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Human Impacts & Solutions

Human Impacts & Solutions

Author: Jensen Morgan

Identify connections between human impacts on the environment and their sources.

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Source: Earth PD Oil Spill PD Glacier PD

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Hi. I'm Jensen Morgan. We're going to talk about some great concepts in environmental science. Today's topic is Human Impacts and Solutions. So let's get started.

Today, we're going to talk about human impacts on the environment, connections and links between impacts and their sources, core causes of these problems, and broad solutions that can address these challenges. Human activities can have a range of environmental impacts, such as climate change, water and air pollution, deforestation, habitat fragmentation, harvesting, overexploitation and endangerment of species, as well as depletion of non-renewable resources. All of these impacts are exacerbated by human population growth, and any negative impacts on ecosystem health end up negatively affecting humans as well.

A single human activity can have a wide range of environmental impacts. It can create a web of problems that spring from a single source. There are many connections that can be made, but I'm going to highlight a few significant ones.

Agriculture creates land use changes as natural areas are converted to crop land or space for grazing. These land use changes can lead to deforestation and habitat fragmentation as more and more natural forests are cut down for agriculture. Habitat fragmentation eventually leads to endangerment of species and biodiversity loss.

Let's try another one. Urban development produces large amounts of waste, which increases water pollution, which eventually results in damaged ecosystem health.

Burning fossil fuels increases air pollution and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which leads to climate change. Climate change results in shifts in global weather patterns, which eventually affects every living thing on the earth.

A real world example of the interconnectedness of these types of impacts is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This spill resulted in 210 million gallons of oil being released into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil was highly-damaging to thousands of species in the area-- killing record numbers in a short period of time.

The death of so many resulted in the decline in species populations in the area and could lead to eventual species endangerment. The effects of such biodiversity loss has weakened the ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. And because fish populations are lower, it has impacted fishermen and the local economy.

Because of human consumption of fossil fuels, large quantities of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere. The resulting greenhouse effect has increased and raised the overall global temperature. The increased temperature has caused many glaciers and polar ice caps to melt and recede.

This photo here is of the largest glacier ice cap in Europe-- located in Iceland. In just 41 years, it receded 1.2 miles due to global warming. The shrinking of ice caps like this one means that there's less fresh water available for human consumption.

Because one human activity can have such a wide range of effects and negative impacts, it is important to note some particularly significant activities, such as pesticide and fertilizer use, which can run off of agricultural fields; polluting water sources, which can then impact human and ecosystem health; automobile use; transportation; power plants, which can generate air pollution that contributes to respiratory problems and global climate change; household waste; industrial waste, and inefficient land use. Some of these activities are not inherently problematic. It's the scale of human use that causes problems. This is especially relevant when talking about non-renewable resources, such as land use and water sources.

Because of the interconnected nature of these problems, finding the right solutions can have equally far-reaching effects. Controlling population growth is a prime example because it exacerbates almost all environmental issues. Increases in alternative or renewable energy use, as opposed to fossil fuels, can have a wide range of positive effects and reduce environmental impacts. It is more impactful to focus on general ecosystem support rather than trying to save individual species.

Green building can have a host of positive effects because the building industry currently has a large set of negative impacts. Green chemistry and other green initiatives are beneficial because they take into account multiple environmental impacts at once, and effective policy making can also have broad positive impacts if well thought out.

Now, let's have a recap. We talked about human activities and their negative environmental impacts. We talked about the links and interconnectedness of those impacts, core causes of those problems, and broad solutions then that address their interconnected nature.

Well, that's all for this tutorial. I hope to see you next time. Bye.