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World Environment Day 2018: Are we doing enough to conserve nature?

By Vikas Sv
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Environment Day: Nature is undoubtedly God's greatest gift to the mankind. The air that we breathe, the food we eat and water we drink, all these come from nature. Even when we want to escape from humdrum of daily life, we like going to mountains, forests or in general closer to nature. The very fact that we using the expression 'closer to nature' makes it clear that we have over the years come far from it.

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Technology has definitely changed the way we lead our lives compared to our ancestors, but it cannot be denied that this very technology has brought us away from nature, the place where we truly belong. Surrounded by concrete jungle, we often forget that life would not have been possible on earth without nature which allows biological processes to thrive.

The world observes World Environment Day promoted by United Nations on June 5 every year and India is the host country for 2018. The theme for this year's edition is 'Beat Plastic Pollution'. First held in 1974, the World Environment Day has been a flagship campaign for raising awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution, human overpopulation, and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime.

Human activities on earth are changing the environment and putting a great pressure on natural resources. Pollution, population, global warming and several other such issues are pressing matters that must be addressed now if the planet is to be saved.

Let's have a look at how some of the human activities are endangering life on earth:

Global warming:

Global warming refers to the rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system and its related effects. The largest human influence on climate change has been the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Climate model projections indicated that during the 21st century, the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 0.3 to 1.7 °C in the lowest emissions scenario, and 2.6 to 4.8 °C in the highest emissions scenario.

The rise in temperature will lead to melting of polar ice caps which in turn would result in rising ocean levels. The rise in ocean levels puts population residing in coastal regions at risk as chances of Tsunamis and ocean water usurping the land will increase significantly.

Weather changes:

Vehicles run by burning fossil fuels like petrol or diesel which emit certain gases into the atmosphere which over a long period of time can emerge as a major environmental problem. It was the industrial revolution that gave birth to environmental pollution as we know it today. Common gaseous pollutants include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrogen oxides produced by industry and motor vehicles. Photochemical ozone and smog are created as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons react to sunlight. These gases not only are hazardous to human health but also to ozone layer which protects the earth. Pollution also affects the changes in seasons, on which crops are heavily dependent. Any significant fluctuation in weather will drastically affect the yield of agricultural products, which mean our food.

Ozone depletion:

The ozone layer or ozone shield is a region of Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation. It contains high concentrations of ozone (O3) in relation to other parts of the atmosphere. The ozone layer absorbs 97 to 99 percent of the Sun's medium-frequency ultraviolet light, which otherwise would potentially damage exposed life forms near the surface.

Thinning of ozone layer means increased skin related diseases. In recent decades, because of the release of large quantities of man-made organohalogencompounds, especially chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and bromofluorocarbons, the ozone layer is depleting. If earth loses the protection of ozone layer, then life on the planet will be at great risk.

Pollution and rising levels of toxins:

Adverse air quality can kill many organisms including humans. Ozone pollution can cause respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, throat inflammation, chest pain, and congestion. Water pollution causes approximately 14,000 deaths per day, mostly due to contamination of drinking water by untreated sewage in developing countries. Nearly 500 million Chinese lack access to safe drinking water. A 2010 analysis estimated that 1.2 million people died prematurely each year in China because of air pollution. The high smog levels China has been facing for a long time can do damage to civilians bodies and generate different diseases The WHO estimated in 2007 that air pollution causes half a million deaths per year in India. Studies have estimated that the number of people killed annually in the United States could be over 50,000.

Conclusion:

All the above-discussed problems are man-made, so even the solution ought to come from us. Some of the changes in nature due to man-made activities may even be irreversible. So, now is the time that we take serious note of damage we are inflicting on the environment and act to minimise it. What is lost may not be recovered, but we definitely can try to salvage what we have. Each one of us can contribute towards saving to the environment, all we need to do is take the advise given by competent authorities seriously and implement them.

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