The beauty of nature has been decreasing during the last two centuries due to massive human activity. Human activity has altered several aspects of nature, especially as a result of the release of pollutants in the environment. The pollutants have a negative effect on the health of human beings as well as other forms of life that exist in the environment. Additionally, they have brought about a negative effect on the equilibrium of the ecosystem since artificial forces, other than natural forces, have taken over the control of the forces of nature. Human beings have also suffered due to the effects of their own activities that have resulted in global warming and other imbalances in the environment. Lawrence Buell, one of the pioneers of ecocriticism, explores this matter in his work “’America the Beautiful’”. According to Buell, we are in need of a comprehensive land policy that must address not only human needs but also ecosystem imperilment. Nowadays land policy might consider what is required by people, but in order to provide what people need, it endangers ecology. Nevertheless, the land policy should be planned in such a way that there would be no danger for nature. Every action has a reaction and people have to pay the price for their recklessness. If anything is bad for the environment, it is bad for the whole human race.
In contemporary society, most people show little or no concern about the well-being of the environment. People do not take care of their garbage, thus leaving it in open places where it rots and decays. Buell argues that two decades ago it was safe for children to play near the wooden garbage boxes placed in strategic places in the neighborhoods since there were good garbage management systems (15). Such neighborhoods have turned into dangerous places, not only for children, but also for wild animals. In this case, not only nature, but people themselves suffer from incorrect environmental policy. If they cared for recycling, they would not endanger their neighborhood. The severity of the problem has escalated significantly.
The deterioration of waste management systems has been evident in the lack of proper disposal of plastic bags leading not only to land pollution but also to ocean pollution. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a good example of ocean pollution. Doucette refers to it as a “swirling vortex of plastic soup, an immense, fetid swamp of debris” (409) comprised of loads of decaying plastics. Research has shown that it contains approximately 10 million tons of waste. The effect of some natural forces such as the sun, waves, and wind on the wastes can be detrimental to the health of wild life. These natural forces enhance the breakdown of the larger chunks of wastes into smaller particles/molecules, which pose a threat to sea life. This increases the probability of sea birds, fish and other sea animals of feeding on the particular plastic. Some of the plastics contain toxic chemicals, such as DDT, that can harm the wildlife. Excessive intake of the plastics by the birds leads their starvation and then death. The large plastic bags are also a threat to the marine organisms. Sea turtles choke to death after ingesting the plastic bags. A report by the United Nations Environment Program shows that 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds die annually due to the effect of the plastic wastes deposited in the oceans (Doucette 410). The numbers are truly shocking. And to think it all could be avoided if plastic was disposed in a proper way.
The use of plastics gained momentum towards the end of the first half of the last century. In contemporary society, plastics occupy a large proportion of the items that are used daily; such items include clothes, furniture, cell phones, as well as cooling systems. The use of plastic bottles has also been on the rise. Most of the plastic bottles are never recycled or even disposed properly. For instance, more than four-fifths of the plastic bottles in the U.S are not recycled, thus end up in the land filths (Usborne 405). In 2010, the world used approximately three million tons of plastics. However, there are no set global rules and regulations that govern the use or disposal of plastics around the globe. This has led to the inability to keep track of the plastics that eventually end up in our oceans. For instance, the United Stated has not been able to account for nearly 11.3 billion kilograms of plastics that are used in the country every year (ibid).
The use of plastic materials is a controversial issue as far as global warming is concerned. As previously stated, the world’s utilization of plastic bottles and bags is high. The production of such materials leads to the emission of greenhouse gases that have highly contributed to global warming. According to Usborne, the use of products such as bottled water have a negative effect to the ecology since it takes not only oil but also energy, all of which contribute to global warming (405). The problem could be partially solved if plastic materials were substituted by other materials. For example, plastic bottles could be used less, than glass bottles.
Global warming is among the aspects that are posing a great threat to human beings and the entire ecosystem. Carbon dioxide is one of the gases that contribute to this phenomenon. It is responsible for nearly half of the human-induced heating of the atmosphere. Other gases, the most notable being methane, also play a major role in the infrared forcing or rather heating of the atmosphere. The ability of water vapor to retain heat in the atmosphere also makes it a contributor to global warming. Due to the increase of human activities that involve the combustion of fossil fuels, the balance of heat retaining gases in the atmosphere has exhibited an increasing trend in the recent past. The levels of carbon dioxide and methane, during the last years of the twentieth century, were higher than any time since man ever walked on earth (Goyal 8). Research has shown that there is little likelihood that the many organisms, especially trees, will be able to withstand the high temperatures that are posing a threat to the ecosystem’s equilibrium with the future climate. Approximately 80% of human activity is fuelled by energy, which produces carbon dioxide as one of its byproducts. Additionally, most automobiles produce heat and other greenhouse gases.
