1. SOIL EROSION & DESERTIFICATION
2. WATER SCARCITY
4. LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
6. CLIMATE CHANGE
SOIL EROSION & DESERTIFICATION
Unsustainable industrial agriculture practices have resulted in soil erosion and degradation that leads to less arable land, clogged and polluted waterways, increased flooding and desertification. According to the World Wildlife Fund, half of the earth’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years.
What You Can Do: Support sustainable agriculture that puts people and the planet above profit. Show your support for sustainable agriculture by signing this Greenpeace campaign for “a global food system that feeds people, enables the small farmer to thrive, protects the soil, water and climate, and promotes biodiversity. This is a system free from genetic engineering and chemical-intensive agriculture.” On a smaller scale, you can make a difference in your backyard by switching to non-toxic green pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, corn gluten organic fertilizer.
As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. As the current drought in California dramatically shows, access to water is not just an issue for developing countries but the United States as well.
What You Can Do: Just as energy efficiency is considered an important solution to the issues of climate change and pollution, water efficiency can help us deal with water scarcity. Some ideas to be more water efficient include installing an ENERGY STAR-certified washer, using low-flow faucets, plugging up leaks, irrigating the lawn in the morning or evening when the cooler air causes less evaporation, taking shorter showers and not running sink water when brushing your teeth. Also, consider using non-toxic cleaning products and eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater.
Air pollution and climate change are closely linked, as the same greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet are also creating smoggy conditions in major cities that endanger public health. If you’ve seen horrifying images of pollution-choked Chinese cities and think the smog is isolated to Beijing or Shanghai, think again.
Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk.
Soil contamination is a major issue across the world. In China, nearly 20 percent of arable land has been contaminated by toxic heavy metals. Soil pollution threatens food security and poses health risks to the local population. The use of pesticides and fertilizers are also major factors in soil pollution
What You Can Do: Many of the solutions to air pollution are similar to those for climate change, though it’s important to either make a concerted effort to drive less, or switch to a lower-emissions vehicle. Switching over to green energy is also important, as that will cut back on fossil fuel emissions.
LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
Increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity that threatens food security, population health and world stability. Climate change is also a major contributor to biodiversity loss, as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index, biodiversity has declined 27 percent in the last 35 years.
What You Can Do: As consumers we can all help protect biodiversity by purchasing products that don’t harm the environment. Next time you are at the grocery store, check to see if food packaging contains any of the eco-label. Also, reusing, recycling and composting are easy ways to protect biodiversity.
Forest are important to mitigating climate change because they serve as “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. It is estimated that 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves, and the loss of tropical rainforests is particularly concerning because around 80 percent of the world’s species reside in these areas. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching. That’s a double whammy for the climate because cattle flatulence is a major source of methane gas, which contributes more to short term climate change than carbon emissions.
What You Can Do: You can support organizations, stop using paper towels and use washable cloths instead, use cloth shopping bags (instead of paper), and look at labels to make sure you only use certified wood and paper products. You can also boycott products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.
While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, heat waves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late.
What You Can Do: Your home and transportation could be major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. A certified home energy audit can help make your home more energy efficient. If you commute via biking, walking or public transportation you are doing your part to fight global warming, but if you must own a motor vehicle, consider trading in your gas guzzler for a fuel efficient hybrid or better yet—go electric. When you fly, make sure to reduce your carbon footprint from air miles traveled with carbon offsets.
Climate hits 400ppm of CO2 for the first time in 3 million years…. Alarming..!!
What does this mean ?
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, natural climate variations caused atmospheric CO2 to vary between about 200 ppm during ice ages and 300 ppm during the warmer periods between ice ages. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, around the year 1780, the CO2 concentration was about 280 ppm, so CO2 had already risen by around 40 ppm before Keeling began his measurements. Anyone who has breathed air with less than 300 ppm CO2 is now over 100 years old! These suggest that the last time atmospheric CO2 was over 400 ppm was at least as far back as the Pliocene, three to five million years ago, before humans roamed the earth and when the climate was considerably warmer than today. Source: http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/what-does-this-number-mean/
What does the number look like ?
Recent estimates suggest CO2 levels reached as much as 415 parts per million (ppm) during the Pliocene. With that came global average temperatures that eventually reached 3 or 4 degrees C (5.4-7.2 degrees F) higher than today’s and as much as 10 degrees C (18 degrees F) warmer at the poles. Sea level ranged between five and 40 meters (16 to 131 feet) higher than today. Source: http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/what-does-400-ppm-look-like/
Hell on Earth…!! that’s how scientists describe it.
