Part One: The Five Biggest Threats to the Environment and What We Can Do About It

Posted on Feb 21 2021 - 6:42am by Dedenkotch

The five biggest threats to the environment

Mass extinction. The Arctic Sea is melting. Collapse of world fisheries. Raging fires. Devastating droughts. And modern dust bowls.

The environment, and our ability to survive in it, is being pushed to the brink.

I interviewed community activist and environmental professional Tim Vendlinski to discuss the five most serious problems facing the environment today and, more importantly, what each of us can do to help save the planet.

Tim Vendlinski started his career as an environmental advocate when he was 10 years old. “At the elementary school I attended there was a big oak forest behind us. Then one day all these bulldozers showed up and started to cut down the oak trees,” Vendlinski said. “Well, to the horror of the school principal and the teachers, I took a group of students to the construction site and prevented them from cutting down the trees.”

Vendlinski later earned his associate’s degree from American River College, saved Arcade Creek, the last intact watershed[1] forest in Sacramento as a teenager, and completed his BA in environmental policy and planning from the University of California.

Now 53, Tim has been fighting for the environment for more than 40 years.

1. The loss of biogenetic diversity

The earth is now experiencing one of the greatest mass extinctions in the history of the planet. The rate of extinction of species is now 1,000 times higher than before the arrival of humanity.

“This is the biggest ecological disaster, in terms of sheer extinction,” Vendlinski said. “We have lost more plants and animals today than when the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago.”

Although extinction is a natural process, human activities such as deforestation accelerate these natural processes. In the past, an individual species naturally disappeared at a rate of about one species per year and was replaced by a new species. Scientists now call this environmental disaster the “modern extinction crisis.”

If current extinction rates continue, half of all species on earth will be extinct in 100 years. “It is a philosophical and spiritual problem. We should protect life. Life has intrinsic value. We must honor life,” Vendlinksi said. “But practically speaking, almost all pharmaceutical chemicals on the market were derived from natural sources.”

2. Deforestation:

At the heart of these modern environmental disasters are corruption, greed and the economy. Logging, oil and mining companies build roads into the jungles. Governments encourage the poor to settle in these regions, who must clear it for agriculture. Ranchers require large areas for their herds, and land speculators clear large areas to obtain the expected profits.

However, the reclaimed land is fragile creating a cycle of further destruction.

This process is known as deforestation.

Rainforests cover about 7 percent of the earth’s dry land. But those rainforests are being cut down at a rate of about 8.5 million hectares per year. “When you look at the rate of deforestation of the Amazon every year, it’s hundreds, if not thousands, of miles every year,” Vendlinski said.

According to the National Geographic website, “Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment. The most dramatic impact is the loss of habitat for millions of species. Seventy percent of the Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests. , and many cannot survive deforestation that destroys their homes. “

Deforestation is also responsible for regulating water cycles, absorbing greenhouse gases, and stabilizing the earth’s climate.

3. Climate change:

The earth is heating up. Arctic ice is melting, glaciers are shrinking, and sea levels are rising.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international coalition of the world’s best scientists, declared that climate change is real and man-made. According to its data, the IPCC concluded that the warming of the climate system is “unequivocal”.

“We have the highest temperature ever recorded in the United States,” Vendlinksi said. “In fact, every year now he breaks the previous record.”

This rise in temperatures is also causing more extreme weather across the country.

“We have accelerated temperature increases with human activities and we are making the climate more extreme,” Vendlinski said. “So events like droughts, record highs or hurricanes are now more extreme.”

Climate change is now creating an unstable world and affecting global food production.

Four. Unsustainable energy policy and excessive dependence on fossil fuels:

During the Industrial Revolution, human beings harnessed the power of fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. For the first time in history, machines replaced human and animal power. World populations soared. Economies flourished. And empires were born.

But progress came at a heavy price.

First, fossil fuels are a non-renewable energy source. They take millions of years to develop and are running out much faster than they are formed. And second, the burning of fossil fuels produces approximately 21.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.

This is where the lines start to blur. Fossil fuels, deforestation and global warming are so closely related that it is difficult to see where one problem ends and the other begins. Like glaciers, distinctions fade.

After all, carbon dioxide, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is the main contributor to global warming.

And when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions today, the United States is public enemy number two, behind China. In fact, the American economy is based on fossil fuels. In fact, we consume more oil and natural gas than any other country, and we rank second behind China in coal consumption.

“When Vice President Dick Cheney was in office, the Bush Administration’s energy policy was made by oil companies,” Vendlinski said. “The administration formulated its energy policies only with energy companies.”

Although the United States has 4.5 percent of the world’s population, it produced 18 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2010, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

For years, scientists and climate experts around the world have warned us that 350 parts per million is the upper threshold for CO2 in the atmosphere. Once past 350 ppm, they warned that global warming could spiral out of control.

Today, the planet has 392 parts per million of CO2. According to 350.org, we must act fast if we want a habitable planet.

“While the Bush Administration disparaged scientists and environmentalists for climate change,” Vendlinski said, “they were simultaneously preparing to take advantage of the melting ice sheet to exploit oil resources.”

Our voracious appetite for fossil fuels has many other consequences, including: contamination of local environments from drilling for oil, leaky pipelines, underground tank discharge, oil spills from maritime accidents, routine tank washing and drilling accidents. in deep water.

5. Depletion of water and soil resources:

Across the planet, a three-foot thin layer of topsoil provides food crops for 6.8 billion people and grazing for about 4 billion domesticated animals, but this nutrient-rich topsoil is in jeopardy.

“All life is based on the first foot of soil around the planet,” Vendlinski said. “We have the atmosphere and we have that foot of land.”

Scientists now estimate that we are losing about one percent of our topsoil each year due to careless management.[2], urbanization, plowing, overuse, irrigation and chemical fertilizers.

“Also, we are destroying our freshwater supplies around the world,” Vendlinski said. “Through direct pollution, the mismanagement of our rivers, and the depletion and poisoning of our groundwater.”

Our rivers, lakes and oceans are polluted by industrial waste, agricultural by-products (such as herbicides, fertilizers, and animal waste), city sewage, and oil spills.

Today, contaminated water kills more than 5 million people around the world and almost 1.2 billion people do not have access to safe water.

Like the rest of these topics, the distinction between land and water issues evaporates with inspection.

“The rivers are expressions of their terrestrial environment,” Vendlinski said, “the rivers are there for everything around them. The trees. The forests. The way water moves off the land.”

Additionally, fish populations are on the brink of extinction, oceans are becoming more acidic, and coral reefs are disappearing.

[1] According to the website of the Environmental Protection Agency, a watershed is “the area of ​​land where all the water that is under it or that is drained goes to the same place. John Wesley Powell, scientific geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is: “that area of ​​land, a delimited hydrological system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common watercourse and where, when humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community”.

[2] Breeding is the care, cultivation and breeding of crops and animals. It is also management – or mismanagement in this case – and the conservation of resources.

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