Deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution from a gold mine in Peru. Several environmental issues can result from a single activity.
By Jeremy Hance
Environmental issues are problems that impact the natural world, i.e. ecosystems, as well as the human beings who depend on them. Although environmental issues have been around since humans have (Plato complained of deforestation and resulting erosion in Greece), the modern movement concerned with environmental issues proceeded alongside, and often in response to, the rise of industrialization.
Current environmental issues include climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution, invasive species, ecosystem destruction, ocean acidification, desertification, erosion, sprawl, fossil fuels, and overpopulation among many others.
Responses to environmental issues have included the creation of protected areas, such as national parks and wildlife reserves; laws to protect the habitat of endangered species; regulations on hunting and fishing; clean up of toxic pollution; international treaties to address global issues like depletion of the ozone layer; restoration of damaged ecosystems; reintroductions of wildlife; and others.
Since human beings are intimately connected to the environment, depending on it for clean water, food production, and breathable air, tackling environmental problems is about creating a better world for current and future generations. In recent decades, some environmental issues have moved beyond local and regional problems, to become global ones, such as climate change, mass extinction, and ocean acidification.
Deforestation in Borneo
Soil erosion in Madagascar following deforestation.
Air pollution in China.
Red ruffed lemurs are hunted by poachers
Littering / trash
Trash in Indonesia
Urban sprawl in Las Vegas
Forest fires in Indonesia produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change
Glaciers in places like Alaska are melting due to climate change
News on environmental issues
Pictures: the top new animal discoveries of 2014
(12/20/2014) Seemingly every year scientists set a new record with the number of species they describe. 2014 will be no exception. Below are some of the 'new species' highlights from the past year. The list includes species whose descriptions were first published in 2014. Some of the 'discoveries' occurred in years prior.
125M ha of degraded lands identified for forest-friendly agricultural expansion
(12/19/2014) A team of researchers has identified 125 million hectares (309 million acres) of land suitable for agricultural expansion that won't come at the expense of tropical forests. The study argues that shifting agricultural expansion away from forests to these 'degraded lands' would avoid 13 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would be released were they converted for plantations, pasture, and croplands.
Puerto Rico's only native toad bounces back from edge of extinction
(12/19/2014) Once common on the islands of Puerto Rico and Virgin Gorda, the Puerto Rican crested toad declined by more than 80 percent over the past decade, leaving behind just some 200 individuals in the wild. But researchers have turned their fate around. Since 1992, they have successfully bred in captivity and re-introduced to the wild more than 300,000 of these threatened toads.
Impacts of deforestation on Amazonian river ecosystems could be far-reaching
(12/18/2014) A study by researchers in Brazil published this week has found that deforestation in the Southern Amazon may impair significantly the structure and function of rivers, and make them less able to support life.
Plant wars: some tree species compete better against grasses for reforestation
(12/18/2014) What happens to degraded pastureland once the cows are kicked out? After years of letting the area rest, does it eventually become what it once was? Not likely. When disruptions such as invasive species and human interference are introduced to an area, ecological succession doesn’t occur the way it should naturally.
Tropical deforestation could disrupt rainfall globally
(12/18/2014) Large-scale deforestation in the tropics could drive significant and widespread shifts in rainfall distribution and temperatures, potentially affecting agriculture both locally and far from where forest loss is occurring, concludes a study published today in Nature Climate Change.
Enough for an elephant: why are Cameroon's elephants raiding fields?
(12/18/2014) Waza National Park in West Africa is a refuge to many endangered and vulnerable species. Walk through the grounds and you may see red-fronted gazelles grazing or giraffes sauntering between trees in search of foliage. Head to the park's perimeter, though, and you may see a less serene scene: elephants raiding local farmers' crops.
Ocelots live in super densities on Barro Colorado Island
(12/18/2014) By comparing camera trapping findings with genetic samples taken from feces, biologists have determined that the density of ocelots on Barro Colorado Island in Panama is the highest yet recorded. There are over three ocelots per every two square kilometers (0.77 square miles) on the island.
Amazonian peatlands store mega carbon
(12/17/2014) Peatlands in the Peruvian Amazon store ten times the amount of carbon as undisturbed rainforest in adjacent areas, making them critical in the battle to fight climate change, finds a new study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Saving the world's rarest primate: can it be done?
(12/17/2014) Endemic to China’s southernmost province of Hainan, only around 30 Hainan gibbons survive today. Rapid island-wide deforestation and consequential loss of habitat, uncontrolled hunting, and failed captive breeding attempts have pushed this ape towards the precipice of becoming the first primate species to go extinct in the modern world. Will a multi-stakeholder conservation strategy be able to save it?