It is amazing how nature created a life on our planet and then – a huge diversity of species, whose evolution led to the emergence of Homo sapiens – a human being. Throughout not so long history of humans on the Earth (in the scale of its existence), we made a huge progress from learning how to set up a fire 1 million years ago to inventing Internet and making space journeys today. During the last 100 years or so, humans had made an incredible development breakthrough. At the same time, the more economic development and technical achievements humanity gains, the worse is getting the situation with the main treasure that we own. Our planet is becoming more and more polluted and man-made climate change leads to global warming. As a result, glaciers are melting, ozone hole is getting bigger, deforestation level is increasing, and species are becoming just pictures in the history books. Unfortunately, in recent years, the rate of growth of all the mentioned problems is increasing even quicker than it was predicted. Life has many wonders in every aspect or art, but humans now are like big Earth’s killing bugs which cannot stop destroying every single wonder; we cause an irreparable damage to nature by our daily activity.
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Imagine the world where you will not see the blue sky and green trees. There will be no animals or bird singing. There might not even be enough oxygen to breath. It sounds horrible and hard to imagine, but, unfortunately, this is the reality which follows inexorably the way humanity is living now. Pollution of air, water, and soil, the eradication of biodiversity and marine life, overproduction of undecomposed goods, growing levels of consumption, rapid urbanization – all these destroy the environmental systems, so carefully created by nature. Nowadays, people are damaging the environment faster than it is able to recover.
Steven Hawking predicts that very soon humans will have to find another planet to live on since the Earth will be destroyed because of climate change and overpopulation (Galeon 2017). “We now have the weapon to destroy the planet on which we live, but not yet developed the ability to escape it” (Hawking 2016). In fact, it is hard not to believe him. Forests, oceans, lakes, rivers, rangeland, and other natural ecosystems are all threatened now. Air, land, and water are getting extremely polluted; water level is increasing; erosion of soil leads to desertification; global warming does not stop, and species are dying out hundred times faster as compared to their natural rate of extinction.
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According to Allenby (2005, p.9), “The Earth has become an anthropogenic planet. The dynamics of most natural systems- biological, chemical, and physical – are increasingly affected by the activities of one species – ours. The carbon cycle, hydrologic cycle, climate and oceanic systems, biological communities – they all reflect the actions and intentions of humans. We are not yet prepared to manage this complexity, it is doubtful we understand either the systems, or what our response should be”.
A million years ago about 14% of our planet’s surface was covered with the glorious forests being a safe home for many species. Today, forests take only 6 %, and it is hard to find the place on the Earth where humans left nature a chance just to live its own life. Our planet has already lost nearly 80% of its original forests, and this process has not stopped yet. Vaughan predicts that “there may be no unspoilt places left within a century” (2016).
The age of consumption requires more and more resources and territories; forests all over the world are being cut down every day. Even though it is prohibited or illegal almost everywhere, governments are making their choice of earning as much money as possible now not to protect the environmental system or save the planet in future. It seems that atonement will never come. The planet is losing approximately 375 square km of forestland each day. It is more than the total area of Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey. In only thirty years (1960-1990), 1.1 billion acres of tropical forest were destroyed.
Humanity prefers to live today not thinking about what will be left to future generations. However, if deforestation will continue with the same speed, there is a high chance that not our descendants, but us, will feel its effects such as extinction of different species for which forest is the only possible place of living. As a result, the food chains will be breaking down, and sooner or later, it will definitely influence the humanity. Another important thing is that forests produce oxygen and no living creature can exist without it including humans. It is known that, for example, the rainforests produce approximately 28 % of the Earth’s oxygen.
Therefore, where does all this forest go? The era of consumption requires something new every day as people stopped using things for a long period and enterprises need more and more money. For example, “IKEA could easily manufacture beautifully designed, high quality and durable furniture that could last a lifetime, that could be handed down to your children or passed on friends or antique shops for others. That would save a Siberia’s worth of trees, lakes of toxic dyes and finishes, and vast quantities of other resources. But why would they do that? IKEA is not in business to make furniture or save the planet” (Smith 2013).
According to the Harvard biologist E.O Wilson, “At current rates, half the world’s great forests have already been leveled and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century” (Smith 2013).
It is known that nearly 70 % of all species on the Earth are somehow dependent on the forests or rainforests. Thus, the situation with deforestation becomes critical as it was explained before; thus, it leads to the extinction of many species living in the forests. The same situation is happening in the waters. The level of pollution is so high that it makes it impossible for many species to live there.
The high possibility of vanishing sea turtles, polar bears, whales, Bluefin tuna, and wild coasts is scaring enough on its own. However, the destruction of whole ecosystems is even more threatening. It can cost humanity much in terms of health, food, quality of life, and jobs.
Moreover, humans, also, kill and eat too many fish. Since 1950, the amount of large fish including halibut, tuna, swordfish, and cod had reduced by 90 %.
