According to the United Nations Environmental Program, environmental degradation is the term used to refer to the destruction of the environment through the exhaustion f natural resources such as air water, and soil along with the destruction of ecosystems, wildlife, and their natural habitats.
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Environmental degradation is a multifaceted problem, having to do with both economic and socio-economic factors, and is caused by overconsumption, overpopulation, and the use of technology which put considerable strain on existing natural resources.
The world has watched with delight as, over the years, more so in the past century, there have been amazing leaps and bounds achieved in the arena of technology. These discoveries and inventions have all been lauded as being beneficial to the human race, be they our industries, railway systems, motor vehicles and airplanes, and new methods of power generation.
However, the considerations of the negative impact these advances in technology have on our environment have only recently come to light. As environmental awareness increases, there is a corresponding rise in the calls made for people from all around the globe to make adaptations in their lifestyles to slow down the rate of environmental degradation.
There have been advances made in technology in almost all aspects of our lives, advances that as has been mentioned have generally improved the quality of human life. In the agricultural sector, modern practices in farming such as mechanization, irrigation, and the use of fertilizers have more than doubled food production in the past century.
But as with all other technological progress, there are negative aspects of modern agricultural practices. In the article ‘Researchers Probe Links between Agricultural and Environmental Degradation’, there is a link between modern farming methods and delicate changes in ecosystems that may prove to be harmful to the environment, more so to the world’s water flow systems. The danger is greatest for the world regions which have the least capacity to cope with such problems if they were to arise.
The article notes that so far, the concern has been mainly for the preservation of what is termed as ‘blue water’; the water resources that we can physically observe with our eyes, like dams, lakes, and rivers. On the other hand, ‘green water’, which is the moisture content of the soil as well as evapotranspiration from plants has been given minimal regard, and yet it is the one more affected by agricultural practices.
Research is done by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Stockholm Environmental Institute, who term ‘resilience’ as the ‘capacity of social-ecological systems to withstand climatic or economic shocks, and to then rebuild and renew themselves, has indicated that the chances of this resilience are at risk if there were to be drastic changes in climate because of the agricultural practices and land use being employed today.
An example given as to what can happen when there is a flip in a given ecosystem is the outbreak of toxic algae in lakes in Quebec as well as on the shores of the Baltic Sea in Sweden.
The flip in an ecosystem is especially bad for human beings because it happens suddenly, thus meaning that the natural resources are lost without there being immediate alternatives. The article notes that those who are most likely to be affected by ecological flips are people who are in the poorer regions of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa where soil degradation is a major problem.
The solution, so the article says, is that scientists should come up with ways in which modern agriculture in a way that will not compromise resilience but will ensure sustainability.
The reviewed article, Researchers Probe Links between Agriculture and Environmental Degradation. Web.