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Environmental Impact: Society's Relationship and Issues

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  • 0:03 Environmental Issues
  • 0:38 Global Warming
  • 2:24 Pollution
  • 3:34 Loss of Habitats
  • 4:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Juli Yelnick

Juli has traveled the world engaging in cultural immersion experiences that bring her Master of Liberal Studies findings to light.

In this lesson, we will discuss global warming, pollution and loss of habitat. Learn how the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of forests lead to global warming by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere.

Environmental Issues

There is a critical association between the well-being of a society and the quality of the environment in which a society lives. In today's global society, many environmental issues can diminish the quality of life on Earth, including overproduction of waste, the destruction of natural habitats and the pollution of our air, water and other resources. Environmental issues are harmful consequences of human activity on the natural environment. In this lesson, we will discuss some of today's major environmental issues: global warming, pollution and loss of habitat.

Global Warming

Global warming is the rise in the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century. The primary cause of global warming seems to be the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and natural gas.

These fuels are used to generate electricity, power industrial processes, provide domestic heating and drive motorized vehicles and aircraft engines. All of these uses involve the production of carbon dioxide (CO2). Although this gas is not directly harmful to humans or wildlife at the concentrations found in the air, there is widespread agreement among scientists that it is making the planet warmer by acting like a sort of umbrella that traps heat in the atmosphere near the earth.

Evidence suggests that global warming is causing large scale melting of polar ice caps and glaciers in mountainous regions, which, if it continues, will lead to a rise in sea levels. This would potentially result in the loss of large amounts of valuable agricultural land in coastal areas. Sometimes, the loss of land hits close to home.

For example, 40% of Florida's beaches are eroding away due to rising sea levels, at a rate of approximately one inch every 11-14 years, as of 2009. The National Research Council predicted that by 2100, the global average sea level would rise between 20 and 40 inches.

Climate change could also lead to drought in some areas and flooding in others, as patterns of air circulation change. Attempts are underway to tackle the problem by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and investing in alternative energy solutions, such as wind and solar power.

Pollution

Pollution can be defined as the introduction of harmful substances into the environment. Most of the time, the harmful substances come from industry and modes of transportation, such as cars, which release waste products that are harmful to humans, animals and plants. Examples are sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is released by the burning of coal, and nitrogen oxides, which are produced by internal combustion engines.

In the high concentrations that may occur in urban areas, these can harm people directly by causing respiratory problems. They also undergo reactions in the atmosphere that can produce acid rain, which can acidify soil and water, affecting plants and aquatic organisms and damaging stone buildings and monuments.

Pollution can also affect water directly through the discharge of wastewater from industrial processes, agriculture and mining. Some pollutants may find their way into the sea and accumulate in the food chain. On a more local scale, toxic chemicals from abandoned industrial sites and waste dumps can leave soil contaminated for long periods of time.

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