The World’s 6 Most Pressing Environmental Issues

by , 04/22/12

Los Angeles Freeway, Traffic Jam, Heavy Traffic, Carbon Emissions, Fuel Efficiency

Los Angeles Traffic Image from Shutterstock


While studies show young people to be driving less, many of us still aren’t going to be doing without cars any time soon. As long as urban developments are built to be un-walkable (we’re looking at you, Apple and your new Cupertino Campus), we’re going to have to find a way for everyone to be able to get from a to b and back again without destroying the planet. As it stands, the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that a full 20 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions come directly out of our tailpipes.

Fuel efficiency is on the up, albeit rather belatedly, with the most recent data suggesting that carbon dioxide emissions from new cars sold in the UK has declined 31 percent since 2007. But we’re invariably better off with the ever improving hybrid electric technologies, and the recent New York Auto Show marked the release of some pretty incredible extended range vehicles. As this technology improves, the cars can only be as green as the grid they draw their power from. It’s one thing to steer clear of gasoline, but even better when we can avoid emissions generating fuels altogether.

Similar emissions-reducing advancements are much needed in the aerospace industry. A coordinated project by the biggest manufacturers to develop affordable biofuel technologies for planes is an encouraging move in the right direction, but as we’ve seen, emissions from agriculture are nothing to get too thrilled about.

That said, the whole not-driving idea is also pretty great when one has the chance. And if you’re in an area with exhausting inclines, such as San Francisco, electric bicycles still carry a far lower carbon footprint than many alternatives.

Landfill Waste, Trash Heap, Wasted Resources, Environmental Destruction, Earth Pollution

Landfill Image from Shutterstock


As a growing population, we have a lot of stuff. From consumer electronics to clothing to diapers, a worrying proportion of our ‘stuff’ is made using finite resources, with environmentally destructive practices only to be used for a relatively short amount of time before being tossed into landfill. And if you’re reading Inhabitat, chances are you’ve thought about this at least once or twice in your purchasing practices.

The use of reusable and recyclable coffee cups, shopping bags and other ubiquitous items is increasing with widespread awareness of wastage and availability of alternatives. But there are always ways we can do more to use less, use better, reuse and recycle. Mining for metals commonplace in items from consumer electronics to jewelry causes widespread environmental destruction, polluting water and releasing greenhouse gases into the environment. And many of these metals, when used in consumer electronics, still often find their way into landfill, allowing lead, cadmium and mercury to seep into ground water.

In the instance of consumer electronics, 17 states have taken steps to mandate recycling, but where recycling is not municipally provided, it becomes of even greater importance to take the initiative within our own communities. And for items which don’t need to be new, or disposable, we can keep on recycling, upcycling, salvaging and transforming.

Icebergs Chile, melting ice, ice floes, global warming, climate change

Icebergs Image from Shutterstock


Everything on this list is a contributing factor in global warming, and yet we still have elected officials who argue that it isn’t ‘real.’ A poll recently commissioned by Yale University brought some refreshingly reassuring news, as the majority of participants agreed that global warming was worsening an increasing stream of extreme weather events and natural disasters. Earlier this year surging seas presented evidence that with sea levels predicted to rise 20-80 inches by 2100, 3.7 million residents are at risk from flood waters. Meanwhile scientists looking to the past found that naturally occouring carbon emissions drove the end of the last Ice Age — and that uptick in emissions was far lower than our current surge. Yet we still, absurdly, have politicians who as part of their campaign strategy insist that carbon dioxide emissions do not pose a threat to our environment.

So as we all work towards a greener, more sustainable future, adopting responsible practices to lower and eliminate emissions of all greenhouse gases, it’s time for climate change deniers to finally give in to the evidence.

Happy Earth Day!

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  1. Peggy Tiner April 22, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I really think Dan Brown had the right idea. The population density will be reduced eventually.

  2. mmlohr20 March 26, 2014 at 11:59 am

    hay guys i like hugs zippers and also buttons and bunny\’s and puppies and i am terrified of frogs because i feel like they will jump in my mouth

  3. aqeelfarooqi June 4, 2013 at 1:22 am

    we should save our environment otherwise our coming generations will never forgive us

  4. Stator April 25, 2012 at 9:15 am

    What is needed for us to live is food, water, warmth and ability to stay dry. With enough energy most of these needs can be fulfilled with various systems.

    I believe the overpopulation craze is mostly just that, craze.
    Had we humans been able to spread out over Earth more evenly and not crammed together so much, the illusion of overpopulation would vanish. The reason we cram together much is due to an overall lack of basic factors needed for even a moderately comfortable way of life; like energy, food, water & information- for all. This availability is extremely uneven. I think money lies at the bottom, once again. Try to think about how current systems work, do I not have a point?
    The energy keep us warm and dry, food in various forms is quite abundant and technologies powered by energy could produce more food.- This coincides with the 100s of latest technological headlines talking about energy sources, food, shelters and what have you.

    Yes I am aware of the bacterias in a bottle examples, I am still vary of buying this overpopulation hype, it mildly angers me. Are you scared fellow brothers and sisters?

    If the concern is so great then here is one thing that must go; the monopoly power of elitist power companies. It has got to be the largest industry of them all, with unused potential of contributing to systems for global sustainable life on Our Planet.

    Don’t nobody dare talking about us being too many before trying to fix the broken system we call our way of life.

  5. Over April 24, 2012 at 4:10 am

    Overpopulation, ey?

  6. Prem Das April 21, 2012 at 5:00 am

    All this piecemeal approach to Global enviromental concerns is not even postponing the inevitable.

    We need to let go at least two to three billion of the earth’s human population. That is not going to happen.

    Even as we speak that are scientific initiatives thats looking to extend the life span, find more ways of impregnating women, remove natural avenues of attaining peace and quite(death)and finding cures for diseases that now kill.

    If you believe in an Ultimate being, this is He giving us enough rope to hang overselves.

  7. Nelson666 April 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I am a little disappointed that the author did not have the courage to mention overpopulation, but it has a heavy hand in making all the problem he listed much worse if not being the cause of the problem in the first place.

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