9 Major Causes of Environmental Problems (PDF Download Available)

In general, human activities or interferences with the environment and natural factors or processes are the two broad causes of environmental problems in the world; individually, these two broad causes (human and natural) consist of various types of activities or causes under their respective wings. This article focuses on the major human causes of environmental problems.

(NOTE: The PDF document of this article is available for download at the end of this article.)

Over the ages, nature has been performing quite well in regard to energy utilization, waste and nutrients recycling/reuse, and preservation of biodiversity species by sustaining vital ecosystem services and providing numerous ways for the variety of plant and animal life to continue existing; humans, on the other hand, have been performing quite poorly in the same regard.

As a result, due to mostly human activities, our world has been facing an array of environmental problems that are numerous, serious, and daunting to such an extent that no country in the world is left out in the spatial distribution of environmental problems which are not concentrated in any specific location.

Environmental problems continue to increase and expand as mankind is continuously involved in processes that harness environmental resources for their utilization and welfare. Many enormous environmental problems concerning the environment and biosphere are caused by people contributing little bits or pieces of pollution and problems which, when summed together, degrade the environment.

The environmental problems caused by human activities are inter-connected and inter-related; for example, there are interrelationships between desertification, soil nutrient loss, erosion, biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution (air, water, and land), climate change, and diseases outbreaks. The following are 9 major human causes of environmental problems:

1. Fast and uncontrolled population growth

Although population is an important source of each nation’s development, if it occurs at a fast and uncontrolled rate, it becomes a major cause of environmental problems and environmental degradation, especially when a population’s demand exceeds the limit that their natural resources and support systems are able to supply.

High increases in population lead to increases in demand for water, food, energy, natural resources, and increase in waste generation which, when not properly controlled, causes environmental problems and degradation.

2. Over-exploitation, wasteful and unsustainable use of natural resources

When the opportunity arises, many human beings become affluent by acquiring abundant possessions—more than they could ever need in even ten lifetimes! Thereafter, most of them pollute the environment with their excessiveness; coupled with uncontrolled rises in population, the number of poor and affluent people increases, consequently causing more environmental problems.

Wasteful and unsustainable use of natural resources can be categorized as follows:

  • Overharvesting of forests and overgrazing of grasslands; these activities cause nutrient loss, deforestation, and desert encroachment.
  • Overhunting of wildlife on lands, and overfishing and depletion of fish populations in rivers and oceans; these activities cause loss of biodiversity and extinction of animal species.
  • Overdrawing of water from aquifers and underground water deposits; these activities cause depletion of aquifer and underground water resources.
  • Excessive mining, petroleum exploration, and land reclamation; these activities cause environmental problems such as water pollution, air pollution, and degradation due to mining of raw materials that are used to produce usable and consumable products.

3. Poverty

Poverty and lack of alternatives increases people’s reliance on natural resources; this in turn increases the use and depletion of resources, and degrades the natural assets which people depend on for survival. For instance, timber harvesting, husbandry, uncontrolled poaching and other human activities that stem from poverty, have caused the disintegration and diminishment of habitats and subsequent disappearance of many plant and animal species.

4. Insufficient understanding of how nature works

The causes of some environmental problems can be easily traced to insufficient understanding of how nature works. Insufficient understanding of nature and natural processes creates misunderstanding and results in uncontrolled interaction between humans and the natural world.

Inadequate monitoring of the environment causes and aggravates some environmental problems to such an extent that humans find it difficult to control or eliminate them. For example, pollution, flooding, and erosion are caused mainly by disregarding urban and regional planning laws and regulations, poor urban planning and design, poor design of drainage systems and dams, and dumping of solid wastes in drainages.

5. Weak legislations & poor application of principles that govern environmental management

Due to lack of proper coordination between environmental institutions, and poor supervision over environmental concerns, the style of environmental management in many countries has to modified or perfected in order to effectively tackle the causes of environmental problems and enhance environmental sustainability.

The weakness in many existing environmental management systems lies in the subpar environmental law enforcement capabilities of respective environmental institutions monitored or supervised by local, state, and federal governments.

In some parts of the world, briberies and corruption have made it difficult for many governments to impose adequate or high tax rates on companies that degrade the environment as a result of their activities; furthermore, many governments aren’t doing enough to ensure that the companies that degrade the environment either remediate it or pay for every bit of damage.

6. Excessive agricultural and aquacultural activities

Population growth and the relentless pursuit of affluence have induced drastic increases in agricultural and aquacultural activities and caused: salination and loss of soil fertility to such an extent that some lands no longer support vegetation; pollution of surface water and groundwater by pesticides, nitrates, and animal and plant remains or wastes generated from vegetation and breeding of livestock and aquatic species; soil erosion due to excessive irrigation of farmlands.

7. Migration of people from villages or rural areas to urban areas

Due to lack of opportunities in villages or rural areas, there has been an ever increasing movement of poor and disenfranchised people and families to urban towns or cities, thus leading to rapid and unplanned expansion of mega cities and urban slums, and consequent increase in environmental problems and degradation of urban environments.

The environmental problems that stem from migration can be traced to the wide gap between the demand for and supply of natural resources and infrastructural services such as water supply and sewerage, housing, transportation, energy, recreational amenities, etc.

Migration increases pressure on urban environments, causes depletion of precious natural resources in many urban towns and cities, and contributes to a growing trend that can be noticed in the deterioration of water and air quality, the exponential increase in solid and noxious waste generation, and the growth of slums.

