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Man and Environment

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10 – MAN AND ENVIRONMENT Environment has many definitions. We can use it when we talking about social environment or environment of a lake, but in this topic I am going to talk about environment as everything that surrounds us (all living and non-living things including things that are human made). Air pollution We live in a world where people daily commute by cars and city transport, factories emit pollutants into air and our electricity is majorly produced by burning fossil fuels. This affects the atmosphere very much. As a result this causes harm or discomfort to humans and other living organisms and it also causes damage to the environment. The substance in the air that causes air pollution is known as an air pollutant. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is the main pollutant that is warming Earth. It is widely considered to be a pollutant when associated with cars, planes, power plants, and other human activities that involve the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline and natural gas. In the past 150 years, such activities have pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to raise its levels higher than they have been for hundreds of thousands of years. Another pollutant associated with climate change is sulphur dioxide, a component of smog. Sulphur dioxide is known primarily as a cause of acid rain. But it also reflects light when released in the atmosphere, which keeps sunlight out and causes Earth to cool. Industrialized countries have worked to reduce levels of sulphur dioxide, smog, and smoke in order to improve people's health. But a result, not predicted until recently, is that the lower sulphur dioxide levels may actually make global warming worse. What can we do? On a personal level, driving and flying less, recycling, and conservation reduces a person’s "carbon footprint"—the amount of carbon dioxide a person is responsible for putting into the atmosphere. On a larger scale, governments are taking measures to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. One way is through the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement between countries that they will cut back on carbon dioxide emissions. Another method is to put taxes on carbon emissions or higher taxes on gasoline. Water pollution Water covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface and is a very important resource for people and the environment. Having drinking water every day is something that we find very natural, but the fact is that in developing countries usually at least 50% of the population doesn’t have access to clear water. Water pollution affects water bodies (which is a term referring to ponds, rivers, lakes and oceans and groundwater all over the world). This consequently harms human health and the natural environment. Although water pollution is more connected with developing countries even developed countries such as the USA struggle with it. Around 40% of water bodies in the USA are considered to be polluted. The water pollutants are chemicals, garbage, and sewage water. What can we do? Conserve water by turning off the tap. This helps prevent water shortages and reduces the amount of contaminated water that needs treatment. Be careful about what you throw down your sink or toilet. Don’t throw paints, oils or other forms of litter down the drain. Don’t throw litter into rivers, lakes or oceans. Help clean up any litter you see on beaches or in rivers and lakes, make sure it is safe to collect the litter and put it in a nearby dustbin. Other kinds of pollution are soil pollution, light pollution and noise pollution. Deforestation A different kind of problem connected with environment is deforestation, which is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. The overwhelming direct cause of deforestation is agriculture. Subsistence farming (self-sufficiency farming in which the farmers focus on growing enough food to feed themselves and their families) is responsible for 48% of deforestation. Commercial agriculture (a process of large-scale production of crops for sale) is responsible for 32% of deforestation. Logging is responsible for 14% of deforestation and fuel wood removals make up 5% of deforestation. Deforestation is a contributor to global warming, and is often cited as one of the major causes of the enhanced greenhouse effect. The water cycle is also affected by deforestation. Trees extract groundwater through their roots and release it into the atmosphere. When part of a forest is removed, the trees no longer evaporate away this water, resulting in a much drier climate. It has been estimated that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation, which equates to 50,000 species a year. Endangered species The activity of us humans (polluting air and water, cutting trees and producing waste) affects of course also animals. Many species are endangered because of the humans or the environmental change, which is almost always caused by the human kind. In my opinion the most outrageous ways for animals to die is when they are either hunted for skin or fur (such as seals, minks, foxes) so people can wear them and feel good and pretty or the animals are killed because a part of them is valuable (rhinos, sharks, bears, tigers). Some people believe that the horns of rhinos, gall of a bear and parts of a tiger have some kind of medical effect, but it has been scientifically proved that there are no effects. The only effect is that these animals are slaughtered and many of them suffer before dying. For example the fishers only cut the fin of the shark off and then throw it back into sea alive leaving it there to bleed to death. A large number of species faces extinction because humans constrain their natural environment (f.e. by cutting trees) or pollute it thereby making it impossible for the animals to live there.

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