Climate change: Human impact on the environment

Introduction

The activities of human beings have had serious effects on the environment. Environmental pollution, which is a direct result of human activities, is a problem that has affected a myriad of environmental aspects.

Although some people may fail to understand the long-term effects of pollution like global warming, its short-term effects are easy to discern. Such effects include diseases or death of both human beings and animals. Human activities that lead to pollution of the environment have effects on biodiversity, water, soil and even land.

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This is even shown in the movie, The Eleventh Hour, with bodies of water that are badly polluted and overflowing landfills. This paper is an in-depth exploration of the effects that human activities have had on the environment, and the way the same is captured in the movie, The Eleventh Hour.

Effects of human activities on biodiversity

As stated above, environmental pollution, mainly caused by human activities has adverse effects on biodiversity. For instance, water pollution normally has adverse effects on aquatic life. Water pollution has even been blamed for the extinction of some species that cannot thrive in acidic conditions. In the movie, The Eleventh Hour, there are images of lakes which are drying. Chemical pollution is the most common for water.

It normally makes water acidic, and makes it toxic. This leads to the death of some animals living in water, and also creates harsh living conditions for other animals living in this ecosystem. In The Eleventh Hour, Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer, reports of the sea having lost 90% of its total population of big fish. Another form of pollution that affects water is heat pollution that makes the water unsuitable for the animals living there.

Animals that cannot withstand high temperatures may die while others are forced to move or live under very harsh conditions. Water polluted by heat normally has less oxygen, and thus the animals living in this ecosystem find it difficult to breathe.

This is because cold water is normally associated with more oxygen, and also the fact that the hot water may damage organic matter in water leading to low levels of dissolved oxygen. The water will also evaporate and make humans and animals inhale the chemical substances dissolved in it. This evaporation will also result in acidic rain which has the same effects as water pollution.

Apart from thermal pollution in water, thermal pollution also occurs in air. This is normally caused by human actions like wars which may lead to bombings, irresponsibly caused fires like forest fires, and even climate change.

One of its effects is the redistribution of animals and other organisms after the pollution, thermal pollution can also lead to the death of the organisms that cannot withstand the temperatures. These are animals whose metabolic systems are unable to tolerate the temperatures (Guy, 2004).

Research has shown that the slow changes in temperature caused by global warming and/or thermal pollution have an adverse effect on the reproductive potential of animals. They also make the animals more susceptible to diseases. The Eleventh Hour evidences this by documenting warming weather, billowing smoke, and the disappearance of animals due to the unfavorable weather conditions.

Just like the thermal and water counterparts, air pollution has adverse effects on biodiversity. Air pollution is inseparable from global warming. This is because the gases that are released to the atmosphere during air pollution, especially carbon dioxide, are the main cause of global warming (McElroy, 2002).

By extension therefore, the effects of global warming on biodiversity are the same as the effects of air pollution. Some of these effects include extinction of some species, mass migration of organisms that affects biodiversity in the areas the organisms are migrating from, high mortality of animals that reduces the number of animals and unavailability of food that will make animals unable to reproduce well.

Humans are also affected by global warming. The effects on global warming include deaths due to starvation, increase in disease incidences due to climate change, and other effects of drought and/or hunger. In The Eleventh Hour, the effect of hunger and insufficient food is properly captured with children gasping, apparently out of hunger.

Human activities like burning of fossil fuels and use of automobiles lead to air pollution that has adverse effects on the health of human beings. When large volumes of gases are released to the atmosphere, they form a blanket that holds both heat and pollutant gases in the lower atmosphere (Vayda, 2009).

When human beings breathe these gases, they can experience lung problems. These include asthma, coughing, chocking, or even reduce the protection of the lungs against infections.

Additional examples of these gases include nitrogen oxides that are as a result of burning fuel at high temperatures, carbon monoxide, produced from incomplete combustion, and which reduces the capacity of blood to distribute oxygen in the body, and carbon dioxide which is among the main causes of global warming, since it is produced in large volumes (McElroy, 2002).

At some point in The Eleventh Hour, there is news of how global warming has led to an increase in asthma cases, and even caused catastrophes like the Hurricane Katrina.

Effects of human activities on air, water and land

As stated in the discussion above, human actions have a myriad of negative effects on water. Consider thermal pollution for example. It has been stated that thermal pollution leads to high temperatures in water that, in turn, reduce the levels of oxygen in the water making aquatic life to either die or migrate to areas with lower temperatures (Guy, 2004).

These temperatures may be due to disposal of heated industrial effluents in water, or even the occurrence of maritime accidents in water that may result in un-anticipated fires. Chemical pollution from industries and other human activities causes water to be acidic leading to acidic rain which affects both aquatic and terrestrial life.

Human activities also have undesirable effects on soil. When chemical pollution occurs as a result of industrial effluents, the soil is polluted. This makes it unsuitable for agriculture, and thus humans are adversely affected. There is also the proverbial issue of disposal of plastic bags and other non-biodegradable materials.

When these are disposed in the soil, they stay in the soil until they are taken away from it. Therefore, they significantly affect economic activities that are carried out on the soil like agriculture. This is captured in The Eleventh Hour, by the gushing oil that pollutes the soil.

A number of human activities also affect land. Global warming, which is a long-term result of releasing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, has been associated with melting of ice on mountains. This substantially affects the landscape of such mountains and the areas surrounding them. The global warming is caused by release of pollutant greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere.

How human activities are affecting the climate

Environmental pollution, a result of human activities, is one of the leading causes of climate change globally. As stated above, pollution is the main cause of global warming (“What Human Activities Contribute to

Climate Change?”, 2006) Global warming, in turn, leads to noticeable climate change, in terms of temperatures, the severity and length of droughts, etcetera. It is thus of essence that the levels of pollution are minimized as far as possible since global warming, in particular, and climate change, generally, have a lot of undesirable effects.

With climate change, in form of prolonged droughts, occurrence of hurricanes, and earthquakes, the environment is substantially affected, making it hard for humans and other species to survive like they used to before the climatic changes occurred. In The Eleventh Hour, there are images of declining forest cover, which show that continued human interference of forest cover is a contributor to environmental problems associated with global warming.

Conclusion

From the discussion above, it is evident that humans’ actions lead to environmental pollution, which has many undesirable effects on biodiversity and the environment.

It is thus of essence that human beings gain a good understanding of the effects that environmental pollution has on life, so that appropriate policies can be developed to reduce these effects. Each individual person and government should take responsibility in ensuring that the levels of pollution are minimized as much as possible since the negative effects of pollution are alarming.

In the event that the levels of pollution are significantly reduced, the world would definitely be a better place since there will be less global warming, which implies fewer droughts and less famine. There will also be less chemical pollution in water bodies, which means that less animals living in water will die, and air pollution will also be minimal, which translates to less respiratory complications in human beings.

Reference List

Guy, J. (2004). Human activity has caused significant damage to ecosystems and biomes worldwide. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from, http://library.thinkquest.org/C003763/pdf/planet04.pdf

McElroy, M. (2002). The Atmospheric Environment: Effects of Human Activity. New Jersey, Princeton University Press.

United Nations Environment Programme. (2006). What Human Activities Contribute to Climate Change? Retrieved June 22, 2011, from,
http://www.gcrio.org/ipcc/qa/04.html

Vayda, A. (2009). Explaining Human Actions and Environmental Changes. U.K. AltaMira Press.