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Human Impacts & Solutions

Human Impacts & Solutions

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Author: Sophia Tutorial
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Identify connections between human impacts on the environment and their sources.

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Tutorial

what's covered
This tutorial will cover the topic of human impacts on the environment and solutions to those impacts. We will discuss the connections and links between impacts and their sources, and how a single human activity can be the cause of multiple negative environmental issues. We will discuss the core causes of these problems, and explore broad solutions that can address these challenges.

Our discussion breaks down as follows:

  1. Human Impacts on the Environment
  2. Connections Between Impacts and Their Sources
  3. Core Causes of Environmental Problems
  4. Solutions to Environmental Problems


1. Human Impacts on the Environment

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
  • 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.


2. Connections Between Impacts and Their Sources

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 the following scenarios will highlight a few significant ones.

Connection Description

Agriculture

Land Use

Habitat Fragmentation

Endangerment

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.

Urban Development

Waste

Water Pollution

Damaged Ecosystem

Urban development produces large amounts of waste, which increases water pollution, which eventually results in damaged ecosystem health.

Fossil Fuels

Air Pollution

Climate Change

Global Weather

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 affect every living thing on the earth.

IN CONTEXT

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.

Deepwater Horizon

The death of so many resulted in the decline of species populations in the area, and this 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 in turn caused many glaciers and polar ice caps to melt and recede.

EXAMPLE

This photo below 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 is less fresh water available for human consumption.

Largest Glacier Ice Cap in Europe (Iceland)


3. Core Causes of Environmental Problems

Because one human activity can have such a wide range of effects and negative impacts, it is important to note some particularly significant activities that negatively affect the environment. These include:

  • Pesticide and fertilizer use, which can cause runoff onto agricultural fields and pollute 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
  • Inefficient land use

Some of these activities are not inherently problematic -- it is 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.


4. Solutions to Environmental Problems

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 overpopulation 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
  • Effective policymaking can also have broad positive impacts if well thought out.


summary
Today we learned about human activities and their negative environmental impacts. We learned about the links and interconnection of those impacts — how a single human activity can have a wide range of environmental impacts. We learned about some of the core causes of those problems, and discussed broad solutions that address the interconnected nature of the issues.

Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Jensen Morgan, OIL SPILL PD HTTP://BIT.LY/1D5R1KL GLACIER PD HTTP://BIT.LY/1MOOJJS