Nevertheless, no matter how people try to destroy the nature, it struggles to survive. Maybe, humans just have to stop interfering? An excellent example of how nature can cure its wounds, if only given a chance to exist without human’s interaction, is Chernobyl zone in Ukraine. A huge nuclear station explored there in 1986. The citizens were recommended to evacuate from a 30-kilometer zone. There is still a high level of radiation, and very few people risked to stay and live in this zone. Therefore, this territory has been inhabited for more than 30 years already and presents a model of the Earth after the disappearance of mankind. Surprisingly, today it became a unique area, most of which is covered with dense forests and inhabited by hundreds of species, including those listed in the Red Book. This is really amazing and means that even the high radiation level cannot be compared to the harm of human’s interaction in the wild life. Thus, obviously, the best way to help the nature exist is not to disturb it.
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Global Warming and Natural Disasters
Everyone heard about global warming that it is a very serious and dangerous problem. However, the vast part of humanity continues to live the same life being mired in everyday routines. It seems that all catastrophic disasters predicted by scientists will not touch every single person on the Earth. That is a huge mistake.
It is important to understand that global warming did not happen just out of blue. The main causes of it are totally man-made:
· Burning of fossil fuels (coal, crude oil), power plants, transportation, industrial processes
· Other greenhouse gases emission (agriculture, forestry, waste management, etc.)
During the last 25 years, global surface temperature increased by 2 C. It is a very high index. Global warming leads to horrible effects all over the world. The end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century is replete with different nature disasters such as:
This is the best evidence of how human interference influences the planet. It seems that nature is begging us to stop destroying our own home.
One more resent example of global warming consequences is an enormously huge iceberg, which broke away from Larsen glazier this July. The scientists are afraid to predict what effects it may bring. Obviously, humanity is facing a planetary emergency nowadays. To control the global warming, we need to reduce emissions from fuel and greenhouse gas. It seems easy, but very difficult to do in reality. Humans are got used to all the results of fast industrial development and just cannot stop and refuse using them.
It is becoming more difficult and costly to stop global warming each single day. Scientists dealing with climate have underestimated the savageness and speed of global warming. It is growing much faster than it was predicted even by the worst forecasts.
One more example of global warming influence is tropical fish increased migration to the colder waters of the Southern and Arctic oceans. As a result, fish species which are a critical food source, especially in developing tropical countries, may disappear.
The constant air, water, and land pollution not only influences wildlife and other organisms that live in natural ecosystems, but also hurts people’s health and leads to chronic and fatal diseases, like cancer.
Pollution of the world oceans, probably, is one of the most important ecological problems. It sounds unbelievable, but human activities have changed even the basic chemistry of the planet waters. “Now oceans are experiencing evolution in reverse: a return to the barren primeval waters of hundreds of millions of years ago” (Sielen 2013). As a result, the lowest forms of life start dominating again. “The oceanographer Jeremy Jackson calls it “the rise of slime”: the transformation of once complex oceanic ecosystems featuring intricate food webs with large animals into simplistic ones dominated by microbes and disease. In effect, humans are eliminating the lions and tigers of the seas to make room for the cockroaches and rats” (Sielen 2013).
Even more alarming and horrifying are the giant spills from offshore gas as well as oil drilling and tanker accidents. We should not forget about the simple trash, which nature cannot recycle – plastic bags, bottles, cans, that finds its way to the big water through runoff, rivers, pipes, the air. Then all these pollutants go to the sea where they form epic heaps of floating waste. Still, the most harmful pollution is caused by chemicals. These toxic substances can stay in environment for a long time. The most dangerous of them are heavy metals, for example, mercury.
Probably, the most important thing about all types of pollution is that in the end all the dangerous chemicals build up slowly in the cells of animals and fish and after that come back to the humans through food. They heavily affect human body that leads to the big bunch of diseases. To save the health and live on a safe planet, people must reduce or, better, stop the production of toxic substances and try to return to the usage of natural ones. They endanger neither global environment nor human health.
According to everything described above, it is quite easy to conclude that humanity is standing at a critical crossroads today. All man-made ecological disasters such as environment destruction, deforestation, global warming, animal distinction, and contamination led our world to the edge. Today we feel the dangerous effects of the era of economic and industrial development as never before. Thus, the future of the Earth totally depends on the choices which humanity is making now – whether continue to destroy the environment we are living in or try to preserve it as much as possible. The nature does not run the Earth anymore. Humans do. Therefore, it is, definitely a high time to make collective and conscious decisions about how to improve the effects of our life activity on the nature. For example, we should eliminate the toxins and waste, invest in renewable energy, ecological remediation, develop recycling and production of durable goods, etc. It is obvious that if humans do not start value and respect the nature, its’ power will kill all of us very soon. The world faces a choice. Humans must use moral courage and political will to save the Earth together before it is too late. Hopefully, yes. Anyway, the challenge and the opportunity are there.