8. Indifference to or lack of concern for the environment and environmental problems

Many people exhibit care-free attitudes towards the environment and environmental problems. Even in parts of the world where legislations exist to protect the environment, some people still pollute the environment with wastes, use chemicals and inorganic fertilizer indiscriminately, and construct buildings haphazardly and without regard to urban and regional planning laws and regulations.

Generally, the environmental issues and problems that are perceived by some people—on one hand—as annoying and dangerous, are perceived by some other people—on the other hand—as irrelevant or just okay; this care-free attitude is not only noticeable in some laymen, but is also noticeable in some educated people, urban planners, and decision makers too.

9. Excess pollution of water, air, and land environments

Streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans are consistently being overloaded with thrash and runoff that consists of chemicals, pesticides, pollutants, and harmful wastes. Lands, on the other hand, have received oil spills and refuse dumps of solid wastes whose tiny particles have been transported into underground water resources by leaks from municipal and industrial water and wastewater systems.

The air or atmosphere has been continuously polluted by noxious emissions and gases such as methane, nitrogen oxides, sulphur hexafluoride, halogenated hydrocarbons, and carbon dioxide which are all being generated from various sources such as motor vehicles, power plants, and combustion activities in industries and factories.

The gases that pollute the atmosphere have been disrupting the Earth’s thermal balance and partially obstructing thermal radiation from going into outer space; thereby, intensifying the greenhouse effect, impacting climate change, and raising global warming levels which can increase heat, insects, droughts, and melt polar ice, icebergs, and glaciers, and subsequently cause floods.

If you are interested in downloading the PDF document of this article, click here.


  • First off the biggest being scam of climate change and global warming

    That has been going on for millions of years but leave to twisted politician’s to use as agenda for left wing radicals.

    Number of politicians have pocketed from green energy protocols or programs yet asked why none of that so called money goes back into,economy?

    But they asked asked for more

    It’s all a sham there is no such thing as world ending from climate change on astronomical scale they want you to think it is ….For God sakes WAKE UP


    • Thanks for sharing your opinion; however, in case you didn’t notice, take note that this article focuses on the major “human causes” of environmental problems, not “natural causes”.

      Nature has not been warming the earth for millions of years by predominantly burning gases on the earth like mankind does, especially in the modern age; nature is not responsible for the current unnatural higher levels of global warming and climate change due to excess atmospheric pollution caused by gases emitted from motor vehicles, power plants, and combustion activities in industries and factories; it is mankind who is responsible for all these heating sources and emissions; and your argument doesn’t address this.

      The fact that nature has been using the sun to warm the earth and solar system for millions of years doesn’t hide the fact that human beings have warmed the earth beyond a critical point which your argument has not addressed in any way. In case you don’t know, in the real sense and based on real situations, global warming and climate change actually mean “warming the earth and changing the earth’s climate beyond normal or natural levels”, thus threatening or degrading the environment.

      From your comment, your understanding of global warming seems to be limited to only natural causes which are known to support life on earth and don’t have any appreciable negative impacts on the environment. But human causes do have great negative impacts which research works have proven to be environmentally degrading.


      • Yes humans are the most destructive species without a doubt

        Stems from power and greed

        Why do think so many wars are started

        What I was referring to is the fact there is a political agenda going on making seem worse than what it actually is because the have narrative and those don’t fit that fold.

        They suppressed the facts and the real concrete evidentiary facts

        I never said global warming doesn’t happen or not going on but not at monumental scale they want to think is

        Agree to disagree Ihagh

        Liked by 1 person

  • Wow! Very informative blog about environmental problems. Very well written 👌🌹❣️

    Liked by 1 person

  • Thank you for the causes of the environmental problems 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  • Re: “Indifference to or lack of concern for the environment and environmental problems” …

    Perhaps there is also problematic contempt for the natural environment.

    Many of Canada’s Conservative party politicians — not to mention our thinly-veiled-theocrat former prime minister Stephen Harper — are/were ideologically aligned with the pro-fossil-fuel mainstream American Evangelical community and Republican Party. They generally share the belief that to defend the natural environment from the planet’s greatest polluters, notably big fossil fuel, is to go against God’s will and therefore is inherently evil. (No wonder they hate any carbon tax.)

    While there are theocrats who credit the bone-dry-vegetation areas uncontrollably burning, global warming and pollution to God’s supposed wrath upon collective humankind’s ‘sinfulness’, there clearly has been inexcusably insufficient political courage/will globally, though especially here in the West, to properly act upon the cause-and-effect of manmade global warming thus climate change. Neo-liberals and conservatives everywhere appear overly preoccupied with vociferously criticizing one another for their relatively trivial politics and diverting attention away from the planet’s greatest polluters, where it should and needs to be sharply focused. …

    In regards to Poverty, here in the West, when a public person/personality openly promotes such things as a universal or guaranteed basic income, many ‘Christians’ will reactively presume he/she must therefore be Godless, evil or (far worse!) a socialist. This, despite Christ’s own teachings epitomizing the primary component of socialism — do not hoard morbidly superfluous wealth when so very many people have little or nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thanks alot for making important observations and points, especially in regard to some beliefs of theocrats in the west…based on understanding and knowledge gained from my field of study, my belief is that the more we copy nature by predominantly applying the three principles of sustainability (1—much reliance or dependence on solar energy, 2—application of nutrient or chemical cycling or waste reuse, and 3—allowance for most or all types of plant and animal life to exist and provide vital ecosystem services), the more out world will be in a natural and more balanced state than it has been in the present-day.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Very informative and wonderfully written.

    Liked by 1 person

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