Environmental Scientist Education

Environmental scientists typically have a bachelor's degree in environmental science or environmental studies.  

Environmental Scientist Salary and Job Outlook

As of 2015, the median wage for environmental scientists was roughly $67,000 annually. The job market for environmental scientists has been projected to increase by about eleven percent between 2014 and 2024.

ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER

filling a container

Environmental Engineer Job Description

Environmental engineers use their knowledge and skills to address environmental issues and concerns. Environmental engineering has many potential applications. Environmental engineers could be involved in the creation and updating of reports, project development, and implementation, the analysis, and interpretation of data, or consulting work.

The job duties of an environmental engineer vary based both on the local environmental concerns and the skills of the environmental engineer. Some possible jobs for environmental engineers include finding innovative ways to reduce waste, assisting in the planning and permitting process for a construction project, or consulting in regard to how air pollution impacts human health and safety. Some environmental engineers work primarily in an office setting while others spend much of their time in the field.

Environmental Engineer Education

Environmental engineers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering, or in another related engineering field like civil engineering. This field highly values hands-on experience, so internships and cooperative programs that allow work for college credit will help you to be more competitive when applying for environmental science jobs of this nature.

Environmental Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

As of 2012, the median wage for environmental engineers was roughly $81,000 annually. Those with federal government environmental engineering jobs earned roughly $98,000 annually during the same time period. The job market for environmental engineers has been projected to increase by about fifteen percent between 2011 and 2022.

ENVIRONMENTAL BIOLOGIST

plant tissue culture in a glass container

Environmental Biologist Job Description

Environmental biologists work with such aspects of environmental science as ecological conservation, land and water specialization, and landscape analysis and management. This kind of environmental science focuses heavily on associated disciplines of biology and zoology.

Environmental Biologist Education

Environmental scientists might get degrees relating to environmental design, ecology, and conservation. Landscape architects, for example, pursue degrees in environmental design and architecture.

Environmental Biologist Salary and Job Outlook

Environmental biologists can make varying salaries depending on their career path. The median salary for a landscape architect was roughly $63,000 in 2015. In 2012, the median salary for a conservation scientist was roughly $59,000 annually. Demand for environmental biologists is expected to continue to increase.

ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGIST

at the table checking rock sample

Environmental Geologist Job Description

Environmental geologists focus on soil and water. In this category of environmental science jobs, the scope of work could include monitoring soil and water quality, as well as developing, implementing, or evaluating plans for the protection or remediation of soil and water resources.

Environmental Geologist Education

In addition to their environmental knowledge, environmental geologists need a strong foundation in earth sciences. A degree that includes such disciplines as geology or hydrology would be ideal for this field.

Environmental Geologist Salary and Job Outlook

The median salary for hydrologists in 2012 was roughly $57,000 annually. The median salary for geoscientists in the same period was roughly $90,000 annually. As with other areas of environmental science jobs, the demand for environmental geologists is predicted to increase.

Conclusion

In a world struggling to understand and address the effect of environmental issues, environmental scientists are and will continue to be in demand. Because of the broad range of focus, there are many potential environmental science jobs available. With opportunities to work in the field, in a lab, or in an office, there are environmental science jobs available for people desiring many types of work environments.

checking lava samples

Environmental scientists are needed to gather and analyze data so that our current environmental condition is better known so that we can see how the environmental condition has changed over time, and so that we might predict how the environment will change in the future. Environmental scientists are also needed to develop, implement, and analyze programs for environmental conservation and remediation. In addition, environmental scientists serve as valuable consultants regarding both government policy and human health and safety.

When preparing for a career in the environmental sciences, consider a specialized degree, like environmental engineering, or a dual major, for example, a dual major in environmental studies and biology. You can also choose to get a degree in environmental studies while also earning degrees or certifications in another discipline, for example, both earning an environmental science degree and becoming a lawyer.  

Whatever your choice as far as an educational path, take advantage of any opportunities you have to learn additional skills and get hands-on experience. Consider taking courses to increase your computer skills, your technical writing skills, or your communication skills. If you are able to take advantage of internships or programs that allow you to gain college credit for hours worked that experience will give you a valuable edge in the application process.