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
Like ancient humans, some lemurs slumber in caves
(12/05/2013) After playing, feeding, and socializing in trees all day, some ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) take their nightly respite in caves, according to a new study in Madagascar Conservation and Development. The findings are important because this is the first time scientists have ever recorded primates regularly using caves (see video below).
World's biggest palm oil company makes zero deforestation commitment
(12/05/2013) Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil trader and a long-time target of environmentalists, has signed a landmark policy that commits the company to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. The deal, if fully implemented, has the potential to transform the palm oil industry, which has emerged over the past decade as one of the world's most important drivers of tropical forest destruction.
Top scientists propose ambitious plans to safeguard world from devastating climate change
(12/05/2013) Two degrees is too much: that's the conclusion of a landmark new paper by top economists and climatologists, including James Hansen formerly of NASA. The paper, appearing in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, argues that global society must aim for only one degree Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst impact of climate change, and not the two degrees Celsius agreed on by the world's governments. But given that the world's governments are not yet on track to even achieve the two degree target, how could we lock in just one? A combination of renewable energy, nuclear power, and, most importantly, a rising price on carbon emissions, according to the eighteen scientists.
Humans are not apex predators, but meat-eating on the rise worldwide
(12/05/2013) A new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has measured the "trophic level" of human beings for the first time. Falling between 1 and 5.5, trophic levels refer to where species fit on the food chain. Apex predators like tigers and sharks are given a 5.5 on trophic scale since they survive almost entirely on consuming meat, while plants and phytoplankton, which make their own food, are at the bottom of the scale. Humans, according to the new paper, currently fall in the middle: 2.21. However, rising meat-eating in countries like China, India, and Brazil is pushing our trophic level higher with massive environmental impacts.
Green investors urge companies to clean up palm oil industry
(12/04/2013) A coalition of investors and asset managers is urging stakeholders in the palm oil industry to adopt policies that exclude deforestation and human rights violations from their supply chains. The call, coordinated by Green Century Capital Management, was issued in the form of letters sent to 40 major palm oil producers, financiers and buyers.
APP's Borneo expansion to be constrained by forest conservation policy
(12/04/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) will not convert any blocks of forest found to have high conservation value or substantial carbon stocks as it expands in Indonesian Borneo, according the forestry giant's managing director of sustainability. Responding to a report published by Greenomics, Aida Greenbury said APP's 10-month-old forest conservation policy applies to four suppliers operating in East and West Kalimantan.
Microsoft founder funds Africa-wide elephant survey to measure ivory poachers' toll
(12/04/2013) Beginning next year, light planes and helicopters will undertake the first ever continent-wide aerial survey of Africa's vanishing elephant populations. The hugely ambitious initiative, which will count elephant herds in 13 countries, is being funded by Microsoft founder, Paul Allen, through his Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
Sky islands: exploring East Africa's last frontier
(12/04/2013) The montane rainforests of East Africa are little-known to the global public. The Amazon and Congo loom much larger in our minds, while the savannas of East Africa remain the iconic ecosystems for the region. However these ancient, biodiverse forests—sitting on the tops of mountains rising from the African savanna—are home to some remarkable species, many found only in a single forest. A team of international scientists—Michele Menegon, Fabio Pupin, and Simon Loader—have made it their mission to document the little-known reptiles and amphibians in these so-called sky islands, many of which are highly imperiled.
Sri Lankan elephant amnesty will lead to poaching, warn conservationists
(12/03/2013) Environmentalists have responded with alarm to a proposed amnesty permitting the registration of illegally captured elephants in Sri Lanka. Recent reports in Sri Lankan media have outlined the proposal, stating that during the amnesty period it would be possible to register elephant calves for a fee of about $7,600. Elephants are closely linked with Sri Lankan history and culture, and are considered sacred in both Buddhism and Hinduism. But the situation for elephants in the country is complicated.
86 percent of big animals in the Sahara Desert are extinct or endangered
(12/03/2013) Bigger than all of Brazil, among the harshest ecosystems on Earth, and largely undeveloped, one would expect that the Sahara desert would be a haven for desert wildlife. One would anticipate that big African animals—which are facing poaching and habitat loss in other parts of the world—would thrive in this vast wilderness. But a new landmark study in Diversity and Distributions finds that the megafauna of the Sahara desert are on the verge of total collapse.