The Earth is proven to be a fragile ecosystem. Human contributions and an increase in human population leads to an increase in overall pollution, which directly and indirectly affects human and wildlife. Wildlife is affected more by human activities because they have smaller bodies and are affected more by little changes. “The impact of human on natural systems has been significant [in the early years]….However, technology and population growth have dramatically increased both the rate and the scale of human induced change,”.
Humans do not realize the results of their actions, on themselves or the world surrounding them.
Overpopulation is the major component that is leading humans to depleting our resources. There are seven components of human population growth; birth rate/death rate, total fertility rate, available medical care, available education, technology, role of women, and life expectancy. In underdeveloped and developing countries, the population is still increasing due to lack of education, higher total fertility rates, less available health care, etc.
Since the developing countries are lacking basic needs, their birth rate outweighs their death rates. In more developed and overdeveloped countries, the birth rate is equal to the death rate because education is higher, and the health care is higher. People in developed countries live longer than in underdeveloped countries. As mentioned in an article in the Huffington Post, “The world population will continue to grow in the 21st century…World population has doubled (100% increase) in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion),” (Mashegoane). The Earth has a maximum carrying capacity and finite number of resources available.
Eventually, the human population will reach its maximum and decline from there.
The IPAT equation is used to estimate the impact of human lifestyles on Earth. The equation is as follows: Impact = population x affluence x technology. When population increases it leads to a negative impact on the earth, such as using more resources, habitat destruction, and global warming. When affluence or wealth increases, there are negative and positive impacts. A negative impact would be that we would by more products that use finite resources. A positive impact would be that people would be able to afford cleaner resources. When technology increases, there are also positive and negative impacts. The negative impact would be the increased use of fossil fuels. The positive impact is that they are able to create greener technology.
Municipal solid waste is the trash collected from households, small businesses, and institutions. Trash is paper, containers, and packaging. “The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it,” (Facts about Recycling). That shocking statistic is not well-known. If people are educated on what to recycle, waste may be eliminated. Humans use convenience over quality. Single-use plastics have take over (i.e. cutlery, dinnerware, bottles). Humans dispose of waste in many ways that are not great for the environment, not even mentioning littering. Humans use incineration and landfills to discard there waste. Landfills are taking up space that can be used for farming or natural parks. “There are 2,000 active landfills in the country, and the average American throws out 4.4 pounds of trash a day,” (Peters). Landfills create high amounts of methane, some is burned and most of it is released into the atmosphere. Methane is a heat trapping gas, and therefore is one of the leading causes for global warming, (EPA). Incineration is a little better, as they sort the trash and recyclables, metals, and trash. The methane gas and steam are used to heat the building and electricity.
Water pollution and land pollution have a direct correlation. Humans litter their trash in random places, which eventually drift away, usually into a body of water. There is an ‘island’ called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is in the middle of the North Pacific ocean. The patch is “… floating trash halfway between Hawaii and California, [it] has grown to more than 600,000 square miles…That’s twice the size of Texas,” (Rice). The ocean is in a major crisis right now where most of the fish and aquatic animals have ingested at least one piece of plastic. Seafood is a common to eat around the coastline. “Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean,”(Sea Turtles). If every fish has digested plastic, humans have consumed plastic. “They warned that as plastic attracts toxins in the environment, these poisons could be released into people’s bodies after they ate the fish. The plastics found included nylon, polystyrene and polyethylene,” (Johnston). Later mentioned in the article was a startling statistic from researchers that states, “top European shellfish consumers” might consume up to 11,000 microplastic pieces a year. Plastic production has increased by over 150%. In 1950, the global plastic production was 2 million tons. In 2015, sixty- five years later, has increased to 381 million tons. “By 2015, the world had produced 7.8 billion tonnes of plastic — more than one tonne of plastic for every person alive today,” (Ritchie + Roser). That is insane. That is with people that only use glass, and reusable water bottles. Think about it, almost everything has a little piece of plastic in it. Algae blooms are created from excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers, which leaches into runoff water, and the fish population dies off rapidly, and therefore leads to less fish humans can consume.
