With as much attention as the environment has been getting lately, you’d think that we’d be further along in our fight to preserve the world’s species, resources and the beautiful diversity of nature. Unfortunately, things aren’t nearly that rosy. In fact, many of the environmental problems that have received the most public attention are even worse than we thought – from destruction in the rain forest to melting glaciers in the Arctic. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
7. Mammal Extinction
One in four mammals is threatened with extinction. We could see thousands of species die out in our lifetime, and the rate of habitat loss and hunting is growing so rapidly, these animals barely have a chance.
If you think the extinction of an animal like the beautiful Iberian Lynx wouldn’t have that much of an effect on the planet, think again. Not only would we be losing so much of the awe-inspiring diversity of nature, mass extinctions like this would cause a serious imbalance in the world’s food chain. When a predator disappears, the prey will multiply. When prey dies out, the predator will see its ranks decrease as well.
6. The Ocean Dead Zones
The ‘dead zones’ are characterized by a lack of oxygen, and they’re caused by excess nitrogen from farm fertilizers, emissions from vehicles and factories, and sewage. Since the 1960’s, the number of dead zones has doubled every 10 years. The most infamous one of all is in the Gulf of Mexico. Spanish researches recently found that many species die off at oxygen levels well above the current definition of ‘uninhabitable’, suggesting that the extent of dead zones in coastal areas that support fishing is much worse than previously thought.
5. Collapsing Fish Stock
Millions of people across the world depend upon fish as a major staple in their diet. As such, commercial fishermen have been pulling such a huge quantity of fish from the oceans that we’re heading toward a global collapse of all species currently fished. Like large-scale mammal extinction, the collapse of fish species would have a major impact on the world’s ecosystems. If we continue the way we are fishing today, there will be a 100 percent collapse by mid-century, so we’ve got to turn this around fast.
4. Destruction of the Rain Forest
‘Saving the rain forest’ has been at the forefront of the environmental movement for decades, yet here we are facing huge losses in the Amazon all the same. Global warming and deforestation mean that half of the Amazon rain forest will likely be destroyed or severely damaged by 2030. The World Wildlife Fund concluded this summer that agriculture, drought, fire, logging and livestock ranching will cause major damage to 55 percent of the Amazon rain forest in the next 22 years. The WWF says that the ‘point of no return’, from which recovery will be impossible, is only 15 to 25 years away.
3. Polar Sea Ice Loss
Polar sea ice is melting at an unprecedented rate, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. British researchers said last week that the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic decreased dramatically last winter for the first time since records began in the early 1990s. Scientific American warns that “human fingerprints have been detected” on both the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
2. CO2 Levels in the Atmosphere
The aforementioned polar sea ice loss is yet another sinister sign of carbon dioxide levels building up in the atmosphere – the main force behind global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions caused by our modern way of life – vehicles, power plants, factories, giant livestock farms – will bring devastating climate change within decades if they stay at today’s levels. Average temperatures could increase by as much as 12 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century if emissions continue to rise. A global temperature rise of just 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit would cause a catastrophic domino effect, bringing weather extremes that would result in food and water shortages and destructive floods.
1. Population Explosion
Whether we like to admit it or not, our very own rapidly multiplying presence on this planet is the biggest environmental problem there is, and it’s getting bigger by the minute. We voraciously consume resources, pollute the air and water, tear down natural habitats, introduce species into areas where they don’t belong and destroy ecosystems to the point of causing millions of species to become endangered and, all too often, go extinct. It took nearly all of human history – from the first days of man on earth until the early 1800’s – to reach a global population of 1 billion. In just 200 years, we’ve managed to reach 6.5 billion. We’re adding roughly 74 million people to the planet every year, a scary figure that will probably continue to increase.
If we want to keep this planet a healthy place for humans to live – for our grandchildren to enjoy – it’s time to buckle down and do everything in our power to reverse the damage we’ve done.
After you’ve done reading, don’t forget to do this vocabulary quiz: Short and Simple English Tests - Environment