The earth’s resources are limited.
As the human population continues to grow and technological advancements (eg. mass production, transportation) help make more material goods more readily available to people all over the world, we consume more and more natural resources. This rate of consumption is especially apparent in developed countries.
More and more trees are cut down to produce more and more paper for the growing number of offices worldwide. More oil, coal and other natural fuels are extracted from the earth to drive our factory machineries, our automobiles (including our airplanes) and our homes. However, the world’s supplies of oil and coal will not last forever, and our use of these fuels is contributing to polluted air, acid rain and global warming.
In fact, according to a World Wildlife Fund report, humans are using more than 20% more natural resources than the Earth can produce. And between 1970 and 2000, the populations of land, freshwater and marine species have fallen by about 40%. At this rate, we would outstrip the earth’s capacity to support life very soon.
With deforestation and fewer trees on earth, there are fewer plants to absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, accelerating the impact of global warming. In turn, global warming worldwide have led to climate changes, and phenomenon such as serious flooding and drying up of originally forested land, leading to further loss of precious forests, and destruction of habitat for more plant and animal species.
Over-fishing have almost wiped out some fish populations in the waters, and reduced the number of fishes in the ocean significantly.
At this rate, the earth would not be able to sustain life (including ours) on this planet for long.
GREEN SOLUTION. GET GREEN.
We need to evaluate what we really need, as opposed to what we want. Is the new car really what we need? If not, then don’t buy it.We need to learn to consume only what we need, and be considerate in our consumption. In other words, remember that we are not the only ones that the earth has to provide for. Also consider buying eco-friendly products instead. The use of such environmentally friendly products helps you reduce your carbon footprints, and even allow you to contribute to a greener planet.
In our day-to-day activities, we actually release substantial amount of toxic substances into the environment.
Have you ever think about the shampoo, soap and cleaning detergent that you use. Many of them contain chemicals that are washed down the sinks and pipes, into drains, rivers, reservoirs or even the sea.
Think about the fast-food lunch you had. In the process of producing the bread, meat patty and salad for the burger, chemicals in the form of pesticides, man-made fertilizers and even hormones are released into the lands, water and air. The wrappers used in packaging the meal is bound for the landfills and incinerators (because it is very hard to recycle them). In turn, harmful gases are released when the wrappers (as well as other waste) are buried or burnt.
Think about the car that you drive to work, or even the bus or cab that you take to your office. These vehicles emit greenhouse gases (contributing to global warming) and toxic substances like lead (harmful to living things, including the human body) into the atmosphere.
And we have yet to reach the part on the amount of chemicals and poisonous gases produced by factories and industries, in the process of manufacturing the various items we use (eg. electronics, clothes, paper and plastic products, furniture, packaged food etc), or extracting energy resources (eg. oil, coal, etc) from the earth.
In our modern day life, it may be hard to leave zero trace of toxic substances, or create zero pollution in our activities. So many of the things that we use on a daily basis contain some form of chemicals, or are produced through the use of some chemicals. Despite the pollution caused, we would still need to travel to work, whether by private or public transport. And we definitely need to consume food.
GREEN SOLUTION. GET GREEN.
Consider switching to more natural cleaners and personal products, such as natural detergents, or organic detergents, as well as organic shampoos and lotions. Made of natural substances instead of man-made chemicals, minimal harmful chemicals are used in the process of their production. At the same time, these natural products are ready bio-degradable and do little harm even when released into the environment, because they are found in the natural environment in the first place.
Switch to organically grown food if you can. Organically grown food is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that would harm the environment, as well as hormones or genetic re-engineering. What’s more, organically grown food are so much healthier, because they are free of carcinogens and heavy metals (as a result of the synthetic chemicals), as well as more nutritious. And keep away from fast-food!
Also, what does going green mean in practice is to drive less, and use the public transport instead. You can even opt for carpool service in case the option is available. Automobiles are one of the single largest sources of air pollution on earth today, and the harmful gases released contribute to global warming and climate changes. By taking public transport (such as buses and trains), you are actually helping to reduce the number of automobiles on this earth, and hence the amount of air pollution produced by these vehicles.