As the years go on, environmental concerns continue to climb our global priority list, surpassing all other concerns. Every year, new problems emerge. As a result, we’re constantly having to triage, to decide which environmental crisis takes precedence over which other environmental crisis.
What does 2023 hold for us? Certainly, we’re at an historic advantage over previous years, equipped with unprecedented political will and regulatory infrastructure. For example, the UN plans ‘historic’ regulation of the plastics industry by 2024, regulation that the Executive of the United Nations’ Environment Programme has called ‘the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris Accords.’ Clearly, then, the tide, strewn with plastic waste as it may be, is turning.
Now, it’s only a question of dealing with our most pressing environmental concerns – or, at least, deciding what those are.
Biodiversity is, at once, both the most complexly precarious and the most vital feature of our global ecosystem, supplying ecologies with both specialisation and diversification, productive fragility and reproductive robustness. Although it may seem a facile, over-inclusive definition, biodiversity is essentially every living thing and every ecosystem that makes up what we commonly term ‘the environment’. From the largest giraffe to smallest microorganisms, biodiversity covers it all. EverythingPlays an important role in maintaining the world we live in.
Clearly, then, any reduction in biodiversity can have widespread consequences, threatening the very existence of crucial ecosystems. Global warming, pollution, deforestation, intensive agriculture – all of these developments are slashing biodiversity down to worrying dimensions. All over the globe, billions of species are disappearing or have already gone extinct. Some scientists, in fact, are going so far as to suggest that we are experiencing a sixth mass extinction, endangering the robustness of our environment and, as a result, the robustness of societies.
We can help keep the planet running smoothly by reducing our meat intake, especially red meat.
Water pollution is, of course, a significant concern, as our dependence on water forms one of our most crucial interactions with the natural environment. Not only does the pollution of our water-sources exert a tremendous financial strain upon businesses and governments, but it is killing both humans and marine life, too. From oil spills to the leaking of toxic chemicals to an abundance of plastic waste entering our waterways, we’re damaging the most valuable resource our planet has to offer.
Education is the solution. We can all work together to reverse the damage caused by water pollution once we have a better understanding of the causes and consequences. To take effective action across national boundaries, it is necessary to establish a strong infrastructure for regulation.
It’s a truism that, nevertheless, remains under-appreciated: humans need plants to survive, especially trees. Most obviously, plants supply humans with food, but they purify water, furnish medicine and produce oxygen, too.
We are currently placing trees under the greatest stress. Warnings have emerged from all quarters that if deforestation races along at its present pace, we won’t have much of the valuable forestry left. For instance, as global climates alter, natural wildfires occur in unusual locations and at unprecedented scales, wiping out significant areas of woodland. Similarly, illegal logging enterprises and the massive amount of timber being harvested for commercial use mean that forests are decreasing at an alarming rate. As well as reducing our supply of oxygen, the destruction of forests upsets the carbon cycle, such that deforestation can be said to contribute around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
If you’d like to help, you can buy more recycled and organic products, as well as limiting the amount of paper and cardboard you use.
Now, we’ve already put a spotlight on water pollution, but what of the other forms of pollution besetting the natural environment?
The tricky thing is that pollution causes other environmental concerns, including those that we’ve already mentioned, like climate change and biodiversity. All seven key types of pollution – air, water, soil, noise, radioactive, light and thermal – are all having a negative impact on our environment.
All types of pollution and environmental issues are interconnected and have an impact on each other. To tackle one, you must tackle all. That’s why we need to work together, as a community, to reduce the impact that pollution is having on our environment.
Follow this link to learn more about climate action and how it could impact air pollution.
5. Climate Change
As pointed out by a recent UN report, without ‘unprecedented changes’ in our actions and behaviour, our planet will suffer drastically from global warming in just 12 years. Greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change, trapping in the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the earth.
One of the often-neglected impacts of climate change can only be seen beneath the waves, as an increased sub-surface temperature can have rather drastic consequences for marine life and ecosystems. What’s more: the rise in global sea levels is shrinking our land, causing mass floods and freak-weather incidents across the world. If we continue to do the same, the world could be in serious trouble, possibly irreversibly.
Swapping out a drive for a walk or a ride on public transport can reduce your carbon footprint, as will switching off your electricals when they’re not in use. More importantly, we’re going to need to educate the world on the severity of global warming – before it’s too late.
There are a wide range of initiatives in place to combat the biggest environmental concerns – from recycling schemes to major legislation reforms. Find out more about efforts to measure, model and mitigate air pollution in the article, ‘Air quality networks – simplifying source apportionment, supporting pollution mitigation’.