Protecting the environment has been the key matter of concern for the human society since the past few decades. Considering the present condition of the mother nature, today the debate is that “Are we protecting the environment or is the environment protecting us?”

Is the environment protecting us?

What I truly believe as an Environmental Science student is that the environment has been protecting us since mankind was not even born. People say that species adapt to the environment, but I somehow feel that the environment has evolved and adapted to the Earth and it’s changing habitat through the centuries. Every species that has originated, survived or got extinct on earth had every necessary resource available in the environment which kept replenishing or transforming with time. Species have come and gone, have utilized every resource needed. And this theory still holds to date.

How does the environment provide for the human society?

The Environment or Mother nature has been providing a number of key resources for all living organisms in the world since the Earth has existed. Countless forms or resources have formed, evolved and perished in nature over a course of millions of years. Today humans, the most advanced creatures on Earth are entirely dependant on such resources.

  • Sunlight is probably the most important need for all living organisms because it is the source of all energy. It also provides heat for plants and animals
  • Water is the medium in which living cells and tissue work. Water is also a living environment for many plants and animals
  • Air is made up of several gases, but the two most important gases are Oxygen and Carbon dioxide. Without oxygen, animals will die, and without carbon dioxide, plants cannot survive.
  • Living things need energy in the form of food and nutrients for functioning. Energy is needed to grow, reproduce, move, and to work. Think of what will happen if you stayed for three days without food.
  • A Habitat with the Right Temperature is something that every living organism needs to survive either on land or in water.

It’s interesting to think that the Environment has actually acted like a virtual human as it has been conserving, providing and replenishing vital resources over time for all living species. We just didn’t realize that we only kept taking and never gave anything back in return. Nature has indeed played its part through the ages and it still is doing for us, even while being in a dying condition.

Are we protecting the environment?

NO! Modern mankind has stabbed the Environment knowingly, unknowingly or casually with our callous and reckless approach towards managing and conserving resources. And now that we stand a threat of struggling to survive in the future, we are mending to the wounds we have given to the Environment. We have it in the news. WE HAVE IT IN FRONT OF US! Mankind is protecting the environment from mankind itself!

Technology and urbanization as we all know, has played a major part in the gradual degradation of the Environment. Humans believed that urbanization was beneficial for them, but didn’t realize that some of it were at the cost of damaging the Environment.

I’m not saying that every bit of urbanization has damaged the Environment, but a majority of it has. In the race for rapid urbanization and employing the latest technologies to achieve large-scale development, we utilized, over-utilized and exploited almost every resource available on earth, whether renewable or nonrenewable. So much so that we are already facing a scarcity of resources and the resources that are available in abundance are highly contaminated, polluted and unfit for use.

Think about this for a moment! We have water, air, soil and more. All of which are available in abundance. But how much of it is actually healthy for us? How much of it is actually fit for use? And how much of it will still be available in the future if we even try to consume and use them systematically?

The present condition of the Environment

  • Air

Numerous human activities have damaged the condition of the resources available to mankind today. When it comes to air, activities like the burning of fossil fuels for power generation, Carbonaceous emissions from various modes of transports, domestic and agricultural activities release Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Carbon Dioxide equivalents (CO2e) into the atmosphere. As more and more of these gases accumulate in the air, they combine to form an invisible gaseous envelope over the Earth’s Stratosphere which traps all the radiated Infrared radiations from the Earth’s surface and reflected UV radiations and prevents them from escaping into the atmosphere. This mechanism is called the Greenhouse effect.

 

As a result of this heat-trapping process, the Earth’s atmosphere begins to unnaturally heat up, causing the phenomenon of Global warming. The thinning of the Ozone layer and melting of ice caps in the North Pole is an effect of global warming caused by man. Various reports by UNFCCC, IPCC, NASA, and NCAR reveal that over the past 20 years, the Earth’s average temperature has risen by around 3°F and if the current trends of CO2 and other Greenhouse gases continue, then the figure would increase to 7°F in the next 50 years.

  • Water

Water resources like rivers, lakes, streams around the world have become polluted beyond permissible and acceptable limits and most of them now rank among the most polluted water sources in the world. Several reports by the UN and other international departments state that industries cause around 10% of the total pollution to the waters across the world. Several industrial zones across the country are located on the banks of the rivers and constantly let untreated and contaminated effluents into the rivers. The rivers and lakes have become so polluted that the waters are unfit for use and consumption.

  • Land/Soil

The quality and wholesomeness of land resources and soil have also been extensively damaged by the improper management, treatment, and disposal of effluents and solid wastes. Agricultural runoffs often get piled up at places whose contaminants leach down through the layers of soil and degrade the groundwater quality and soil quality. Wastes from industries and nuclear power plants are also buried under the ground without administering proper disposal measures. The pH, fertility and nutrient level of the soil is also greatly harmed due to the disposal of effluents and hazardous wastes on barren land.

  • Forests

Forests, which are considered to be the most efficient and crucial carbon sinks in nature are being uprooted as a result of rapid urbanization. Widespread deforestation takes place around the globe to provide real estate and commercial infrastructure to humans. This is not only causing an imbalance in the CO2 levels and the mean temperature of the atmosphere but also leading to widespread loss of habitat, flora, and fauna.

 

The exploitation and overuse of the earth natural resources by humans, whether renewable or non-renewable has posed a serious threat to the availability of sufficient and clean resources as well as the stability and sustainability of the environment and mankind in the future.

Protecting environment: The vital task!

Now that humans have begun to realize the fatal consequences of living in a polluted environment, numerous environment protection protocols and laws have been undertaken with the primary and basic objective of  to deduce measures, precautions and models to reduce, prevent or possibly eliminate the harmful effects of pollution on the Earth’s environment, including flora and fauna.

Major international conferences like the Vienna Conference (1985), Montreal Protocol (1987)Kyoto Protocol (1992), Paris Agreement (2016) have been organized to contemplate the grave consequences of environmental degradation and deduce measures to control, mitigate and possibly eliminate the “Endangered” status of the environment itself.