Vlad Belov
Sep 4 · Last update 4 mo. ago.
What is the biggest environmental problem currently?
Out of all the current environmental problems such as deforestation, global warming, waste, etc which one is the most serious? Does one of them have a priority over the others, if yes why?
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Threats to drinking water
0 agrees
0 disagrees
Desertification should receive immediate attention
0 agrees
0 disagrees
Marine pollution should be given priority
1 agrees
0 disagrees
Deforestation and its effect on fuelling climate change
0 agrees
0 disagrees
Pollution should be prioritised
1 agrees
0 disagrees
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Threats to drinking water

The biggest environmental problems are inevitably the most catastrophic to the human population and those which threaten the existence of humanity, and the most imperative of these are threats to drinking water. Fresh water pollution is taking place on a monumental scale due to a varied range of contributors such as agriculture, the fossil fuel and mining industries, sewage mismanagement, even the pharmaceutical industry with drugs being found in high concentrations in some drinking water. Meanwhile climate change has began extending global fire seasons and maximising the likelihood of extreme weather conditions, threatening to release more water pollutants and further risk our global drinking water systems and management. thinkprogress.org/6-human-activities-that-pose-the-biggest-threat-to-the-worlds-drinking-water-7e7a2d881cbe theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/microplastics-found-in-more-than-90-of-bottled-water-study-says

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Desertification should receive immediate attention

Far more of the Earth is covered by semi arid seasonal grasslands than forests, and about two thirds of the worlds grasslands are beginning to show signs of desertification. Saving this land from total desertification should be the first point of call in tackling climate change, as preserving the fertility of these lands will help to reverse the greenhouse effect. This is due to the large scale of additional photosynthesis this change could create, the plants of these regions effectively pulling large amounts of additional greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

However, this could have many massive social and economic benefits also, protecting agriculture in semi arid regions, a problem causing poverty and sometimes starvation in historically fertile regions. Some of these regions having a very high population also, making changes to be able to provide better yields in order to supply local food to hungry people could minimise cost and ease both hunger and poverty. The most important change we could make to address climate change then would be to stopping the "slash and burn" techniques used worldwide and encourage the grazing of livestock to re-fertilise soils in such regions.

Slash and burn farming is an agricultural technique that utilises the cutting and burning of forest or woodland area to use as a field for growing crops. While this traditional method was sustainable in traditional ways of life from cultures around the world, it does not scale up well and disastrous soil degradation takes place when carried out for many years, or when trying to cater for larger populations. More forest land is then slashed and burnt to give way to further agriculture. Naturally forests and woodland floors are covered with a heavy layer of leaf litter, dead leaves that fall to the forest floor and slowly decompose to release nutrients back into the soil as part of the forests natural nutrient cycle.

The prevalence of slash and burn farming is breaking this nutrient cycle around the world, and releasing carbon and energy into the Earth’s atmosphere that would normally go back into the soil, contributing to the greenhouse effect. If this process continues, it can lead to the soil becoming so degraded it loses all fertility, desertification starts to take place especially in the world’s semi-arid regions. Desertification and soil degradation may not seem like the biggest environmental problems but addressing them could potentially have many successive positive effects and contribute to solving many other environmental issues such as climate change. ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change?language=en theguardian.com/society/2004/apr/21/environment.environment

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Daniel Halliday
Mar 4
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DH edited this paragraph
The prevalence of slash and burn farming is breaking this nutrient cycle around the world, and releasing carbon and energy into the Earth’s atmosphere that would normally go back into the soil, contributing to the greenhouse effect. If this process continues, it can lead to the soil becoming so degraded it loses all fertility, desertification starts to take place especially in the world’s semi-arid regions. Desertification and soil degradation may not seem like the biggest environmental problems but addressing them could potentially have many successive positive effects and contribute to solving many other environmental issues such as climate change. https://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change?language=en https://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/apr/21/environment.environment
Marine pollution should be given priority

The wide scale of marine pollution from nutrient pollutants and plastics in the oceans has too many consequences, from falling marine biodiversity to the impact of pollutants entering the food chain. Currently over-fishing, direct discharge of human waste, pollutant land runoff, direct pollution from shipping and mining industries, and millions of tonnes of non-biodegradable human waste are having a massively detrimental effect on marine life around the world. Biodiversity experts have calculated that we are currently losing 200-2000 species a year, many of these from the world’s oceans.

Likewise many land dwelling species, including many people, rely on fish for survival and should be thought of as under threat also, both from falling numbers of marine life and the potential health risk from the rising toxin levels present in both farmed and wild fish. So further extinction of marine species will not simply affect the fishing industry, but will influence every food chain that contains marine life, having knock-on effects in other marine and terrestrial food chains. Scientists are theorising many ways to reverse climate change, forests can be replanted, fossil fuels can be minimised, renewable energy sources can be used, but species cannot become “un-extinct”.

