The fact that the environment and the entire ecosystem have been left unstable in the recent times is in no doubt. However what has continued to evoke many debates is whether humans have had a hand in this unfortunate situation, and if so, by what extent. Though many feel that humans have had a thing to do in this and could do much better in sustaining the environment, some feel that this is a natural occurrence and nature should be left to take its course.
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This paper explores how man has affected the ecosystem, and specifically so through his diet, and what could be done to put the situation back on track. It is essential that human beings balance their diet. A normal human being is required to take 1,200 calories through the three major meals he/she has in a day .However, in trying to achieve this environment has been left compromised through the following ways.
Excessive harvest of animals in search of various meats is leading to their extinction. Animals are the chief source of proteins and fats which human beings are in need of. Fats are very important in body heat regulation. On the other hand, proteins make the body tissues and up to 15-20% of the calories taken should be made up of proteins. Although this is the case, the animal community is being pushed to the extreme in trying to feed the ever growing population.
This has been done through directly hunting down animals and robbing them of their habitats as people clear forests and bushes to create farms. Researchers have shown that some animal and fish species risk being swept off the face of the earth if strict measures are not put into place.
This is largely due to their nutritional value. Tuna and sharks are some of the fish species that are facing extinction due to the nutritional richness their soup contain. However, human exploitation has been so extensive that some species may never be recovered fully and if it does, could take ages.
Allendorf and Hard (2012) observe that:
Evolution brought about by human harvest might greatly increase the time required for over-harvested populations to recover once harvest is curtailed because harvesting often creates selection differentials, whereas curtailing harvest will often result in less intense selection in the opposing direction. (p. 1)
The need for preventive measures being preferred to reinstating measures is therefore important. Looking for alternative protein sources like legumes and exercising controlled and selective animal and fish harvesting should be embraced. Should we fail to do this, we may wake up one day to find nothing to harvest at all.
Use of excessive fertilizers and pesticides in order to boost production is leading to environmental pollution and ecosystem instability. In order to meet food requirements for humans, different mechanisms have been put in place to increase productivity. Among these mechanisms, use of intensive fertilizers has been majored. This is particularly so because the more the population, the more mouths that require feeding. This is made worse by the fact that cultivation land continues to be limited. On top of the production advantages,
Food and Agricultural Organization of The United Nations (1972) has observed that:
The intensive use of fertilizer can benefit the environment indirectly in that, by increasing considerably the yields of foodstuffs per hectare, it allows withdrawing from cultivation land of low quality, such as steep land, land with shallow soils and land very susceptible to erosion. (p. 2)
However these fertilizers have been employed in excess leading to environmental degradation .For starters, excess nitrates in the soil from fertilizers have been carried into rivers and lakes killing lots of organisms in water .Use of pesticides in farms has also interfered with pollination and caused a lot of poisoning in the air killing lots of birds and insects in the air.
“A number of medical specialists have also expressed concern about the undesirable effects of high nitrate intake on human flesh” (Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations, 1972, p. 7) .It is therefore justifiable to say that although fertilizers and pesticides have been in handy in helping to boost human diet, they have also been poisonous and endangered the lives of many animals, fish, birds and even humans themselves.
Food waste also plays a major part in polluting the environment. Most developed countries especially in the west are facing problems dealing with waste that result from food or the entire food that is not eaten but dumped in landfills.
“Once this food gets to the landfill, it then generates methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat within our atmosphere” (Schiller, Cambridge & M.A, 2010, p.1).Therefore this means that as humans try to satisfy themselves diet wise, they are polluting the environment in the process by not exhausting what they have in their plates.
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Venkat (2012) notes that “the climate change impact of food as quantified by life-cycle GHG emissions is a more complete measure of environmental impact than embedded energy or barrels of oil.”(p.432).It should also be noted that most food thrown out as garbage has already been cooked and the cooking oil used is filtered into the soil rendering it infertile and unproductive. On top of these, emissions evoked by vehicles during the transportation of food waste to landfills also pollute the air.
Proper measures should be put into place therefore to reduce the amount of food thrown as garbage. People should therefore make use of freezers to keep food fresher for longer instead of dumping it. People should also be encouraged to only shop food quantities that can be easily exhausted instead of buying large quantities only to end them as garbage. If this is not done, the environment will continue being held at the mercy of food waste.
In conclusion, human diets are one of the main reasons behind environmental degradation. This is because of the processes involved in achieving them as well as the result of their achievement as noted above by the implications of food wastage. The key lies therefore in efforts to try to sustain population as its rise has had a lot of negative consequences as mechanisms continue to be drawn to make sure humans are fed with the perfect diet worldwide.
Allendorf, W.F., Hard, J.J. (2012) Human induced evolution caused by unnatural selection through harvest of wild animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.p1-13. Web.
Cambridge, MA, & Schiller, M. (2010). How food waste affects our environment. Modern Hippie Magazine, 1-10 Web.
Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations. (1972) .Effects of intensive fertilizer use on human environment. Rome: Author.
Venkat, K, (2012). The climate change and economic impacts of food waste in the United States. International Journal on Food System Dynami, 431-446. Retrieved from http://www.cleanmetrics.com/