Today, we observe World Environment Day, a reminder to ourselves to examine the status of environment and take corrective action if required. Having been initiated in 1972 by the United Nations General Assembly, it is commemorated with an international exposition through the week of June 5 to stimulate awareness of the environment and enhance political attention and public action. It is a pious day for the whole of mankind and deserves special attention due to its significance for our survival and the next generations.
Environment as we understand is all the conditions, circumstances, and influences surrounding, and affecting the development of, an organism or group of organisms, all of the conditions, circumstances, etc. that surround and influence life on earth, including atmospheric conditions, food chains, and the water cycle: Climate, weather, and natural resources that affect human survival and economic activities. Since it influences our life, we need special attention to maintain its health and ensure improvement further.
We have so far witnessed many outstanding achievements – stunning technological breakthroughs, phenomenal economic prosperity and remarkable advances in human survival with medical research. The fruits of progress have not, however, been equitably shared. Developing countries are still facing serious economic difficulties and unfavorable international economic environment. The number of people living in absolute poverty has increased in many countries. Around the world many of the basic resources on which the future generations will depend for their survival and well being are being depleted and environmental degradation is intensifying, driven by unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, unprecedented growth in population, widespread and persistent poverty, social and economic inequality. The every day activities of all human beings, communities and countries are inter-related with population change, patterns and levels of use of natural resources, the state of environment and the pace and quality of economic and social development.
At the global level it is clear that human population growth and patterns of production and consumption have a marked impact on the physical environment. The growing population, depleting resources, decreasing soil fertility, increasing water and air pollution and the threat of global warming, and its consequences, all pose a serious threat to not only the human species but also to all other life on the earth. The environment supports are significantly impacted by human use. Rapid population growth and migration have been closely related to both increased human welfare but also to extensive environmental degradation. There are critical population environment linkages relating to the air, water, land, biodiversity, energy use and human settlement patterns.
The atmosphere that supports and protects life on earth is burdened with the waste products of energy consumption, industrial processes, biological processes and geological events. We can not stop economic development but we can reduce per capita energy consumption, use renewable sources of energy and seek to reduce human fertility.
Climatic changes affect the environment on a global scale and also intensify the risk of weather disasters which can be truly catastrophic at times. Origin of the hurricanes named Alpha, Andrew, Beta, Danny, Delta, Dennis, Emily, Epsilon, Franklin, Gamma, Girt, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Jerry, Katrina, Karen, Luis, Lee, Maria, Ophelia, Rita, Stan, Vince, Wilma, Zeta, floods in China, Tsunami around Indonesia and Indian sub-continent and so many other natural disasters can be attributed to global environmental warming hazards.
Water is not only essential for basic human needs, health and food production but also for preservation of the ecosystems and for economic and social development. Almost 80% of the water on earth is in the oceans and over 99% of the fresh water is located in ice caps or deep underground. Groundwater is increasingly getting difficult to obtain and non-renewable. Since the amount of the fresh water is fixed, increase in population is decreasing its per capita availability. Existing sources of fresh water are the subjects of rival claims of agriculture, industry, domestic use and waste disposal. With the spread of urbanization there will be much greater domestic and industrial demands for water and failure to meet these needs will impede economic growth or at best lead to unsustainable economic growth.
Apart from many problems, we find another significant problem in the form of increasing non-fertility of the soil. We know that the soil is the substance of human productivity and yet in the last half century, an area approximately the size of China and India put together has suffered moderate to extreme soil degradation. From 1945 to 1990, we have lost 11% of the vegetated soil of the earth damaging its biotic functions due to heavy use of chemicals and pesticides, overgrazing, unsustainable agricultural practices, deforestation, land conversion, overexploitation for fuel wood and industrialization, and that loss is increasing day by day. As on date, reclamation is almost impossible.
Biodiversity or the diversity of life on the planet encompasses a wide variety of biological organisms and ecological habitats which are fast disappearing from the face of the earth. Current trends suggest the loss of habitats could result in the disappearance of 15% of the world’s species over the next 25 years.
In developing countries, women are directly affected by the environmental degradation and are potentially a powerful force for promoting sustainable development. Deforestation that dries up water sources and reduces fuel wood availability directly increases the burden of women. Deteriorating air and water quality directly affect not only them but the children’s health also.
Nowhere is the population environment connection more critical than in the area of energy. It was the fossil fuel energy revolution of the early 18th century that led to a spurt in urbanization and industrial development and subsequently an onslaught on the natural environment. One of the impacts of fossil fuel consumption is the emission of carbon dioxide, one of the green house gases responsible for global warming. Other impacts relate to the general deterioration in the health, especially the respiratory system of the people, especially children.
We have to take action at the earliest by identifying the main reasons of increasing environmental pollution. Though Environment Day is being observed under the aegis of UN for so many years, the problem is getting aggravated more and more due to differences between developed and developing countries. Not only for the survival of humanity on the earth but for other creatures, all the countries must join hands to control the pollution beyond their own interests and an international discipline is required to be enforced. On state level, whatever the Governments may decide, we can take the following steps
■ Tree planting of local tree species,
■ Creating Plant Nurseries in Schools and Colleges,
■ Organizing exhibitions, Fairs, social gatherings, Dances, Songs, Poems competitions, music shows essay writing, poster campaign, debates/lectures and charity functions on environment,
■ Promoting use of the products/packaging that are recyclable and/or having majority of recyclable ingredients,
■ Promoting use of energy efficient electronic appliances,
■ Changing light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps,
■ Walking or riding a cycle for short trips
■ Preference to organic foods in daily life etc.
In case you have some more ideas, kindly make me and your friends aware of them, inspire them to keep the environment free of pollution and make it better for the next generations to enjoy their lives fully.
Be Happy – We may join hands to save the environment and do the best whatever is possible even in our individual capacity.