Over the years, the environment has been changing, and not for the better. Here is a list of the current top environmental issues you’ll hear about and you should be concerned.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated April 20, 2018, to include more recent and comprehensive information about these current environmental issues instead of limiting them to a certain period. The original title of the article was “Top Environmental Issues of 2017 Should Make You Worry.”
10. Public Health
Many of the issues we face all tie back into one central concern – public health. Pollution, water scarcity and overpopulation all present a clear threat to public health. Nearly one out of every four deaths each year are directly caused by unhealthy environments, according to the WHO.
Even in developed countries, the growing anti-vaccination movement threatens public health, causing a resurgence in diseases like measles that were almost completely obliterated.
The health and wellness of human beings is an important issue to watch. What people eat, drink and breathe in play a significant role in their wellness. Polluted air and water are a mounting crisis we need to address.
Without water, humans won’t survive long. Polluted water poses threats through airborne water diseases and chemicals or toxins contaminating water. Without clean water, people’s health declines substantially.
One way to bring clean water to people is through digging wells. Another way is through water filters. There are people willing to take the initiative to bring clean water to those who need it.
9. Land Management & Urban Sprawl
Urban sprawl, or the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas, is a modern problem but one that threatens the environment. Moving to a new location isn’t hard these days. Contractors keep building developments in record time, and undeveloped land is becoming scarce. Covering the landscape with concrete interrupts the natural water cycle, preventing rainwater from soaking into the ground. This was evident during the catastrophic floods in Houston during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Studies have found that this sprawl is increasing exponentially on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, with cities slowly creeping outward and negatively affecting the land around them.
With less natural land, the environment takes a hit.
More houses lead to more pollution. Buildings emit their gasses into the air, which affect the health of the environment. Take China for example: Would you want to wear a face mask every time you went outside because of air pollution?
8. Waste Disposal
It’s easy to throw something in a trash can. We don’t usually think about our local landfills unless complaining about the smell when we drive by them, but the average person generates 4.6 pounds of trash per day.
This trash ends up in two places. It’s in landfills or it ends up in environmental habitats and the ocean. Waste disposal poses a threat to not only the Earth and its environment but humans as well.
When waste is in the ocean, the ocean dwellers mistake it for food or get tangled up in it. When waste is disposed of via burning or nuclear, it emits hazardous toxins in the air, which people breathe in.
People can limit this crisis by reducing the amount of waste. By choosing to use products that can be recycled or placed in a compost pile, every household can reduce their waste.
We have more than seven billion people on the planet right now – and that number is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100. While that might not sound like a bad thing, we live on a planet that can only support roughly 10 billion souls, which means we’re less than a century away from overpopulation becoming a serious and even life-threatening problem.
As the world’s population rises, the amount of resources available for survival decreases. In fact, the population has grown to an unsustainable level.
The more people there are on the planet, the more they release carbon dioxide and other gasses into the air. The growing population comes with the cost of greenhouse gasses and climate change. Until people realize that they have a direct impact on these pressing environmental issues, their behavior won’t change. Resources aren’t always sustainably sourced, but without those resources, the population won’t survive. Hopefully, we don’t realize this too little too late.
Fortunately, renewable energy sources are a great way to combat carbon emissions. By raising the amount of sustainable energy such as wind power and solar power, the resources needed can be sustainably sourced, reducing carbon emissions. You can’t change the population, but you can change what the population emits into the environment.
6. Loss of Biodiversity
Biodiversity, or the variety of life in the world or a particular ecosystem, is declining. The levels of biodiversity across the board have significantly lowered to a dangerous amount. According to the World Wildlife Federation, biodiversity has declined 27 percent in the last three decades. Biodiversity is in critical condition due to various threats including urban sprawl, deforestation and climate change.
The lack of biodiversity puts the food chain, water sources and other resources at risk. Without enough biodiversity, ecosystems deteriorate until they no longer exist. The world just can’t afford the cost of biodiversity loss.
Education and protection are keys to combating biodiversity loss. Think with a sustainable mind. Make green choices. Spread the word.
5. Water Scarcity & Water Pollution
A major issue happening now is water scarcity. There is a difference between water and fresh, clean water. Saltwater, freshwater, groundwater and surface water are the essential sources of water. There are two ways water can be scarce: the lack of water and the lack of drinkable water.
