Global Environmental Problems

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Compared to the world our ancestors resided in, ours is a very different place. This is based on the past data that is currently available. Both good and negative changes can be attributed to the environment. To emphasize the latter, international experts believe that the environmental crisis is getting worse over time. This indicates that the current crisis requires effective answers and that we are living in dangerous times.

Regarding the aforementioned, some environmental issues have been around for a while, while others are only now coming to light. People may argue that all global environmental problems are equally the same but the truth is that some are more major than others. Two of the world's most major environmental problems are climate change and ecological degradation. Climate change, commonly referred to as global warming has been occurring for years due to several factors that will be later addressed in this paper. To some extent, it is responsible for the degradation of the environment but human behavior has a hand in this as well.

Causes for the Problems

Climate change is as a result of several human activities all aimed at economic development. As described by Malm (16), global warming is just but a by-product of excellence. The kind of excellence that we strive to achieve economically is slowly eating into our climate such that the by-products of our activities are causing pollution in every major way. Therefore, "business-as-usual" (Malm 17) is what is making us too comfortable to realize how dangerous climate change truly is.

One of the first causes of the problem was the discovery of fossil energy. During the 1850s, as the world started to embrace industrialization (Malm 17), it became evident that energy was a driving force for the major changes that were being realized. Therefore, countries such as Britain sourced for fossil to become one of the leading producers of the energy related to this. The same could be said about countries that were rapidly diving into the realm of industrialization. The one problem with the fossils economy was that it led to an increase in carbon dioxide emission. Malm (17) explains that, as a matter of fact, Britain is considered to be the birthplace of fossil economy and, at the same time, increased carbon dioxide emission to a tune of 60%. Global warming thus started during the era of industrialization as the world's atmosphere began filling up with carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, environmental degradation is as a result of economic activities such as mining excavations, oil drilling and deforestation among others. In the article The Anthropology of Oil: the Impact of the Oil Industry on a Fishing Community in the Niger Delta, Fentiman (89) discusses the manner in which oil mining led to devastation in the said area. Oil mining resulted from the need to find more reliable and effective sources of energy as compared to the traditional forms. We get oil from the decomposition of fossils, thus this has a close relation to the previous point on climate change.

Given the circumstances, as the world evolved, crude oil was discovered in various parts of the world including the Niger Delta. Its mining and assembly into finished product grew in demand thus promoting more mining activities. In regards to this, Fentiman (89) explains that by the 1960s, the discovery of oil led to other developments to include infrastructure, employment opportunities and social amenities. However, it is also true that it enlarged the possibilities of environmental degradation due to increased water and air pollution. Land, as a natural resource, has been affected because oil spills not only destroy natural vegetation but force people out of their habitats.

According to Fentiman (91), increased competition amongst the oil firms also saw people displaced from their lands in order to allow for oil exploration. Their lands were taken away to be cleared and excavated in pursuit of crude oil. From this we can see the start of environmental degradation not only from the aspect of drilling for oil but also of clearing lands of forest thus deforestation.

The same problem arose from the mining of various precious metals. Canada today boosts as one of the largest mineral mining country in the world and yet, there is the exposure of the environment to harmful substances. Different mining investments that the Canadians have implemented in Latin America have led to a number of environmental problems in the region. Gordon and Webber (75) explain that mining in itself is destructive to the physical environment where the activity takes place because the land becomes useless due to the processes involved. In addition to this, there is the possibility of waste rock pollution. This occurs when rocks left behind from the process of mining start to leach out harmful elements such as mercury, sulphuric acid, cadmium and arsenic that negatively impact not only the environment but people as well (Gordon and Webber 76).

Furthermore, there are diversion of rivers and water pollution when these elements are disposed off in water bodies. Such a situation is explained by Gordon and Webber (75) when they write that rivers in Argentina were diverted to allow for the production of cyanide solution, making the extraction of gold easier in their mines. This is a problem because once rivers are diverted, the natural environment will be cut out from its water supply thus degradation.

