Environment: Pollution and Human Impact

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Human Impact on the Environment
Every living thing has an impact on its environment. Therefore a human impact on the environment is inevitable. By simply existing, all species - including ourselves - will imprint their mark on the world around them. What differentiates us from other species is our ability to greatly overburden our environment with very few limits. The information regarding our human impact is vast and impossible to cover in one article but I will attempt to cover a basic overview. For 200 years we've been conquering Nature.

Now we're beating it to death.
~ Tom McMillan
Water Pollution
Perhaps the most obvious examples of a negative human impact on the environment is water pollution. It's obvious we need water to survive but few people realize how much we need and just how much is available. Consider these facts from the United Nations Environment Programme: * Of all the water on Earth, only 2.5% of it is freshwater. * Of that 2.5%, less than 1% is available to us.

* Humans each require up to 13 gallons (50 litres) a day of fresh water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. This does NOT take into account the countless gallons of water needed to grow food or care for animals. * 70% of all freshwater usage goes to irrigation.

According to Organic Farming Research Foundation, only 2% of farms are organic. This means almost 69% of our freshwater supply is being contaminated by chemical pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers, while also compounded with fossil fuels and emissions from heavy farming machinery. These chemical compounds contribute to acid rain. Since very little can live in an acidic environment, acid rain has harmful effects on plants, animals, and aquatic life, as well as humans and even buildings, statues or other objects. Acid rain also contaminates our limited freshwater supply, and thus the cycle of water pollution continues. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 45% of assessed stream miles, 47% of assessed lake acres, and 32% of assessed bay and estuarine square miles were not clean enough to support uses such as swimming or fishing. The following reasons and possible sources for this include: |

Photo Source: Alan Liefting|
* Sediments, pathogens and habitat alterations from agricultural activity and hydrologic modifications (such as dams) * Excessive nutrients, metals and organic enrichment from agricultural activity and atmospheric deposition (the movement of pollutants from one environment to another, such as from water to air) * Heavy metals (primarily mercury), excess nutrients and "organic enrichment" from industrial and municipal discharges ("treated" or untreated waste water released from sewer plants and industrial factories into natural water sources) These points listed above lead to a poisoned and uninhabitable environment for plants and aquatic life, as well as affect land animals and humans reliant on these systems for survival and other land-bound plant life in need of clean water for growth. Land Pollution

Land pollution, the degradation of the Earth's surfaces and soil, is caused by human activity and a misuse of natural resources. Causes of land pollution and degradation include: * Urban sprawl: Natural habitats are removed to make room for communities, usually with inefficient or irresponsible planning. Urban sprawl generally results in a waste of land area for unused development (such as excessive roads, decorative and unused areas, etc). * Poor agricultural practices: Animal manure runoff from CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, the practice of growing monocultures (only one crop season after season) and the deforestation required to expand farm land all contribute to degradation and pollution. * Personal consumption: Our modern culture's desire to have more, bigger and better "things", as well as our relationship to and habit...
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