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The Environment the Greatest Challenge of Our Time, Essay Example

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Essay

The environment is one of the foremost universal challenges of our time. There is a lot of debate concerning the demerits of whether or not it’s caused by humans or not but that is not the focus of this paper. Dispute the debate there is no doubt there is something going on in our environment, and there is something we can do about it. This paper will look at three environmental issues that I feel are pertinent to our time. Also the three issue chosen will be interrelated to highlight the interconnected nature of the problems.

The environmental issue of our time is climate change, conservation, dams, energy, genetic engineering, intensive farming, land degradation, land use, Nano technology, overpopulation, ozone depletion, resource depletion, toxins, waste and pollution. The environmental issue this paper will be focusing on will be energy conservation, renewable, non-renewable, consumerism and efficient energy use. This connects almost seamlessly with resource depletion. Which includes mining, fishing, logging and consumerism? A consequence of these activities is pollution of air, water, light, noise and visual. (IPCC, 2007)

Energy is the ability of a physical system to carry out work. Energy exists in several forms such as kinetic, heat, or mechanical energy, electrical, potential energy, light, or other forms. Most of the world runs on energy, from cars to television. But where is all this energy coming from and why is it so important to conserve it? Most of it comes from nonrenewable resources. Over 85% of the energy used in the world is from non-renewable supplies. Coal, oil and natural gases are some examples of nonrenewable resources.

There are several problems that are associated with nonrenewable resources. The consumption of oil releases pollutants such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. These gases pollute the air and green house gasses that contribute to global warming (IPCC, 2007). Global warming caused by green house gases is blamed for droughts in the horn of Africa that has seen tens of thousands of people dying of starvation and erratic weather patterns throughout the world causing record number of hurricanes in the United States. This has caused billions of dollars in damage, hurricanes Katrina comes to mind.

Since these are non-renewable resources is a natural resource that cannot be re-made, re-grown or regenerated on a scale comparative to its consumption. It exists in a fixed amount that is being renewed or is used up faster than it can be made by nature.

In the world, there are three main areas in which resources can stem from; those are land, mineral and water (Pearce, 2001). All of our resources and utilities to produce resources come from one of those three, and as our population continues to grow, those three sources are ever depleting. There are three major areas in which resources can stem from; those are water, minerals, and the land. These three sources are ever depleting. To highlight this point here are some facts about oil and gas that illustrate resource depletion.

The age of oil is almost coming to an end. If oil production remains constant until it is gone, then there is only enough to last 42 years. Oil wells produce less as they become depleted which will make it impossible to keep production constant. Also there is only enough natural gas to last 61 years and there is only enough coal to last 133 years (Pearce, 2001). The solution to this lies in renewable energy effectively utilizes natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished. Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, and hydroelectricity to biomass.

However in the quest to change our addiction to oil a very interesting oxymoron has occurred. Solar power, which has become very prevalent in the drive for replacing oil, is made from a non-renewable resource called rare earth metals. These minerals are the group of minerals found at the bottom of the periodic table. This endangers the entire environmental movement because we will be moving from one non-renewable resource to another. Bio-fuel, which is hoped to mitigate and reduce the consumption, actually caused a food crisis around the world. Maize a food staple in Africa was being used on the continent to produce biogas for cars this caused the world price of maize to shoot up (IPCC, 2007). Riots were seen all over West Africa at the rising cost of food. Hydro-electricity which is seen as a renewable resource has one catastrophic fault about it changes the river it’s placed on irreversibly as well as causing the loss of a large sloth of land that was formally inhabited by people and animals.

The consumption of all of these resources in acquiring them manufacturing them and disposing them resulting in pollution. The mining of mineral resources causes environmental degradation due to the methodology and or difficulty of acquiring them. Some of the chemicals are very dangerous to both man and animal like the case in gold mining that uses copious amounts of mercury used. In the Amazon rain forest to get to its vast mineral wealth the forest has to be cleared. Logging causes desertification (Pearce, 2001). The indigenous populations are adversely affected by their loss of habitat not to mention the animals. Pollution of air due to fossil fuels of water due to activities like farming from the fertilizers and the noise from the machinery that is the mainstay of human activities are all the environmental issues that humanity has to grapple with.

It is my assertion that the environment is the cause of all our problems in the 21century.The Nobel Prize winner Wangari Mathai asserted the biggest cause of conflict in our time is competition or scarce resources that are poorly mismanaged (Diamond, 2004). There is a rumor that the entire conflict in Darfur in western Sudan began as an argument over water at a well that has seen millions displaced and an ongoing genocide according to some. It is said the war in Iraq is about oil not the late Saddam Hussein. Many a commentator have said world war three will be about water not religion as Samuel P. Huntington in his clash of civilizations will have us believe.

References

IPCC (2007) Glacial-Interglacial Variability and Dynamics, International Panel on Climate Change, retrieved from: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch6s6-4.html

Pearce, David W (2001) “The Economic Value of Forest Ecosystems”, Ecosystem Health, Vol. 7, no. 4. pp. 284–296.

Diamond (2004) How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Viking Press, pages 301-302

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