Humans, like other species, are part of the earth’s environment. The first humans were hunters and had low population. At that time, humans functioned as natural predators and herbivores. With the adoption of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago, human populations and conversion of land to agricultural production began to increase readily. Industrialization changed the nature of human interaction with the global environment. The demand for energy to run industry and the concentration of populations or urbanization brought environmental problems of great magnitude.
Environment is a treasure of all types of resources essential to maintain life on earth. Environment is a direct or indirect source of food, shelter, clothing, fuel etc. for humans.
Degradation and Depletion of Resources
The earth’s natural resources include the physical resources of water, air, soil, chemical elements and fossil fuels, together with all other species of living organisms.
Man’s activity in over hunting and over fishing has resulted in some cases in the extinction of a species. Many countries depend on food from the sea. This has led to over fishing of productive coastal waters. Deforestation and cutting down of natural woodlands for land clearance, building material and fuel requirement destroy natural habitat of organisms.
Only 30% of the earth is dry land, the remainder being covered with water. Man• is a terrestrial animal and his increasing population makes more use of the land, depriving other animals of it. The increasing population requires more land for farms, homes, industry, recreation and roads and more food to feed them.
Overuse of the water resources affects the natural recycling process. Water is b used so rapidly from the reserves that it is not replaced fast enough by rainfall. Water purification and sewage treatment are comparatively slow process as compared to the rapid water usage.
Coal, oil, peat and natural gas are non-renewable resources. They provide energy, which flows to outer space and carbon dioxide together with water vapors to the air. Fossil fuels, apart from being sources of energy, are also important and sole source of raw material for producing chemical compounds for making medicines, fertilizers, plastics, man made fibers, dyes, pesticides, detergents, explosive, perfumes and synthetic flavors. Their over / unwise use is leading to their depletion, on one hand, and adding pollution, on the other hand.
Modification of Environment
• In past, human beings led simple lives that require little energy. As man and society progressed, the consumption of energy and materials increased.
• A modem home uses many different types of energy consuming devices, such as washing machine, refrigerators and television. For cooking, gas is usually used.
• Many people work in offices, which make use of a lot of energy in lighting, air conditioning and many office equipments like photocopiers, computers telephones, telex and fax machines.
• The mode of transportation may have changed over the years but most of them still obtain their energy by burning fossil fuels. Cars, taxies run on petrol, heavy vehicles such as buses, ships and some train run on diesel and airplanes run on type of fuel similar to kerosene.
• Industries have always been the largest consumers of electrical energy.
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