The relationship between humans and nature is undisputed. Originally, humans settled in areas that were rich in natural resources. Fertile lands attracted agriculture, while mineral reserves and forests were attractive to industries. Today, natural amenities have an additional function for humanity: they draw people in search of recreation and escape from crowded urban areas.
Human activity affects the quality of our natural amenities adversely. Over-abstraction of resources and the pollution generated by mankind have a devastating effect on our natural environment.
This sad reality is, in turn, devastating for society. Natural amenities are, after all, beneficial to humanity in many ways. Not only do they provide us with resources, but they also have the capacity to alleviate some of the effects of climate change and improve the quality of the environment.
Our physical and mental health has been shown to be improved by the availability of green space. Yet, as population numbers grow, such spaces become increasingly scarce and overcrowded. The more people there are on Earth, the more people there are who want access to natural amenities.
As our population rises, more of these natural amenities are threatened with being sacrificed in favour of housing and infrastructure. The major forests of the world are being destroyed to satisfy demand for timber, while increasing numbers of shores are built up or polluted with manmade debris.
Only protected lands, such as nature reserves and national parks, appear to be safe from development. But even much-loved green belt areas are under threat as governments struggle to deal with population growth.
Read more about space and amenities.
As the world’s population size has grown, waste generation has increased rapidly. This has had a significant effect on humanity, wildlife and the environment. What once was a local concern has become a global challenge. The consumption of finite resources, and the damaging of the earth in the processes of mineral extraction, pollution and waste management, transcend borders.
Globally, most solid domestic waste comes from urban areas, although industry and agriculture also generate waste. Rapid urbanisation means, however, that many cities cannot keep up with the amounts of waste that are generated.
Unprocessed solid and sewage waste create serious health hazards for slum dwellers. Seas are polluted with plastic, killing or poisoning marine life. Moreover, conventional waste management methods cause great environmental damage, as rotting waste produces high levels of methane, a gas with a higher greenhouse effect per unit than C02. Similarly, toxic gases are produced when different substances are mixed in landfills, and these have an adverse effect on air quality.
More sophisticated waste management techniques can be energy intensive, creating other environmental problems.
While societies attempt to deal with the accumulation of waste, population growth will make this more difficult. After all, every new individual will create waste, and we can only recycle so much.
Although we do have the means to dispose of most waste safely, this is not an economically viable solution, because it requires great funds and a lot of energy. Moreover, many developed nations have generated significant quantities of nuclear waste which struggle to safely dispose of.
Consequently, it is unreasonable to rely on technology to solve our waste problems entirely, or at an affordable cost.
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