We often take the water coming out of the tap for granted — we turn the handle and water flows – but that’s not the case in many places around the world. Cape Town, South Africa, may be the first city to run out of water.
Potable water can become contaminated with things such as airborne diseases, toxins, and hazardous chemicals. An estimated 780 million people have no access to clean water at all. This isn’t just a problem in undeveloped countries through. The 2017 drought in California, and the fact that Flint, Michigan hasn’t had clean water in nearly four years, serves as the perfect example to show us that water scarcity and pollution isn’t just a problem everywhere else — it’s a problem here at home too. Like the Earth, your body is made up of a lot of water, too. Both land and your body need clean water to survive.
You can take action to reduce water scarcity. First people must admit this is a problem; then they have to do something about it. Start by turning the water off while brushing your teeth or while soaping up in the shower. You’re not just saving the fish — you’re saving the population.
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Pollution comes in many forms. Air, soil, and water all have the capability to be polluted. Pollution poses a current and future threats to people and the environment. Contaminated waters are undrinkable. Polluted air weakens the ozone layer and causes health problems. Contaminated soil destroys habitats and irrigation.
As a human, your body is majorly affected by pollution if it’s in the air you breathe or the water you drink. Pollution puts animals and the environment in critical condition that only humans can restore. It is one of the biggest killers on the planet, and it takes more than 100 million lives every single year — and that’s just human lives. People who live in areas with high levels of air pollution are 20 percent more likely to die of lung cancer — even if they’ve never picked up a cigarette in their lives. We dump millions of pounds of garbage and trillions of gallons of untreated sewage and storm water into the oceans and rivers every single year.
In order to see restored air, water, and soil, it’s essential to recover from pollution. By caring for the ecosystems, making sustainable choices and limiting the number of resources used, there is potential for recovery from pollution.
At least 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions don’t come from cars or factories — they come from deforestation. By 2030, we may only have 10 percent of the rainforests left – the rest have been cut down for wood or wood pulp products, or cleared for agricultural uses.
In addition to this, more than 70 percent of the planet’s plant and animal species live in forests. Species lose their habitat. Ecosystems die out. Climate change continues. There are fewer trees to produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. It’s all due to deforestation. Lumber and land are leading reasons people cut down forests, but no idea is good enough if it means someday there won’t be any forests left. Deforestation has many side effects people don’t realize.
To preserve the remaining forests, humans should simply stop cutting down trees. Forests are in major need of preservation. For every tree that’s cut down, a new one needs to be planted in its place.
2. Ecosystems & Endangered Species
Due to the list of environmental issues happening on this planet, both ecosystems and species are affected. In fact, one out of every 10 plants and animal species is expected to go extinct by 2050. The endangered species list continues to grow as ecosystems continue to decrease. Lost habitats mean losing the species that live there. While some may be able to migrate elsewhere, others are not so lucky.
With the rising temperatures of the Arctic, sea ice melts, which eliminates the habitat of polar bears. The list of endangered species includes other animals as well.
The best way to save species is to support organizations dedicated to fighting species extinction. By supporting the cause, you’re helping to combat the issue. You can also find laws and government acts available to sign that protect ecosystems and endangered species.
1. Climate Change
Unfortunately, the climate change debate continues despite decades of research on the subject. Climate change is here and it is happening. Ninety-seven percent of scientists who study the climate agree that greenhouse gasses, both natural and those created by humans, are the main cause. Global temperatures are climbing, ice caps are melting, and droughts, wildfires, and super hurricanes are tearing their way across the landscape.
While the truth is plain to see, the inaction of deniers in power positions will only make matters worse. Not only does the Earth’s temperature continue to rise, but the sea levels are rising, too. Both the ocean and the Earth are growing warmer.
Greenhouse gasses are a leading cause of climate change, specifically those emitted from the human population. This has an impact on habitats, agriculture, the ocean and natural disasters.
The best way to reduce climate change is to build sustainably. Using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power will assist the fight against climate change. Limiting waste and pollution will help preserve the environment.
Don’t let this year be another year of environmental loss. This list of environmental issues is nothing to joke about. The consequences of these environmental issues cannot go ignored. Give the planet a win by making sustainable choices and supporting the right causes.
Want to learn more ways make a difference right now? Check out my new article about how you can help reverse top environmental issues and tell me how you’ve made a difference in the comments below!