Gallery: The World’s 6 Most Pressing Environmental Issues

 

Landfill Image from Shutterstock

WASTE

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.

Water Pollution of a Copper Mine Exploitation Image from Shutterstock

WATER

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.

Rainforest Destruction in Thailand Image from Shutterstock

DEFORESTATION

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…

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7 Comments

  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 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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