The history of environmental movement can be traced back to Europe in the 1880s when the industrial revolution started. With no laws to govern them, the factories started polluting the land and water. This was met with strong backlash by conservation groups. Subsequently, the movement started to take shape in North America as a lot of conservation efforts started. It gained momentum in the 50s, 60s, and 70s and a lot of influential books were published during that time.
One of the most notable initiatives taken is the Kyoto Protocol that was signed in Japan in 1972. The protocol was enacted in 2005 and directed the participant countries to reduce the effects of global warming. By 2009, 187 countries joined the protocol. Since then, various initiatives have been taken. Many conferences are held every year to emphasize the importance of improving environmental degradation. However, there is a need to accelerate efforts, and it is more important than ever to be conscious of our environment.
1. Natural Disasters
Disasters such as floods, tsunamis, and wildfires sometimes are not natural and are a result of our activities. Research conducted by a non-profit organization, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit analyzed 59 studies. It was observed that climate change makes these natural disasters more frequent and intense. The report referred to the recent drought in Syria and the horrifying storm in the UK.
The United States alone has seen a number of disasters recently, and studies predict an increase in their frequency and intensity. In 2017, natural disasters caused the United States $305 billion.
Deforestation and flooding have a direct correlation. Whenever an area is cleared for urbanization or simply for resources, the topsoil washes away. Because of this, the ground is unable to absorb rainwater. The Haiti flood of 2004 is a relevant example here. The inhabitants removed vegetation to provide for charcoal in cooking. When the storm hit, the ground couldn’t absorb water, which subsequently led to flooding. The flood took lives of 3000 people.
2. Depletion of the ozone layer
The Ozone is a gas that naturally occurs in the Earth’s atmosphere and protects the Earth from the ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun which are harmful. In the 1970s some scientists observed that the ozone layer was depleting. Lack of ozone layer allows the sun’s harmful rays to reach the earth, which causes skin cancer, cataracts, and other immune disorders. Moreover, it also affects ecosystems and alters food chains and biochemical cycles.
The main culprits behind the damage of the ozone layer include the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) found in aerosols. These have been extensively used by industries across the world. The CFCs when converted into chlorine, tear apart the ozone layer; one molecule of chlorine impacts a thousand molecules of ozone.
The Antarctic region was hit the most during the mid-1980s as 65 percent of the ozone layer was destroyed. Colder temperatures in the region lead to the faster conversion of CFCs to chlorine. Other regions suffered from 20 percent damage.
In 1987, countries across the world established the Montreal Protocol under which they pledged to decrease the consumption of ozone-depleting substances. The treaty is considered one of the most successful environmental agreements in the history of the United States.
Since the implementation of the protocol and various other regulations, ozone-depleting substances have decreased considerably in the atmosphere. A report shows that the ozone is on its way to recovery and if these measures are adhered to, the ozone will soon be as good as new.
3. Plastic pollution
The increasing use of plastics has put the environment into danger. The winning statistic in 2018 was 90.5 percent of the plastic that has never been recycled. This is equivalent to 6,300 million metric tons. While 12 percent of the plastic has been taken care of, 79 percent is still lying in a landfill or the environment.
This horrific statistic shows the consequences of using a lot of plastic. When plastic is not recycled, it ends up in our oceans. Statistics show that some 18 billion pounds of plastic make their way to the ocean every year. This is detrimental for coastal life. For example, turtles often mistake plastic cans for jellyfish and devour it, which is harmful to their health. Sometimes plastic breaks down into small pieces into the fish body, and we end up consuming it.
If not thrown into the ocean, plastic is burnt, which releases harmful toxins into the atmosphere. The remaining plastic ends up in a landfill and landfills only delay the situation instead of helping it. If the current production rate is continued, it is estimated that around 12 billion tons of plastic will end up in a landfill by 2050.
4. Water Crisis
The global water crisis first started in the 1700s when rapid industrialization increased the demand for clean water. The world started to take notice in the 1900s when around 11 billion people died from drought.
Cape Town was recently struck by a severe water crisis after a three-year-long drought. The situation was so grave that Helen Zille, the premiere of the Western Cape Province said: “No person in Cape Town should be flushing potable water down a toilet any more.… No one should be showering more than twice a week now.”
A similar situation was faced by Brazil in 2015. The city had to turn off its water supply for 12 hours, forcing industries to shut down. Today, 14 megacities face a water crisis.
The reason why the world is facing water shortage is that climate change has disrupted the water cycle. It has become difficult to predict when and where precipitation will take place.
Today, around 2.1 billion people still don’t have access to clean water. Women tend to suffer the most. This is because in the developing world they are responsible for bringing clean water to their homes. Consequently, they spend around 200 million hours of hauling water.
Industrialization and materialism have made the world what it is today. We have destroyed the environment ourselves. If we don’t take notice and stop now, we will leave an even uglier place for the next generation. While countries are taking action on a global level, but the responsibility of preserving the environment falls on the shoulder of each individual. If every individual tries to become a bit more environmentally friendly, then collectively it would make a huge difference.
We all can take small steps such as planting more trees and replacing plastic with other alternatives. For example, when you go shopping, you can always take a cloth bag with you. Also, you can save water and electricity by reducing their usage whenever you can. If you can afford, then you should opt for alternative sources of electricity production such as solar energy. Today, solar power is more affordable than before as the prices have gone down considerably. Moreover, it has become less of a hassle. The companies are now better equipped with skills and techniques such as solar sales software, which make the installation process hassle-free.
We often end up taking things for granted and do not realize their worth unless we lose them. The environment is one such thing which is very important we need to treasure it the most.
Audrey Throne is a mother of a 3-year old and a professional blogger by choice. Throne is passionate about lifestyle, business, automotive, technology and management and blogs frequently on these topics.
Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.