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Achieving economic development is vital to a country. But what if it comes at the cost of environmental degradation? With globalization opening the doors of economic development for so many countries, there is a serious concern regarding how far we are being able to save the environment and not hamper its constituents.
To understand the impact of economic growth and development on the environment, we need to be aware of the concept of sustainable development as an alternative solution.
The ‘environment’ refers to the totality of resources and the total planetary inheritance we have received. It includes biotic (animals, plants, birds, etc.) and abiotic (sun, land, water, mountains, etc.) components. It explains the inter-relationship that exists between the abiotic and biotic components.
The environment performs four crucial functions:
Economic activities such as production and consumption have led to environmental degradation over the last few years. This is recognizable from the fact that there is a certain carrying capacity of the environment. When the rate of extraction of resources exceeds the rate of their regeneration, the environment fails to perform its activities. The resulting phenomenon is called environmental degradation.
Resources are limited and therefore, their overutilization is leading to their extinction. The waste generated is also exceeding the absorptive capacity of the environment.
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Rivers and other waterways are getting increasingly polluted due to the excessive dumping of wastes into them. This has led to poor water quality for consumption. The rate of use of non-renewable resources has not only depleted their limited reserves but also led to pollution tendencies.
The increasing emphasis is therefore on renewable sources or on devising other sources of generating energy. Different kinds of pollution have harmed the environment as well as man’s well-being. Air and water pollution particularly contribute to air and water-borne diseases and ill-health. Ozone layer depletion and global warming are other severe problems resulting from such degradation.
Environmental degradation can be broken down into particular problems that plague the global community, as under:
It refers to the gradual increase in the lower atmosphere of the Earth. The main cause of global warming is recognized to be the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These gases can absorb heat and thus, contribute to global warming. Other causes are deforestation and burning of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Global warming has led to melting of polar ice caps and an average increase in temperatures all over.
It is the phenomenon of depletion in the amount of ozone in Earth’s stratosphere. The main cause of ozone depletion is through the release of substances called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere. These are compounds include chlorine, bromine compounds that are used as cooling substances in air conditioners, refrigerators, etc.
Ozone layer depletion implies that the Earth gets more and more exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. These rays are excessively harmful to human health and are known to cause skin cancer to human beings. They also affect the growth of aquatic and terrestrial plants.
Concerted efforts are required to deal with the global environmental crisis. The concept of sustainable development, thereby, comes into play. Some of the measures that can be undertaken to control the crisis that already underway includes: