Global warming, natural resource depletion, high fossil fuel consumption, the degradation of the ozone layer – these are major issues causing real problems for our planet, and they demand real and immediate action and attention. They’re not the only issues, though, and that means that there are some pretty big planetary concerns out there that aren’t getting the voice they need. Here are three major environmental issues no one is talking about.
Lack Of Freshwater Resources
Lack of freshwater resources in the face of a growing global population is a ready topic for humanitarian discussion, but far less attention is being paid to it as an environmental issue. Stress that human use places on freshwater sources such as rivers and lakes diverts the water from its natural destinations into homes and industry, disrupting animal and plant life and in extreme cases leading to issues like desertification. As water scarcity becomes a larger problem, both people and the environment become increasingly adversely affected. The issue is compounded when sanitation is brought into the mix, making potable water even more scarce and rapidly depleted, and sending water with potential pathogens like cholera and typhoid fever into the environment, where they may both do further harm to biodiversity and enter back into the social sphere through interaction with contaminated aqueous environments. The greatest challenge facing us now is developing a plan that meets the needs of a growing population as well as the environment.
The oceans are responsible for absorbing around a third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, which is why it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that increased CO2 emissions are having a major impact them. When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, the CO2 reacts with the H2O to produce carbonic acid, which in turn dissociates to bicarbonate ions, and then carbonate ions, producing H+ protons and gradually lowering the pH levels of the ocean. This, on its own, is a naturally occurring process, but the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are thought to accelerate the change by up to 10 times faster than it has been in Earth’s history. Long term studies on ocean acidity are only starting to be completed and published, but is thought to impede calcification, a necessity for sea creatures like lobsters, crabs, clams, and snails, which in turn could harm the populations of animals that feed on or interact with these animals.
Overpopulation isn’t an unknown issue, but it’s one that often doesn’t get talked about in serious terms because of the social and political heft that accompanies it. The fact is, the global population is on the rise, and with that comes the need for more food, water, and land resources that are also necessary to sustain biodiversity and a healthy environment. Accompanying that, the only way to curb population growth is for humanity, as a whole, to have fewer children. Social mandates like those tried with China’s one-child policy had horrifying humanitarian implications, and discussion of population control must necessarily be accompanied by conversations about education, economic development, resource allocation, access to medical treatment and facilities, and much more. It’s a complicated issue that can’t stand on its own, but it’s also one that’s not going away unless we as a global society start focusing on positive, long-lasting ways to gradually lessen the human population and the stress it puts on the enviroment.