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We have but one living planet. Let’s protect it

We have but one living planet. Let’s protect it
Who among us doesn’t love to sit and relax under the shade of a tree on a sunny day? Anyone out there, who does not love birds, their chirps? And who doesn’t want an eyeful of snowy mountains and flowers in full bloom? Who can ignore wildlife? Everyone enjoys these gifts of Nature and can get lost in its beauty. Then how can we forget that the condition of Planet Earth is getting worse day by day? Both natural and anthropogenic causes—human activities—are deteriorating our environment. Natural causes include avalanches, earthquakes, tidal waves, storms, landslides, flood and wildfires, which can totally crush nearby animal and plant groups to the point where they can no longer survive in those areas. While linking environmental degradation with human activities, let us not forget that the environment itself is also changing constantly. A few biological systems deteriorate to the point that they can no longer support life meant to exist there, with or without the influence of human exertion.

Anthropogenic causes include overpopulation and over-exploitation, ruinous agricultural practices, landfills, increase in deforestation, environmental pollution, improper land use planning and development, and many more. As the human population keeps increasing, there is a lot of pressure on the utilization of natural resources, which results in over-exploitation of natural resources, contributing to environmental deterioration and erosion. Overpopulation only results in increased pollution and rapid resource depletion relative to how they are being replaced. According to a UN assessment, providing food for a rapidly growing population consumes more than one-third of the world’s land area and about 75 percent of its freshwater resources. So, overpopulation has become the major cause behind environmental destruction.

Due to the buildup of harmful chemicals like bad minerals and heavy metals that obstruct the biological and chemical processes of the soil, intensive agricultural operations devastate fertile areas and neighboring plant cover. Runoff of agricultural waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides into marine and freshwater settings have negatively impacted aquatic life, wetlands, and the quality of animal habitats. The environment becomes uninviting for the life of trees, flora, animals, and people due to the landfills’ release of various types of chemicals into the area next to forests, other natural habitats, and water systems, including subterranean and surface water. Globally, municipal solid trash generation amounts to 2.01bn metric tons yearly; by 2050, this amount is predicted to rise to 3.4 billion metric tons, an increase of about 70 percent. At roughly 7.9bn people currently, the world's population is increasing rapidly. Deforestation is a major anthropogenic cause behind a deteriorating environment. Reasons for deforestation include farming, construction, settlement, mining, or other economic purposes. For more than a century, the number of trees on the planet has been plummeting, resulting in devastating consequences such as biodiversity loss, soil erosion, species extinction, global warming, and interference with the water cycle. Human actions like deforestation have altered and damaged more than 75 percent of the Earth's surface. Every year between 2010 and 2015 saw the destruction of 12 million hectares of forest, representing a 22.58 percent reduction from 1990 to 2010 in that time. Per global statistics, 2,400 trees are cut down every minute. While it is quite tough to survive in a polluted environment, polluted environments have also become insignificant in value because pollution makes it harsh for sustainability of biotic and abiotic components. In addition to other natural processes, pollution affects the chemical makeup of lands, soil, ocean water, subsurface water, and rocks. Natural resources are being used up by people at a rate that is almost two times faster than their capacity to replenish, according to research. Natural habitats and ecosystems are harmed by uncontrolled conversion of land into urban settings, mining regions, home development projects, office buildings, shopping centers, industrial sites, parking lots and other structures. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 33 percent of farmland is utilized for the production of animal feed, while 26 percent of the world's ice-free terrain is used for grazing cattle. Together, these two factors pose a serious threat to biodiversity and improper land use. Already, they have led to the loss and destruction of millions of acres of natural environment. More than 30 percent of the world's reefs have been impacted by increasing temperatures, according to the UN Environment Program, which also revealed that between 2009 and 2018, the globe lost roughly 11,700 square kilometers of coral, or 14 percent of the total. Coral reefs are home to about 25 percent of fish in the ocean, as well as many other species. It is predicted that this valuable natural resource will completely disappear within the next 80 years. Deteriorating condition of Earth has affected us all—from tiny to huge things, both living and nonliving. Scarcity of essentials like water and food has hit humanity hard. Worsening air and water quality has caused a myriad of diseases and taken millions of lives. Landfills increase the risk of hazardous materials getting into the food chain which causes biomagnification and the ultimate risk of developing chronic diseases. Environmental deterioration has affected natural processes such as the water cycle and the normal processes of animal and plant activities. Continued destruction of wild forests and damage to natural ecosystems have greatly contributed to mass extinction of species, resulting in biodiversity loss. Nature is the primary source of all the necessities for the nourishment of all living beings. From the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the house we live in, nature is the sole provider. Everything that makes our surroundings so lovely and captivating—trees, flowers, landscapes, insects, sunlight, breeze—is a product of nature. Nature not only offers us company; it also offers us a sense of direction. Afforestation, sustainable development and decreased reliance on coal, fossil fuel and firewood can be some of the measures in that direction. Switching more and more to non-conventional sources of energy like the sun, biogas and wind can go a long way in controlling global warming and healing Planet Earth. Successive generations will suffer if we don't protect the environment. For our own good, we ought to take care of it. While individual efforts may fall short, we can achieve much by joining hands. Summing up, time is running out to save the only living planet. Let’s join hands and act before it’s too late. The author is currently pursuing Bachelor’s degree study at Institute of Forestry, Pokhara Campus.