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Featured Article: Endangered Environment – The Multi Dimensional Problem – September 23, 2013

We are all very busy in our lives and often do not find time to observe the deterioration of environment being caused by our modern lifestyle. Most of us are somewhat unaware of the power of human beings to destruct the ecosystems beyond sustainable limits. The redlines are approaching fast unless we take out time to understand the havoc being done and act to stop these blunders for the sake of preserving our environment – Our Home.

This writing is intended to identify and highlight the various dimensions of environmental deteriorations, some of which are common observation while others are not so obvious even to a keen environmental enthusiast. These environmental issues can be categorized as issues related to Built Environment, issues related to Natural Environment and global environmental issues.

Issues Related to Built Environment

  • Energy related including energy conservation, commercializing of renewable energy, non-efficient energy use, environmental impact of coal industry and other fossil fuels,
  • Environmental Health issues relating to air quality, asthma, electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiations, indoor air quality, lead poisoning and sick building syndrome
  • Land use issues arise out of urban sprawl, urban heat islands, habitat fragmentation and habitat destruction
  • Over population issues like burial, water crisis, overpopulation in companion animals, tragedy of the commons, gender imbalance in developing countries and sub-replacement fertility level in developed countries
  • General pollution due to nonpoint source pollution, point source pollution, light pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution and interplanetary contamination
  • Air pollution due to use of fossil fuels, smog, tropospheric ozone, indoor air quality, volatile organic compound and atmospheric particulate matter
  • Spread of toxins due to CFCs, DDT, endocrine disruptors, dioxin, toxic heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, toxic waste, PCB, bioaccumulation, biomagnifications and Fracking.
  • Accumulation of waste in the form of electronic waste, litter, waste disposal incidents, marine debris, medical waste, landfill, leachate, incineration, Great Pacific garbage patch and exporting of hazardous waste.

Issues Related to Natural Environment

  • Conservation which includes extinction of species, coral bleaching, invasive species, poaching and endangered species.
  • Environmental degradation including Eutrophication or hypertrophication, habitat destruction and soda lakes
  • environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing.
  • Land degradation resulting from overgrazing, irrigation, monoculture, environmental effect of meat production, pesticide drift, plasticulture, land pollution and desertification
  • Water pollution due to use of fossil fuels, acid rain, marine pollution, ocean dumping, oil spills, thermal pollution, urban runoff, marine debris, microplastics, ocean acidification, ship pollution, waste water, fish kill, algal boom and mercury in fish
  • Resource depletion due to exploitation of natural resources and overdrafting
  • Sea life depletion due to blast fishing, bottom trawling, cyanide fishing, ghost nets, illegal and unreported fishing, over fishing, shark finning and whaling
  • Forrest depletion due to clear cutting, deforestation and illegal logging

Global Environmental Issues

  • Climate Change which includes global warming, GHGs, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, shut-down or slowdown of Thermohaline circulation
  • Genetic Engineering issues related to genetically modified food and genetic pollution
  • Nuclear issues are already well known and these include nuclear fallout, nuclear meltdown, nuclear power safety issues, nuclear weapons, nuclear radiation accidents and radioactive waste management
  • Ozone depletion due to CFCs and biological effects of UV exposure

It is quite unfortunate that majority of above environmental deteriorations are caused by acts of those who are more resourceful and knowledgeable among us. Let be gone be bygone. We should start spending some time to learn about these activities and make efforts to correct them. This is the only way we can preserve a better, greener and sustainable environment for our children.

by Syed Kamran Ali

A mechanical engineer with 20 years’ experience in energy sector including alternate energy resources, currently engaged in developing ideas for maximizing comfort and reliability in sustainable living. The only problematic concern in harnessing green energy is the intermittent nature of renewable energy resources like solar radiation, wind power etc. This intermittent availability necessitates storage of energy when it is available for the time it is not available. For industries and businesses this may not be a big issue, but for households this may cause serious problems. The writer believes that use of renewable energy is not simply pruchasing gadgets, which provide alternate energy supplies, it has to be incorporated in our lifestyles to make it sustainable in the long run.