Another reason of how and why the problems mentioned occurred is because as human beings, we accept some things to be naturally okay. Russell (1508) explains that the warfare aspect of life is well integrated in every other aspect of it because of the relations formed over the years. He explains that as chemists used chemicals to fight off pests and insects, the same concept was later adopted by military operations to help in combat. Therefore, we slowly accepted the use of chemical warfare both at war and in our natural environment without thinking of the consequences.

Technology change continues to contribute to how we accept the environmental problem. Technology today equals excellence in almost everything that we do because it is more effective. As such, when technology allows us to win wars, we choose to turn a blind eye to the impact it has on our environment (Russell 1529). Malm (29) is of the opinion that for human beings to experience growth there has to be an alternative as in the case when steam was used in industries to replace water as a resource. Therefore, we strive to save on expenses while still ensuring efficiency which is the reason we have embraced technology this much.

Having highlighted above that human beings have played a key role in the environmental crisis, McNeill (2) explains that this has mostly occurred during the twentieth century. This is out of the fact that the century has been marked with some of the greatest progress and growth known to mankind. It is within this period of time that processes embedded in our discoveries have a direct negative effect to our environment. This is true in reference to our economic growth, population growth and increased energy production.

Economic activities take into account the need to utilize resources so as to develop the final product or service that need to be sold and bought for economic growth to occur. Most of these processes just like mentioned by other researchers show a negative impact. McNeill (6) explains that the demand for resources for economic activities is putting a strain on the environment because the resources are not being replenished. Basically, human beings are utilizing resources without taken into account the need to give back to the environment thus the crisis.

Additionally, the population is growing at an alarming rate thus the need for more land to sustain us. This means that more forests have to be cleared and production processes increased to meet human needs demands McNeill (9). In reference to energy, ever since we discovered fire, we have polluted the air and continue to do so today. The same desire for energy efficiency leads to water and land pollution and therefore an increase in environmental degradation. Thus it is true that we will remember the 20th century as the peculiar century for the human race due to increased processes all that lead to ecological changes in a negative way McNeill (2).

Actors Involved

In the problem of global environmental crisis, we are all to blame although others more than the rest. The key creators of the problem have to be developed countries while those who suffer include everyone in the world. Developed countries are best known for their industries that emit the most carbon dioxide as opposed to developing countries that are just starting. Places such as China today have visible smog because of the industrial process. The country is today's go-to place for anything manufacturing but at the cost of its atmospheric climate alongside that of its neighbors.

It is also true to say that western countries contribute more to the crisis because it is their organizations that explore third world countries for development opportunities. Western organizations have the resources developing countries need but this too is costing them their environment. Therefore, the crisis is being experienced all over the world because the choices of one country have a ripple effect on its neighbors and so on.

The climate change and degradation are the major global environmental problems that we have to acknowledge mostly because they are the root causes of the other problems. The future of the environment largely depends on our abilities to realize the problem areas and find effective solutions. However, with our increasing population that puts a strain on our resources enlarging demand for products and impacting negatively the environment, chances of the situation becoming more serious are elevated. Therefore, there is even stronger need for effective solutions today.

Works Cited

Fentiman, Alicia. "The Anthropology of Oil: The Impact of the Oil Industry on a Fishing Community in the Niger Delta". Social Justice, 23(4), 1996, pp. 87-99.

Gordon, Todd, & Jeffery R. Webber. "Imperialism and Resistance: Canadian mining companies in Latin America". Third World Quarterly, 29(1), 2008, pp. 63-87.

Malm, Andreas. "The Origins of Fossil Capital: From Water to Steam in the British Cotton Industry". Historical Materialism , 21(1), 2013, pp. 15-68.

McNeill, John R. "Prologue: peculiarities of a prodigal century." Something new under the sun: an environmental history of the twentieth-century world. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000

Russell, Edmund P. "Speaking of Annihilation": Mobilizing for War Against Human and Insect Enemies, 1914- 1945". The Journal of American History, 82(4), 1996, pp. 1505-1529.

June 26, 2023


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