At Inhabitat, every day is Earth Day. We work each and every day to bring the latest news on the many exciting ways to inhabit the Earth in a smarter, greener, more sustainable way. So while Earth Day may have an element of business as usual, it's also a great time to take stock of the world's most important environmental issues. Studies frequently cite the dark future the planet will face if we do not change our our habits and activities on every imaginable level. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development referred to the environmental outlook of the planet as, quite simply, "grim." So this Earth Day, we're considering the most important environmental issues, and a few of the steps we can take to create a healthier future for ourselves, our communities and of course, the Earth.
Water; we can’t live without it, and thankfully much of the Earth is made up of it. Yet we face major problems where the life-sustaining liquid is concerned. While there is technically enough freshwater available for all 6.8 billion of us, one-fifth of the world’s population live in areas of physical water scarcity. Vast improvements in infrastructure are required in order provide freshwater to areas which remain without, but also to ensure continued access in the face of widespread pollution, wastage and drought.
The degradation of water quality not only poses supply problems for our population, but also has a huge, inevitable impact on marine life. Whether it’s through storm water runoff from cities or farms, dumping from industry, or ill-regulated efforts to drill for yet more oil (more on that later), we’re increasingly filling our rivers, seas and oceans with toxic pollutants. From dolphins to coral, life in our seas is suffering tremendously. The Pacific Ocean is famously home to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, while the Gulf of Mexico has a sizable patch of nothing at all — a dead zone resulting from the travels of farmland fertilizers down the Mississippi River. And what happens at sea doesn’t stay at sea. With pollutants entering oceanic ecosystems, they invariably pollute our food.
Deforestation has long posed a threat to our Earth. Forests cover 30 percent of the planet’s land, and provide vital protection from sandstorms and flooding as well as the substantive natural habitat for wildlife. They are one of our greatest resources for offsetting some of our outrageous carbon emissions and without the canopy we leave areas vulnerable to intense heat, further driving climate change. Yet every single year we lose an area the size of Panama.
We’ve all heard it before, but really, we need to stop destroying and start replanting. There are incredible instances of ambitious efforts to replant our woodland areas, from a man in India, Jadav Payeng, who single-handedly planted a 1,360 acre forest, to the South Korean founder of Future Forest, Kwon Byong Hyon, who has led desert tree-planting efforts throughout Mongolia and China.
With forests often cleared to make way for farmland, and worldwide consumption of food expected to increase sharply by 2050, both sides of that particular coin desperately need to be addressed, which leads us to…