o The Frog Blog: Our Planet, Our Home - What is its Future?

Monday, 21 March 2011

Our Planet, Our Home - What is its Future?


Here is Jasmine Blenkins O'Callaghan's essay which was entered for the Three Rock Churches Environmental Group essay competition.

Human activity impacts on everything in the natural world around us. The laws of Physics tell us that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction". As a scientific metaphor, to extend this to our environment, this might be interpreted as "for every gain involving non-renewable resources, something irreplaceable is lost".

Human activity is destroying the planet and it’s natural inhabitants. By 2050 scientists have estimated that 1/4 of all animals will be endangered or extinct. This is due to things such as deforestation, the increased global temperature which has resulted in the melting of the polar ice caps and the increasing demand for fossil fuels. We are destroying the world faster than ever before, and if we don’t change our attitude to the way we consume and destroy our natural resources, then the future will be bleak to say the least.

Water is one vital resource which humanity and other creatures can’t live without, and yet clean water is running out. We are using water on such a large scale that it is affecting the global environment. Agriculture is a huge consumer of water - in order to produce crops and keep livestock. In Saudi Arabia crops are grown in the desert using ‘fossil’ water pumped from underground. From the air we see a series of green ‘wheels’ as crops are grown beneath rotating sprinklers - but the water is running out, and already the number of brown, dead crop-wheels outnumbers the green ones.

Of course the demand for crops and different varieties of food is enormous, but there shouldn’t be a problem as enough food is grown on the planet to feed every human being. Problems do arise with food distribution however, and much of what we grow is used as fodder crops for expensive meat production. The answers to the problems are not simple as people starving in desert areas can hardly be asked to stop growing their crops for the good of the planet as a whole. Drought is already a big issue in Australia, with half of its farmland now unusable. The global water supply and the global population are in a delicate state of balance, and there is always a conflict between too much water in some parts of the world (lately in Brisbane in Queensland, Australia) or too little (e.g. Perth in Western Australia).

The Himalayan Mountain range supplies 2 billion people with water. It is the source of many of the major rivers which run though Asia, for instance the Ganges. During the winter, glaciers control the amount of water which is released into the major rivers. During the summer, when there is a greater need for water the glaciers melt at a faster pace allowing more water to flow into the rivers. But the global temperatures are rising, therefore during the winter it is harder for the glaciers to hold as much water and so it decreases the amount which would be available for the summer months. This means that the 2 billion people who rely on it will have to find alternative sources of water and many will suffer. Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has changed massively due to global warming. The glaciers which once gleamed on top of its peaks have now been reduced by 18%. This is another example of how global warming is affecting glacial ice and just how much the issue of global warming is changing the world’s appearance. If the source in the Himalayas runs out completely, that will mean that an extra 2 billion people will join the billion people who already don’t have access to clean drinking water. That will leave half of the world’s population without access to drinking water.

Greenland’s ice contains 20% of the world’s fresh water. As global warming continues the ice which is currently covering Greenland is melting faster than ever. If all of Greenland’s ice does flow into the sea then the sea will rise by 7 meters. This would be catastrophic for the world’s population seeing as 70% of it resides by coastlines and tidal rivers. If the sea rose by 7 meters then it would submerge a lot of these cities which would force the population to either migrate or to face serious consequences. Already during the 20th Century, sea levels have risen by 20 cm. This is due to the expansion of water which happens when it is heated. This also means that cities like Tokyo who rely on their water sources from wells in the ground will get salty sea water rather than the fresh water which they have been relying on for so long.

Another reason which explains the rising sea level is the melting of the polar ice cap. As powerful short UV rays pierce through the atmosphere they get absorbed by the soil and the plants and then reemitted as long wave radiation which cannot escape the atmosphere. This leads to rising global temperatures which have a direct impact on the polar ice caps. The ice caps have been reduced by 40% in the last 40 years - which is an astounding rate. Scientists have estimated that during the summer months, by 2030, the ice cap will have disappeared, and more pessimistic scientists suggest that this will happen by 2015. If we don’t start acting now species will die out due to the fact that their habitats have melted. It is a problem which everyone should be aware of and we should also be aware of what we can do to reduce the amount of resources and fossil fuels we use.

In conclusion I believe that if we don’t act now it will be too late and if we don’t start to reverse the damage which we have done then we are facing catastrophic consequences.

Jasmine Blenkins - O’Callaghan, Form IV

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