Some of the most damaging causes of pollution in the oceans have involved crude oil spills. Crude oil lasts for years and has proven very difficult to get rid of when it has been spilt; it is extremely toxic to marine organisms and can suffocate animals that get caught in it, as well as others feeding on them such as birds. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (BP oil disaster) was one such event where 4.9 million barrels of crude oil leaked from an underwater oil well. The spill dealt an unthinkable amount of damage to the marine life in the Gulf of Mexico, and continues to be a problem nearly a decade later. Dolphins, tuna, and coral at the very least continue to suffer the detrimental toxic effects of the oil, while it has been found that cleaning the oil split only caused it to sink to the sea floor where the degradation process will be even slower.

wwf.panda.org/our_work/biodiversity/biodiversity myrtlebeachonline.com/news/nation-world/national/article71524207.html newswise.com/articles/view/632428/?sc=swtr&xy=5028049 cbsnews.com/news/study-dirty-bathtub-buried-oil-from-bp-spill

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Daniel Halliday
Mar 4
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DH edited this paragraph
Likewise many land dwelling species, including many people, rely on fish for survival and should be thought of as under threat also, both from falling numbers of marine life and the potential health risk from the rising toxin levels present in both farmed and wild fish. So further extinction of marine species will not simply affect the fishing industry, but will influence every food chain that contains marine life, having knock-on effects in other marine and terrestrial food chains. Scientists are theorising many ways to reverse climate change, forests can be replanted, fossil fuels can be minimised, renewable energy sources can be used, but species cannot become “un-extinct”.
Deforestation and its effect on fuelling climate change

Deforestation is by far the most damaging contribution to climate change, which is arguably the biggest problem facing mankind today. Deforestation is a multi-level problem, not only is this industry burning fossil fuels to cut down forests of different types internationally, but this land is often used for livestock agriculture, which in itself releases even more greenhouses gases mostly in the form of methane. Furthermore, deforestation is the active destruction of one of the main tools in the carbon cycle for pulling carbon out of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the rate of the greenhouse effect to increase evermore sharply.

Forests are also massive pools of biodiversity; forest ecosystems are often home to thousands of species of plants, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fungi and a range of microorganisms. Deforestation directly removes not just trees then, but this whole abundant ecosystem with it. Humans currently utilise at least 40,000 species of plants and animals for everything from food to clothing, from shelter to medicine and that is just from the species we know. Scientists have estimated that we have currently catalogued less than 15% of the 8.7 million species thought to exist worldwide; removing pools of biodiversity in this way will only go to further remove possible useful species from existence, possibly destroying future miracle cures.

Much of the damage that is continually being done cannot be undone, especially when considering stories such as the planned logging of Białowieża forest on the border of Poland and Belarus, despite it being a UNESCO world heritage site. Old growth forests such as this have existed for thousands of years untouched, and have developed not only a huge biodiversity of animal life, but a delicate soil biodiversity consisting of bacteria, protozoa and fungi that cannot be replaced when disrupted by processes such as deforestation. This destruction of habitat causing the loss of soil biodiversity also feeds into soil degradation, which can in extremes lead to a loss of agriculture, and an increased likelihood of landslide and desertification. Deforestation is the biggest environmental problem as it is the glue that holds all these other issues together, a loss of the world’s forests will unavoidably lead to number of other increasingly worse environmental issues.

cifor.org/Publications/Corporate/FactSheet/forests_biodiversity.htm news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110824-earths-species-8-7-million-biology-planet-animals-science theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/18/last-stand-for-europes-remaining-ancient-forest-as-loggers-prepare-to-move-in-bialowieza

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Daniel Halliday
Mar 4
Approved
DH edited this paragraph
https://www.cifor.org/Publications/Corporate/FactSheet/forests_biodiversity.htm https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110824-earths-species-8-7-million-biology-planet-animals-science/ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/18/last-stand-for-europes-remaining-ancient-forest-as-loggers-prepare-to-move-in-bialowieza
Pollution should be prioritised

Pollution is the biggest issue, because it causes global warming and kills animals.

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Daniel Halliday
Dec 12
DH edited this paragraph
This all contributes to making the emission of greenhouse gases by far the biggest environmental problem that causes greatest risk to the global population. The reason for this is twofold, human endeavour has already affected the delicate system of the Earth’s natural carbon cycle causing destabilising global climate change. Secondly, the level of human generated air pollution has surpassed the threshold at which termination of this activity will halt the progressive deterioration of polar ice sheet melting, causing further emissions of greenhouse gases trapped in ice caps. Furthermore, the discovery of massive pockets of methane gas (a greenhouse gas far shorter lived but far more powerful that carbon dioxide) is a massive cause for concern. The release of this gas into the atmosphere caused by melting tundra and polar ice sheets will likely increase the process of global warming 30 fold. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2015/oct/13/methane-release-from-melting-permafrost-could-trigger-dangerous-global-warming
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