Causes & Effects of Modern Environmental Concerns

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

We face many environmental problems in our world today. Learn about a few of them, their causes and effects, and how modern technology can be used to solve them.

Modern Environmental Issues

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the environment has been at risk. We pump all kinds of gases and chemicals into the atmosphere, we cut down trees, overfish, and kill huge numbers of animals. We spread our waste around indiscriminately and we poison water supplies. Is this the kind of world you want to live in?

Many of the problems we face already have technological solutions. Mostly we lack the will to solve them, or to spend the money necessary to do so. Let's take a closer look at some of these problems and possible solutions.

Climate Change

Problem:

Climate change is probably the most well-known environmental issue. It involves the warming of the earth due to the greenhouse gases that we produce. This happens because though carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere let radiation from the sun move through them freely, they absorb the infrared wavelengths (heat) produced by the earth. This means it's easier for heat to get into the Earth's atmosphere than to leave.

As carbon dioxide levels continue to rise due to human industry and transport, the temperature rises with it. This has all kinds of effects like rising sea levels due to melting ice caps, dry areas getting drier, wet areas getting wetter, and increased storm activity among others.

Electric cars are already here
Electric car

Solution:

Climate change can be solved by switching to renewable energy generation, promoting the development of electric cars, upgrading infrastructure and homes to make them more efficient, switching to modern transportation technology, instituting nationwide recycling programs, and avoiding wasted energy by building electronic devices that turn themselves off when not being used. These things alone would all but eliminate the problem if done on a large enough scale.

Deforestation

Problem:

Deforestation is the removal of trees in an area of land for human use, like the construction of farms or cities. Tropical rainforests in particular contain more biodiversity than anywhere on the planet, and contain lifeforms no human has ever even seen, let alone cataloged. Considering what we've already found in the rainforest, we may discover cures to all kinds of diseases there, exotic fruit we've never tasted, and who knows what else. Yet it is being lost at a rate of around 80,000 acres per day.

Solution:

Deforestation can be prevented by providing modern technologies to developing countries. Many of the trees that are cut or burned down are done so for the livelihoods of people who need more land to support their families. However, the developed world has more than enough farming technology to avoid cutting down or burning trees in this way.

Overfishing and Desertification

Problem:

Overfishing is where fishing in an area is uncontrolled and unregulated, causing fish populations to plummet dangerously. This not only causes problems for ecosystems, but can reduce the supply of fish to humans for food.

Overfishing is a real problem
Overfishing

Desertification is where a dry region becomes increasingly dry until it loses vegetation and wildlife, and becomes a desert. It can happen due to a mixture of climate change, and poor land and water management. It's often sparked by the removal of vegetation by humans, but it can also be due to human overuse of water.

Solution:

Desertification and overfishing are harder to solve technologically, and the more issues of management. The planting of trees and bushes specifically designed to retain water in an area can be planned on computers, and implemented using machines. And fish populations can be tracked by collecting data electronically and creating digital maps and simulations.

Acid Rain

Problem:

Acid rain is where pollution in the atmosphere causes rain to be acidic instead of neutral. This can cause damage to buildings, forests, lakes, and ecosystems. It's a common result of the burning of fossil fuels.

Solution:

Acid rain can be reduced by simply upgrading to modern, high-tech industrial practices. Pollution is entirely avoidable today, it's just that it's currently cheaper to pollute. Many modern processes can reduce pollution itself, and others can capture what is produced in a safe way.

Waste

Problem:

We often fail to find sustainable ways of waste disposal. Humans produce huge amounts of waste, both sewage and material. Much of it finds its way to our seas, where it can affect wildlife. But it can also contaminate drinking sources, causing them to gradually become dirtier, especially in cities. Plastic waste in our seas are contributing to ecosystem collapse.

We are capable of recycling practically everything
recycling bins

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