Water pollution is when a body of water is contaminated, which makes it potable to humans and the environment. (Denchak) There are two different ways to identify where the water pollution is located. Point sources are “distinct locations that pump waste into waterway,” and nonpoint sources are “diffuse areas such as an entire farming region that pollutes a waterway.” Human wastewater is “water produced by human activities such as human sewage from toilets and gray water from bathing and washing clothes.” (Friedland and Relyea). This contaminated water is harmful to the aquatic wildlife and humans because of the disease-causing pathogens that are now in the water.
Air pollution is very hazardous to on major organ in our bodies. Air pollution is mainly caused by anthropogenic activities, but not all. There are five different categories of indoor air pollutants: wood, animal or coal, asbestos, carbon monoxide, radon, VOC’s. Wood, animal, or coal is used for cooking and heating in developing countries. This creates smoke in the household. Asbestos is in building material and is used in fire retardants. Carbon monoxide is from generators, stoves, etc. VOC’s or volatile organic compounds are in home products such as gasoline, paint, and carpeting. Some of the major ground-level air pollutants are sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulates, and ozone. These pollutants are caused from anthropogenic activities and are harmful to wildlife and humans. Particulate matter is very hard to be cautious of because particles, such as dust, may be too fine to catch in a mask. These particulates stay in nasal cavity and lungs.“People who are exposed to high enough levels of certain air pollutants may experience irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, wheezing, coughing, breathing difficulties, worsening of existing lung and heart problems, such as asthma, and increased risk of heart attack,” (Waters-Ekanem). It may also cause cardiovascular problems, neurobehavioral disorders due to toxins such as mercury, and liver cancer due to breathing carcinogenic volatile chemicals. (Environmental Pollution).
There are three categories of human health risk: physical, biological, chemical. In high income countries, cardiovascular diseases are the most common, and in low income countries, infectious diseases are more common. For low income countries, they need more money and major change, which can be helped by the higher income countries. There are five routes of exposure: ingestion, inhalation, absorption, and disease vectors. HIV/ Aids, ebola, mad cow disease, bird flu, west nile virus are a few of emergent diseases. There are many historical diseases that have to do with location, population density, and sanitation. A few diseases are the plague, malaria, and tuberculosis. The plague and malaria were spread from disease vectors. The plague was spread through fleas on mice. The bubonic plague was the most common. The septicemic plague and the pneumonic plague were far more severe; bacteria entered the bloodstream and the lungs in the other types. (WebMD) Malaria was spread through mosquitoes. There are many chemical risks that affect the human body. Neurotoxins are chemical that disrupt the nervous system, such as mercury and lead. Carcinogens are chemicals that cause cancer, such as tobacco, plastic, and alcohol. Teratogens are chemicals that interfere with the normal development of embryos or fetuses. There was a drug, Thalidomide that interfered with birth and pregnancy. Allergens are common. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the hormonal functioning of hormones in an animal’s body. Humans used DDT to make the shells of certain eggs fragile so that when the mother would sit on them, they would break.
There are five global environmental indicators. From a scholarly journal from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, they define environmental indicators as, “…essential tools for tracking environmental progress, supporting policy evaluation and informing the public,” (3). The five global environmental are: food production, biological diversity, global temperature and CO2, human population, and resource depletion. Food production has increased due to increase in population. Biological diversity is decreasing due to habitat loss and deforestation. Human population has drastically increased. Resource depletion has increased due to human population increase. Out of the five indicators, humans affect all of them.
Deforestation is still a major threat to the loss of biodiversity and habitat loss. This human activity affects both humans and animals immensely. Deforestation occurs when human need space for urban or farming purposes. This human activity leads the soil to lose nutrients. Also, cutting down trees releases the carbon dioxide that was trapped. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They are very important to humans because humans need oxygen, which they produce, and they absorb the carbon dioxide that is produced by humans. With an increased amount of CO2 in the air and decrease in photosynthesis, it leads to global warming. “The Earth loses 18.7 million acres of forests per year, which is equal to 27 soccer fields every minute, according to the World Wildlife Fund,” (WWF). It is estimated that 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation, according to the WWF,” (Bradford). Also, there is an increase in landslides due to root loss, which then leads to erosion. Global warming leads to various health effects to humans. It mainly affects the climate of areas, which can have health problems in it, like rising or dropping temperatures.
