The environment of planet Earth is being harmed and the causes of environmental degradation are mostly man made. Natural resources are being exploited to provide energy, food, and technology for an ever-growing global population. In the process, the globe is warming at an unprecedented rate, water and air are being polluted, and forests are being destroyed; however, awareness and education are encouraging the search for environmental first aid.
The climate change occurring now, which affects every continent and ocean, has both human and natural causes. Developing land to support human activities, harvesting forests, and burning fossil fuels are human contributions to the problem; while volcanic activity, intensity of the Sun, Earth’s orbit, and the interaction of the atmosphere and oceans are natural causes. Greenhouse gases are natural and help keep the planet warm by trapping heat in the atmosphere, but the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are exacerbating this effect. Since the Industrial Revolution, increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have caused global temperatures to rise and at an even higher rate over the last 30 years (EPA). The consequences of global warming include a drastic increase in the number of hurricanes, tropical storms, heat waves, and terrible droughts in the southeastern and southwestern United States, Europe, and Africa (Colemen & Kerbo); melting ice in the Arctic and melting glaciers worldwide, rising ocean temperatures and sea levels, and acidification of the oceans caused by higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere (EPA).
The Earth’s water and air are being polluted by tremendous amounts of toxins being produced and expelled into the atmosphere and oceans by coal, oil, and natural gas used for power generation. Other culprits are oil refineries, steel mills, and chemical plants; but the biggest contributor to air pollution in North America is transportation. Normally, natural processes and rain would clean the air, but the pollution is so great that natural processes can no longer keep air quality at an acceptable level. Air pollution can have significant health consequences including lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. Earth’s clean water supply is provided by a cycle of evaporation and rain, but the population explosion created such huge amounts of garbage and industrial waste being dumped into lakes and oceans that the natural cleaning process can not keep up, much like natural air cleaning. Organic waste is also a contributing factor in water pollution. In small amounts, waterborne bacteria break down organic waste but breaking down large quantities of waste uses up the oxygen in the water causing the death of fish and other organisms. Water pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, and pesticides can be passed to humans through the food chain (Coleman and Kerbo, 2009).
Currently, about 30 percent of the world’s land area is covered by forests,...