I am passionate about saving our planet from anthropogenic environmental destruction. Our species is a blight on the face of the planet, but we don’t have to be. We are smart enough to transform our planet for the worse, so we are smart enough to transform it for the better.
In this post I will cover the three most pressing environmental issues of our day and what we need to fix them. These are not trivial challenges and our solutions are incomplete. We need to put more of our intelligence towards developing strategies to overcome our problems than we spend on creating those problems. It seems most of humanity wants to do something, but we just don’t know what.
First Challenge: Climate Change
This is the most transformative environmental event in human history. At no other time in our evolution or our existance will we see such a dramatic shift in global weather and climate conditions. The root cause of these problems is greenhouse gases because they are like an insulating blanket hanging around our planet. You would think an insulating blanket would be comfortable, but it poses problems to the other species we share the planet with. For example, some animals cannot tolerate the warmer weather.
Another problem is landscape changes. Ice begins to melt and this means polar bears and penguins have fewer places to call their home. They can’t sleep in the water, so we need a way to ensure they have places to sleep. Traditionally this has been on icebergs and ice shelves, but they are disappearing because the insulating blanket is melting them away. We might have to build floating animal sanctuaries resembling icebergs just to house the animals that traditionally used water constructed icebergs as their homes.
We also face the problem of ocean acidification. Carbon dioxide makes carbonic acid in water and as we pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, there is more carbonic acid generated in our oceans. This has disastrous effects on coral reefs because coral melts in acid.
Second Challenge: Soil Erosion
We’ve cleared many millions of hectares (acres for old fashioned types) of land just to support our agriculture. This land was cleared to make way for crops and animals. We need cleared land because food crops need lots of sunlight, room and machinery needs wide open spaces to run over crops. Leaving the trees in place would not work because of these factors.
Before land clearing, the soil was held in place by bushes and trees because their roots extend into the soil and physically hold it in place. Also the foliage acts to slow down wind so the wind speed is lower over the dirt. This means the dirt cannot fly off into the distance and make a majestic dust storm.
When trees and bushes are in the soil, they add nutrients and house bacteria to add more nutrients to the soil. Perennial plants don’t need this continual supply of nutrients because they already exist and grow slower, so their nutrient requirements are lower.
When land is used in agriculture, it is frequently irrigated. This leads to soil being washed into rivers, lakes, oceans and other water bodies. Also this soil is frequently contaminated with pesticides and fertiliser, which messes with waterways. Fertiliser can add to algal blooms and that can be annoying if you want to drink the water or drive a pump through algae infested water.
Third Challenge: Water Security
Water skiing is fun! However, water skiing can only be possible for many while the dams and lakes are full. We have no other place to water ski easily because rivers and lakes are too far and few between or they are too shallow and full of snags. It’s also convenient and where people live.
More importantly, we use water to drink and to irrigate our crops. We need water to live and it’s an essential natural resource. So our future depends on our ability to secure clean, safe freshwater in volumes needed to support our existence.
Drinking water is the most vital part of our day. To get water in our glass, it must come from reservoirs located on the edges of urban areas. These reservoirs must be filled by rain falling in local valleys or by being filled from rivers that start further away. It then undergoes extensive filtration and runs through the pipes to your tap. It’s a long process and there are more explanatory and in depth resources on the internet.
More Reading on Dams
Water is also needed to grow food as crops need water to grow. It’s quite extensive how much water we need to grow our food and that will be left for another blog post. Our water security needs for food production are even more perilous than those needed for drinking water and water skiing.
These are the three main challenges we face as we move into a future where we have to cope with our poor decisions of the past. The Food and Water Award will help all of us overcome those challenges by linking leaders in their respective fields together and making the world a better place. It is only through cooperation will we achieve a peaceful and prosperous future.
Dr Holly Haviland