Biogeochemical cycles, some of which are Phosphorous, H2O, and carbon cycles are disrupted by human activities. Human disruptions in the phosphorus cycles involve fertilizers and detergents. As mentioned earlier, this leads to algae blooms and the fish population declines. Water is altered in many ways. The cycle is disrupted by contamination, overuse, and global warming/climate change. Climate change increase the rates of evaporation, which then changes the rate of precipitation leading to droughts. Water contamination includes pathogens entering your body like E.coli, which will make you very sick with nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramping. “Environmental consequences of climate change, such as extreme heat waves, rising sea-levels, changes in precipitation resulting in flooding and droughts, intense hurricanes, and degraded air quality, affect directly and indirectly the physical, social, and psychological health of humans,” (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). Carbon is disrupted from the combustion of fossil fuels, which increases Greenhouse Gases (GHG). Such activities as deforestation decrease photosynthesis, as well. GHGs have a major impact on humans. “Climate change can be a driver of disease migration, as well as exacerbate health effects resulting from the release of toxic air pollutants in vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with asthma or cardiovascular disease,” (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). It also lowers the pH of the ocean, which leads to ocean acidification and affects the coral reefs. Ocean acidification is when excess carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean. Bleaching of the coral reefs is a major topic right now. Coral reefs are breeding grounds and homes for most fish species. “As a result of water pollution, ocean acidification, overfishing, and climate change, experts estimate that one-fifth of global reefs are now dead and one-quarter of reef species may be extinct by 2050,” (Green). When the water temperature rises, the algae will remove itself from the coral, which results in the coral turning white. Coral does not always completely die. (NOAA). This leads to many downsides to human activities such as tourism and fisheries.
There have been a handful of mass extinctions of the lifetime of the earth. Out of these five mass extinctions, all five were without human interaction. There is a sixth mass extinction occurring in the last 20 years. “In contrast to previous mass extinctions, scientist agree that this one is caused by humans,” (Friedland and Relyea). “Mass extinctions [are] when at least half of all species die out in a relatively short time. The largest mass extinction event occurred around 250 million years ago, when 95 percent of all species went extinct,” (Mass Extinction). This was when the dinosaurs species became extinct. It is crazy to think that humans have altered have killed off so many species, in the little time that we’ve been on the Earth.
There are many ways that humans can change their ‘deadly’ habits. For instance, instead of cutting and clearing every tree in sight. There is a process called select cutting where the older trees are cut and new trees are replanted, so that the new trees have more recovery time. With this way there is less soil erosion. While on the subject of soil, monocropping is also a very wasteful method. Although it allows for an abundance of one crop, it can be harmful to the soil. It takes the nutrients that are vital. Instead a crop rotation could be implemented and irrigation could be limited, but sufficient. With waste and soil, people could compost, which would produce nutrient rich soil. Sustainable agriculture will also include intercropping, agroforestry, and contour plowing. From the names, it is assumed what practice is performed. Humans should also try to not eat as much meat, preferably cattle. Raising cattle raising a lot of GHG emissions because cows let off methane. For the issue of GHG emissions and air pollution, renewable energy is key. Renewable energy can be costly and have some drawbacks as to pollution, but it is not nearly as much pollution that is produced now. Also, there is more efficiency with renewable resources. Fuels can be substituted with crops such as corn. These approaches to a healthier lifestyle with not only reduce health risks for humans, but for animals as well.
Humans are ignorant to the fact that they are mainly the reason for the destruction of the earth and wildlife. Human activities disrupt every system in the earth except for density independent events such as volcano eruptions, hurricanes, and floods. These massive die-offs are caused by environmental factors.