How Humans Affect the Environment

Essay by Doodlipop May 2005

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The human population is expected to double in the next 50 years, and the ever-growing global population needs vast amounts of food, energy and raw materials. We cannot continue to get our food, energy and raw materials in the way we do now without damaging the earth's environment beyond repair. Pollution, deforestation, over-fishing, the impact of intensive farming and above all global warming will see to that. We need to find ways of improving food productivity, and getting our energy and raw materials in more sustainable ways.

Sustainable development means development which meets the needs of today's population without harming the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In other words, growing enough food and sourcing our energy and raw material needs without doing irreversible damage to the environment. The table gives some examples of what this might mean in practice:

Forestry:A sustainable approach would mean cutting down fewer trees, and replanting new trees to replace those that are felled.

Fishing:A sustainable approach means enforcing strict quotas on how many of each species can be caught by each country in each year, so that fish stocks stay at viable levels - something the European Union is now trying to do.

Energy:Sustainability in energy means replacing non-renewable energy sources (fossil fuels) with renewable sources such as solar, water and wind generation.

Economic development:A sustainable approach must be able to improve people's standards of living - particularly in the developing world - while actually reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture:Sustainability in farming means producing a good quality, high yielding crop - while using fewer chemicals and fertilisers, and conserving local plant and animal communities. It might also involve greater reliance on local produce to avoid unnecessary transport pollution.

The growing population and increasing standard of living...

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