The theme of World Environment Day: “How the wellbeing of humanity, environment and economics ultimately depends on the responsible management of natural resources.”
Rapid economic and social development in the world has led to practices like hyper-consumerism, throwaway culture, massive industrialization and urbanization causing serious and irreversible environmental problems.
World Environment Day is celebrated to spread awareness and increase sensitivity towards the environmental problems, which are capable of destroying the very existence of mankind, and all life in the long run. Here are some environmental issues which everybody needs to think about and act.
Currently, every part of the world is facing the wrath of climate change in some way or the other. Extreme weather has become a new normal in many parts of the world. Due to man-made climate change, extreme heat waves and heavy rain storms are occurring too often worldwide. Pollution and Global Warming are the prime reasons of climate change. Here is why:
• Pollution: The highest ever average growth rate of CO2ppm (Parts per Million) level was recorded during 2012-14 at 2.5ppm. For the first time in March 2015, CO2ppm surpassed the “safe level” of 350ppm to 400ppm globally in a month, according to figures released by the US science agency, Noaa in a report.
Rampant burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and massive industrialization has led to an increase in CO2 levels, i.e. over 120ppm as compared to the pre-industrialization era. Shockingly, half of the rise occurred after 1980; the report stated.
A huge reduction in fossil fuel emissions, to the tune of 80% is required to stop the rise of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. But the level of pollution is so gargantuan, that we would need further cuts to reduce CO2 levels.
• Global Warming: Pollution being the major cause of global warming is the simplest known to everyone around the globe, but less has been done to reduce the rising temperature.
Earlier extreme heat weather used to occur every 1000 days, but now it’s happening every 200 days globally. A rise of 0.85 degree centigrade of global temperature causes one in five extreme rains. Global sea levels have risen by 8 inches since 1870 and the speed at which polar ice is melting, the world stands vulnerable to unprecedented catastrophic floods.
With the death of over 2300 people in current summer season (2015), India’s heat waves have become the fifth most deadly in the world. Due to weak monsoons and increased GHG (Green House Gases) emissions, India is getting hotter with every passing day according to a report published by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Increased population, affordability and consumption have led to severe depletion of natural resources over the past few decades. The natural resources we take for granted today, took millions of years to reach its current usable form. However, with our unchecked consumption, many of these resources are on the brink of finishing off. Here are some, which have reached the critical tipping point of depletion.
• Water: It is the most important natural resource because it sustains all forms of life, and there are no other alternatives for water. Almost 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and out of which only 3 per cent is fresh or potable water. Fresh water is used in the production and development of almost everything.
Food, appliances, clothes, development of infrastructure and many more, everything requires water in some way to come into existence. Presently around 70 per cent of the water is consumed by agricultural activities, 20 per cent by industries and 10 per cent is consumed in human use.
Increased irrigation, industrialization and urbanization are guzzling this precious resource in an uncontrolled way. Urbanization and road infrastructure is preventing the seepage of water in the soil, causing depletion of aquifers.
Pollution of water by sewage discharge and other wastes like toxic electronic waste is another serious environmental concern. Toxic elements in water are contaminating drinkable water, degrading the soil and spreading several diseases.
• Fossil Fuel: Fossil fuels account for 40 per cent of the energy consumed. According to EIA (International Energy Outlook) report in 2013 we are left with fossil fuels good enough for only 25 years.
• Forest Cover: Rapid and massive deforestation due to industrialization, urbanization and mining has harmed ecology. Floods, droughts, extinction of species and loss of biodiversity are some of the adverse effects of loss of forest cover.
As responsible citizens of Planet Earth, we are accountable for this grim state and we must act now to prevent further harm. Here are few simple things we can do this Environment Day:
Reduce GHG Emissions: Use efficient electronic appliances, devices and vehicles. Use public transportation to reduce the usage of private vehicles and thereby lower GHG emissions. Reduce water consumption and wastage of food products.
Reuse: Reuse or repurpose your old electronics to reduce electronic waste or eWaste generation, as it is one of the most toxic and fastest growing waste streams. For example: You can use Grey Water in Garden, Sink water to flush toilet waste and install rain water harvesting systems to recharge the ground water levels.
Recycle: “Waste not, want not.” We should try to recycle every possible thing for the sake of sustainability. From eWaste to bio-waste, every type of waste contains some hidden value and resource to offer.
If we don’t change our habits, we would need three planets like Earth to sustain our way of life by 2050. Act now because getting another planet like Earth is impossible.
“Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference.”
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon