What is Environment Protection and Conservation

Life on Earth makes it a unique planet in comparison to other planets. It is home to millions of species of plants and animals. It is the unique environmental conditions seen on Earth that cause life to flourish here.

Environment

The word environment is derived from the French word environ, which means ‘surroundings Our environment comprises our surroundings-the air we breathe, the water that covers the earth’s surface, the plants and animals around us, and much more.

The environment can be categorised into two types:

  • Natural Environment
  • Human-made Environment

Natural Environment

It includes all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth, for example, plants, animals, birds, insects, land, mountains, water bodies, air, sun, rain, minerals, etc. The natural environment is subdivided into two-biotic and abiotic components.

Biotic Components:- These components consist of all the living organisms within an ecosystem, for example, plants, animals, birds, insects, fungi, and other living organisms.

Abiotic Components:– These components comprise all the non-living things in an ecosystem, for example, water, air, soil, sunlight, and minerals.

Our environment provides the platform for the interaction between these two factors. The biotic factors depend on the abiotic factors to fulfil their requirements to grow and survive.

Human-Made Environment

The human-made environment includes human activities and their interaction with the abiotic components It comprises the structures made by humans, such as houses, buildings, parks, bridges, roads, markets, factories, dams, vehicles, and so on. In addition to these, the human-made environment also includes all the social institutions and organisations, which we see in our society. Thus, human-made environment consists of physical, biological, social, and cultural factors Cities are the best example of human-made environment.

The natural and human-made components of the environment depend on each other and interact with each other as a natural process. No living organism can survive alone The natural environment provides all the resources for the development, growth, and survival of human beings.

Ecosystem

Consider a small pond near our home You may find various types of living things, from micro-organi to insects and plants in These hay depend on non-living components, such as water, sunlight air an the nutrients in the water for their survival. This pond is an example of ecosystem. A few more examples are forests, deserts, and grasslands.

An ecosystem is a community of living and non-living components, which are interdependent on each other An ecosystem is formed when living things (plants, animals, and organisms) in an area interact with each other as well as with the non-living components (weather, sun, soil, climate, and atmosphere) that surround the living things. In an ecosystem, each organism has its role to play Each ecosystem is unique. but all ecosystems consist of three primary components:

Autotrophs:- They are the producers of energy Plants make up the majority of the autotrophs in an ecosystem as they convert energy from the Sun or other sources into food.

Heterotrophs:- They are the consumers of energy. These are organisms, which depend directly or indirectly upon the autotrophs for their food. They are also known as consumers Most of the heterotrophs are animals.

Non-living matter:- It is soil, sediments, leaf litter, and other organic matter found on the ground or at the bottom of an aquatic system.

Basic Needs of Living Organisms

Every living organism on Earth needs some basic things to survive. The amount and nature of these needs vary from organism to organism. For example, water is the basic need for survival, but the amount of water a frog needs to survive is less than the amount of water needed by an elephant. Similarly, indoor plants require almost minimal amount of sunlight as compared to the outdoor plants.

Five basic needs that all living things require to survive:

Sunlight:- The sunlight is an essential requirement for all living organisms because it is the main source of energy on Earth It provides heat and light to all living things. Life would not be possible on Earth without the warmth of the sun.

Water:- It is considered to be the most important necessity of life. Water provides habitat to many living organisms. It helps to regulate metabolism in organisms and assists the absorption of food in the intestine Water also helps in maintaining body heat.

Air:- Air is made up of several gases, but the two most important gases are oxygen and carbon dioxide Without oxygen, animals will die, and without carbon dioxide, plants cannot survive.

Food (Nutrients):- Food plays a vital role in overall development of all living beings. The food we eat contains nutrients that are required by the body to grow, move, work, reproduce, play, think, and learn Moreover, it helps in maintaining proper health by protecting us from diseases.

A habitat with the right temperature:- Imagine if you have to live in a place which is either too cold or too hat. It would be difficult or maybe even impossible to survive. In the same way, every living organism needs an ideal temperature to survive, whether on land or in water.

Relationship between Man and Environment

The interrelation between humans and the environment is well established from the earliest times to the present day. However, the relationship has varied during different stages of the evolution of humans and their society. In this relationship, the environment influences the life of human beings. Humans adapt to their changing environment, but sometimes they also modify the natural environment according to their requirements.

The early humans lived in the lap of nature. Their survival depended on their natural environment, so they adapted to their environment. Their food, shelter, and clothing, all came from their natural habitat. Therefore, they did not harm their natural environment but lived in harmony with nature and devised various ways of preserving it. In fact, nature was worshipped in different forms as a way to honour the natural environment.

Effects of Human Activities on Environment

With the advancement in technology, the relationship between man and environment also changed. Humans are the only living organisms capable of modifying the environment according to their needs. Gradually, humans explored and exploited the natural resources for the development and comfort of human society. To fulfill the needs of increasing population, human beings have undertaken certain activities like rapid industrialisation, unplanned urbanisation, deforestation, and overexploitation of natural resources. These activities have significantly contributed to environmental degradation and are disrupting the environmental stability and ecological balance.

Environmental degradation is now a global problem. More than 1.4 million people have died as a result of natural disasters over the past fifty years. Why are the natural disasters on the rise? Are we tampering too much with nature? Human-made disasters are also on the rise. Human beings, supposedly the most intelligent creatures on Earth, are probably on the verge of threatening the very existence of life on Earth This has come about due to the misuse of science and technology for their comfort and need.

Some of the natural events that cause environmental degradation are volcanic eruptions, forest fires, earthquakes, floods, etc. Let us read about some human activities which are harming the natural environment and causing ecological imbalance.

Ecological Imbalance

Anything that attempts to alter the balance of the ecosystem can threaten the existence of that ecosystem Some of the threats can be resolved if the natural conditions are restored. However, others can harm its life forms and destroy ecosystems. Various factors cause ecological imbalance. Let us understand some of the important factors.

Over Exploitation of Natural Resources

Over exploitation refers to the overuse of natural resources to such an extent that it almost reaches a stage of exhaustion. We can see this phenomenon in the exploitation of natural vegetation and forests, medicinal plants, grazing pastures, wildlife, fish stocks, fossil fuels, and water aquifers. Large-scale mining of minerals, oil drilling, and unplanned urbanisation is leading to the loss of forest lands and contributing to the destruction of the ecosystem.

Habitat Destruction

Clearing of forests to obtain timber and provide space for either agricultural zones or urban development is called deforestation A majority of animal and plant species live in the forests, and many of them have become extinct or endangered because of the loss of ther homes due to deforestation. Economic activities such as logging mining, farming, and construction often involve clearing the cover of the natural vegetation of places. This tampering with one factor of the ecosystem can have a ripple effect on many other factors in any ecosystem.

Example:-The soil that provides nutrients for vegetation in the ecosystems is greatly affected by deforestation. Example Clearing a piece of the forest for timber can expose the upper layers of the soil to the wind, water, and heat of the Sun. In the heavily deforested areas, soil erosion and nutrient run-off are common after a rainfall, thereby, reducing the fertility of the soil.

Environmental Pollution

Water, land, and air play a crucial role in the health of our ecosystems. Any kind of pollution release harmful chemicals (pollutants) into the environment. Poisonous gases released into the environment from vehicular emissions and factory chimneys cause air pollution and respiratory diseases. Dumping of industrial and city sewage wastes into lakes, rivers, and seas are causing water pollution.

Plastics are one of the most common and persistent pollutants in the ocean waters and beaches worldwide, and is a hazard for marine and human life.

Hazardous chemicals are being used in modern agriculture to control pests and weeds. These toxic chemicals are accumulating in the environment and causing a threat of diseases like cancer They also kill beneficial microbes and insects, birds, butterflies, and fishes. The extinction of different species affects our biodiversity and ecosystems.

Greenhouse Gas Emission

Gases that trap the heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. The primary greenhouse gases that humans emit directly in significant quantities in the earth’s atmosphere are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, and CFCs. These gases cause global warming of the environment. The rising temperatures could melt the polar ice caps, submerging much of low-lying land masses and many coastal cities (like London, New York, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai) under sea water.

According to scientists, if the emission of CFCs is not reduced by 2030, there will be irreversible global warming and large-scale depletion of the ozone layer.

The ozone layer helps to keep out harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiations that cause sunburn to human skin and damage to plants. The most common form of UV radiation is sunlight, which produces three main types of UV rays UVA, UVB, and UVC. The UVA rays help generate vitamin D for living things. UVB and UVC are destructive and can cause DNA and cell damage to plants and animals. The depletion of ozone layer exposes living things to UVB and UVC rays. The harmful effects of these rays can affect ecosystems and humans and can cause the extinction of certain species.

Nuclear Weapons

A single thermonuclear weapon can have a million times more destructive power than the largest conventional weapon. Several countries possess nuclear bombs. If a major nuclear conflict happens, extreme climatic and global environmental changes would occur. This would result in significant health implications and would destroy life on Earth.

Radioactive Wastes

Nuclear wastes generated in nuclear reactors are a real threat to life on Earth Exposure to radioactive elements can have severe health effects on human beings. These can result in irreparable DNA damage leading to a life threatening condition, tumours, cancers, etc. Radioactive substances can also contaminate soil, water, air, and infuse harmful substances in the environment, thereby affecting vegetation, wildlife, and marine life.

Biotechnological Misuse

The production of disease-producing bacteria, viruses, or fungi for biological warfare is another threat to mankind and the environment. These super powered pathogens, when released, will disseminate through air or water and can cause catastrophic epidemics to human and animal life.

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