How Construction and the Built Environment can Both Benefit and Harm the Natural Environment
Since it's earliest days, the Human Race has sought to bend the
natural environment to it's will; since the first Man (or woman!) cut
the first branch from a tree, a battle has been fought between mankind
and Mother Nature. Rivers have been dammed, forests cleared away and
mountains levelled in our quest to mould the environment to our needs.
Our blinkered onslaught against the planet reached a terrible peak in
the middle of the last century. Since then we have begun to realise
the damage that has been done in the name of progress and
civilization, alas too late. Countless species of flora and fauna have
been wiped from the face of the planet never to be seen again. Vast
areas of once lush vegetation have been turned to dust, some regions
of our planet have been so poisoned by our machinations that they will
be uninhabitable for thousands of years to come.
The Greenhouse Effect. The surface of the earth is warmed by energy
from the Sun. The Earth then radiates energy through the atmosphere
and into space. Gases in the lower atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide,
methane and water vapour are warmed by the radiation released by the
Earth's surface. In turn, the atmosphere then radiates heat back
towards the ground, adding to the heat the surface receives from the
Sun. This process is called the greenhouse effect. Without this
natural process, the surface of the planet would be about 34C colder
than it is now and life as we know it would not be possible.
Global Warming. The rising concentration of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere is increasing the amount of radiation trapped near the
Earth's surface. It is this enhanced greenhouse effect, known as
global warming, which most scientists believe is changing the planet's
climate. This excess of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is due to
the world's growing population burning more fossil fuels, such as
coal, oil and natural gas for energy, as well as expanding agriculture
and increasing deforestation.
The Industrial Revolution. Around 200 years ago, the Industrial
Revolution ushered in an era in which humans rely on fossil fuels to
run the many machines used in industry and everyday life. The burning
of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Since the
Industrial Revolution there has been a steady increase in the
production of carbon dioxide, and an increase in global population.
Some of the carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees and plants or
dissolved into the oceans; these are known as carbon sinks.
Unfortunately, human activities have been producing carbon dioxide
faster than it can be absorbed naturally, while widespread forest
clearance has reduced the carbon sinks.
Scientists have been measuring the amount of carbon...