10 Major Environmental Problems Caused by Mankind’s Unsustainable Ways of Living

Over the course of billions of years, the Earth’s numerous life forms have been depending on energy from the sun and the ecosystem services and natural resources available on Earth.

Generally speaking, nature has been sustaining life on Earth by relying on solar energy, chemical cycling, and biodiversity, and applying the following three principles of sustainability or lessons from nature in order to promote environmental sustainability and prevent or eliminate environmental problems:

  • reliance or dependence on solar energy in order to reduce or eliminate environmental problems caused by artificially created forms of energy and combustion of fossil fuels and.
  • application of nutrient or chemical cycling or waste reuse to ensure there is little or no waste disposal in the environment.
  • allowance for all types of biodiversity (or biological diversity) to exist and provide vital ecosystem services; this can further provide numerous ways for the variety of plant and animal life to adapt to changing and challenging environmental conditions.

Due to the efforts made by nature, living things have had access to water, air, fertile soil, food, energy, and many things that have enabled humans to survive and make many scientific and technological advances.

Yet, there has been mounting evidence from numerous studies that, as humans have been increasing in population and consuming most natural resources, they have also severely degraded natural systems, become addicted to unsustainable ways of living, and caused a ton of environmental problems, especially in recent decades.

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As a result of the unsustainable ways of living being practiced in many parts of the world, aquifers and underground water deposits have been overdrawn, grasslands have been overgrazed, forests have been overharvested, rivers and oceans have been overfished, water environments have been overloaded with pollutants and harmful wastes, and the air has been overloaded with noxious emissions and greenhouses gases.

As humans continue to deplete renewable and non-renewable natural resources much faster than nature can replenish them, ingenuity can often discover substitutes for natural resources, but scientific and technological advances cannot often do so.

“Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”—the Summary statement from the 2005 United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which was a 4-year study made by 1,360 experts from 95 countries.

The fact of the matter is that, coupled with the negative impact of some environmentally degrading scientific and technological advances, humans have become addicted to some unsustainable ways of living that have been causing environmental problems in many parts of the world.

10 Major environmental problems caused by mankind’s unsustainable ways of living include, but may not be limited to the following:

1. Soil erosion and degradation due to excessive farming and deforestation which causes loss of soil fertility to such an extent that some lands no longer support vegetation.

2. Desertification (expansion of deserts) and shrinking of renewable forests due to prolonged drought and human activities such as overgrazing of grasslands and deforestation which degrades topsoil, as a result of nutrient loss.

3. Climate change and severe weather, mostly due to atmospheric warming which is a condition whereby the Earth and its atmosphere warm more rapidly because of greenhouse gas emissions from forest fires and excessive burning of oil and coal.

4. Increased droughts and prolonged shortage of rainfall in some parts of the world where rivers are running dry as a result of human contribution to climate change and economies of growing populations are placing increasing demands on limited or decreasing supplies of surface and underground water.

5. Melting of polar ice, icebergs, and glaciers due to global warming; this causes rise of sea levels and increased incidences of floods.

6. Increasing ocean acidity due to increasing carbon dioxide absorption and atmospheric temperatures which stem from man-made activities that affect climate change.

7. Air pollution due to combustion activities in industrial facilities, factories, and railcars, and burning of fossil fuels in power plants and motor vehicles.

8. Water pollution as a result of chemicals being dumped into streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans, and water runoff carrying pesticides and trash into surface water resources where they impede the movement of boats and kill fishes and other forms of life.

9. Loss of biodiversity, degradation of wildlife habitat, extinction of some species due to overhunting, and depletion of fish populations due to overfishing.

10. Aquifer depletion as a result of groundwater being overdrawn from aquifers much faster than the aquifers can be replenished. And aquifer collapse due to the withdrawal of large quantities of groundwater that sometimes make the sand and rock in the aquifers to collapse.


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