Damage to the environment can affect the physical environment, access to food and water, human health, and economics. Some effects of environmental degradation are easy to see, but others are more subtle.
Effects of Pollution
Exhaust from vehicles and factories has caused air pollution around the world. Although many nations have taken steps to reduce emissions, some have fallen short of goals. Poor air quality can contribute to a number of medical problems, including asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and can even lead to death.
According to National Geographic, the use of some chemicals has depleted the ozone layer. That has reduced the atmosphere’s ability to protect the Earth’s inhabitants from the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Fertilizers, pesticides, and leaks from factories and landfills can pollute both soil and water. Pollution can make it difficult or impossible to grow crops.
Trash that is dumped in oceans, particularly plastic, can pollute the water and injure or kill aquatic animals. Small pieces of plastic can make their way into the food chain and can affect animal and human health. Environmental degradation can also be a turnoff for tourists, which can affect local economies.
Polluted water can make it impossible to maintain good hygiene, which can allow diseases to spread. Those illnesses can contribute to high healthcare costs, lost productivity, and reduced agricultural and manufacturing output, which can affect GDP.
Impacts of Urbanization and Deforestation
Urbanization has been another driver of environmental degradation. As human populations have grown around the world, that has placed increasing burdens on space and on supplies of food and water. Humans have been forced to look for other places to live and have, in some cases, cut down or burned forests to make room for housing developments and roads.
According to Conserve Energy Future, the increased need for land for farming, animal grazing, and building of homes has led to deforestation. The destruction of forests to clear land for farming and development can have wide-ranging global effects.
Trees produce oxygen. Cutting them down reduces the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, which can affect living creatures around the world.
Trees also use carbon dioxide. With fewer trees, carbon dioxide can accumulate in the atmosphere. A reduction in the number of trees absorbing carbon dioxide can contribute to climate change.
Trees can protect landscapes and surrounding homes and businesses from the effects of erosion. With fewer trees, the risk of flooding can increase significantly, which can cause physical destruction, loss of life, and economic devastation.
When land is developed, animals whose natural habitats are disturbed may be cut off from sources of food and water. Some plant species may become extinct, and other species may take over. That can disrupt the delicate balance of the entire ecosystem.
Loss of Biodiversity
Environmental degradation can cause a decline in biodiversity. The loss of plant and animal species can affect whole ecosystems. If plants become extinct, animals that rely on them for food may decline in numbers and may even become endangered. The loss of some animal species can cause a decline in the food supply for other species that prey on them.
Once the delicate balance of an ecosystem has been disrupted, the effects can spread. Humans who rely on animals and plants for consumption may not have access to enough nutritious food. Malnutrition can have a host of negative effects on human health. Lack of biodiversity can also impact the pharmaceutical industry, which often relies on naturally occurring compounds to create new life-saving drugs.
Impacts of Extreme Weather
Due to climate change, extreme weather events have been on the rise around the world. People have been experiencing the effects of droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, and floods at higher rates, and those events are often more extreme than others were in the past. Natural disasters and rising sea levels can have particularly devastating impacts on islands and coastal communities.
These types of events have led to large-scale environmental devastation, loss of life, destruction of property, and lack of access to clean water and food. Those problems have, in turn, impacted human health and economies around the world. People have suffered illnesses caused by contaminated water, for example, and many who work in the tourism, agriculture, construction, and fishing industries have seen their livelihoods destroyed.
The Hidden Costs of Environmental Degradation Are Far-Reaching
Environmental degradation can affect the planet in numerous ways. Pollution, urbanization, deforestation, loss of plant and animal species, climate change, and extreme weather events can lead to a reduction in access to nutritious food and clean drinking water, declines in human health, destruction of communities and ecosystems, and loss of life.
If government policies and business practices do not change, these patterns will continue, and the destruction may become irreversible. Ben Crump Law, PLLC has represented clients who have been impacted by the negligence or irresponsible and short-sighted decisions of others and helped them seek justice. If you and others in your community have been affected by environmental degradation, we may be able to help. Call our office today at (800) 959-1444 to speak with a member of our staff.