The two main forces that naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have been endangered. When the trees are burning, dying or decaying; they become sources of carbon dioxide and other green house gases, instead of absorbing the excessive carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In February 1999, deforestation was indicated as the major cause of the deaths of dozens of people, as well as the massive destruction of property, that occurred due to floods, which shut down the industrial capital of South America. The oceans also play a pivotal role in the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The effects of global warming on the environment include coastal erosion, higher storm surges, and saltwater intrusion into the coastal estuaries and groundwater supplies. Research has shown that the phenomenon is already affecting a broad spectrum of marine species and ecosystems. It is impossible to stop global warming, but it is possible to lessen the consequences. If the rainforest cutting was reduced, and the plastic materials would be recycled properly, then the environment would not suffer that much.
Water management is quite an important issue nowadays, for people do not seem to be conscious enough to compare the profit they get from using world water stock and harm they cause to the nature. Most of the rivers in the world have also been victims of detrimental human activity. Many rivers in the world, large and small, are drying up before reaching their natural destinations. Dams, as well as diversions, alter the timing and the volume of river flows on a wide geographic scale. The manipulation of the waters in the rivers has been beneficial to humanity. Some of the benefits include the generation of hydroelectric power, the expansion of irrigated agriculture and the facilitation of trade along the shipping routes. However, it has caused serious losses on the ecological side of the ledger (Postel, and Ritcher 103). Most governments focus on only two aspects as far as the restoration and protection of natural rivers is concerned. They aim at improving the quality of water and establishing minimum flow requirements so that the rivers and streams do not run completely dry. However, these two goals have not done much to restore the functions and processes that sustain the overall system of the natural rivers and streams.
The challenge of the twenty-first century environment management is to better balance human demands with the needs of vegetation. Meeting this challenge will require a fundamentally new approach to valuing and managing the natural resources. The most promising approaches should incorporate new scientific knowledge, new management practices and new policy tools. During the 1990s, international protocols called for freezes or reduction in fossil fuel combustion. However, the use of the fossil fuels in the last two decades exhibited an increasing trend.
Due to the adverse effects of human activity, a policy is required to ensure human needs without endangering the ecosystem. One of the most important aspects that must be addressed in the policy is the provision of a carbon dioxide reduction system. Since fossil fuels are still the common source of energy for most industries, the policy should advocate for carbon dioxide absorption and storage. Consequently, the release of the green house gas will be reduced significantly. It can also be reduced by supporting the development, as well as the adoption, of new energy sources. The policy should focus on research and development of such sources of energy. It will enable man to continue fulfilling his daily needs, while keeping the environment free from greenhouse gases. Additionally, the policy should set standards that industries should follow, e.g. the maximum level permissible emissions. The standards would require them to be monitored and enforced. The policy should also cover the forests as far as maintenance and planting of new trees is concerned. If more trees were made available and deforestation decreased considerably, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would decrease; thus reducing global warming effects.
The policy should address the disposal of plastic products. Governments should impose rules concerning the manufacture, use and disposal of the plastics. They should also urge the plastic production companies to embark on the development of eco-friendly materials that would serve the same purpose as the plastic products. Concerning the disposal of the already produced plastics, the policy should provide strategies of enhancing the appropriate disposal. This should also entail the cleaning of the oceans and other dumpsites where plastics affect the lives of organisms.
The policy should ensure that certain bodies are actively involved in curbing the ongoing environmental deterioration. Environmental protection agencies should be included in the policy to play the role of creating environmental protection awareness. This entails educating the masses about the importance of proper disposal of wastes. In addition, people will learn about the most appropriate methods of disposal and the different types of wastes to prevent any form of environmental pollution. Consequently, both human beings and other organisms will live in a safe environment. The policy needs to define the role of corporate organizations in attaining a safe environment. Corporate organizations should be in the forefront in the fight against environmental pollution.
The policy should have market-based strategies to control the use of certain products. This approach uses economic variables such as subsidies, penalties or permits to provide incentives for polluters to reduce harmful emissions or adopt preferred energy technologies. Some of the policies could include carbon taxes on fossil fuel intensive energy resources and provision of subsidies for clean energy technologies.
To restore the beauty of nature, a comprehensive land policy is required. The goal of human activities is to address human needs. As discussed above, most of the needs are being met at the expense of the ecosystem. The policy should aim to regulate human activities and ensure that human needs are met without posing a threat to the other forces of nature. It should advocate for the reduction, or even the elimination, of plastics. The policy should also seek to devise a way of properly disposing all the plastic products that have already been released into the environment. Additionally, it should seek to educate people about the dangers of deforestation and urge them to plant more trees to reduce the effects of global warming. Effective strategies must rest on the best available data of the nature, as well as the extent, of the likely impacts over different periods in given locales and of cost effectiveness of possible response measures. The policy should have an overriding priority of strengthening capacities in technical and planning disciplines, most relevant to understanding potential climate impacts and devising response strategies. The policy should also cover funding strategies, especially for the underdeveloped countries. We need to take a strong position in protecting our environment together with our human needs. It is necessary to remember, that our needs can only be satisfied within ecosystems and that our existence is only possible while they exist. Therefore what is good for environment will be good for us.