Ever since the first tree-hugging hippie shone the spotlight on mankind needing to be more environmentally-conscious back in the 1970s, we have since made great progress on reducing pollution, living more sustainably, and protecting our endangered species.
Much work is still to be done, however, and we don't have much time left. Experts agree that at the current rate of global pollution, the earth can be uninhabitable within the next 100 years. Below are the top 5 environmental issues we are currently facing.
1. Chemical pollution
Mankind as a species have become so dependent on synthetic products, like drinking bottled water and eating from styrofoam boxes. All of which usually go into the trash bin and not into the recycling bin. As the factories churn out more of these products, a large number of synthetic chemicals also enter our air, soil and waters. The worst culprits are the factories that produce household chemical products like pesticides.
No one really knows whether we are breathing in these chemicals as the air particles are carried by the wind all across the globe, and it's practically impossible to detect. Steps are already being taken to study and trace back the source of endocrine disruptors - which are air particles that cause harm to the endocrine system. The endocrine system helps to regulates hormones in humans and animals, and if affected, can cause a wide array of reproductive and developmental issues.
2. Energy extraction
With lax in environmental regulations and increase in energy prices, comes significant energy development at the expense of the environment. We experience this close to home almost every year when the haze season in Singapore occurs. Haze is a result of forest fires in Indonesia, and the fires are said to be caused by corporations as well as small-scale farmers who use this method to clear vegetation for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations.
The development of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technology has also created a boom in natural gas extraction in the US and the UK. Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mix is blasted at the rock to release the gas inside. However, this also makes the land unstable and can result in earthquakes. There is also fear of potential harmful gases that may escape and contaminate the groundwater around the fracking site.
3. Invasive biodiversity
When governments do not implement strict custom rules to restrict import and export, exotic plant and animal species from a foreign land may be smuggled into another land and wreck havoc. Plant or animal species that are introduced to a new area are considered invasive, as they can rapidly colonize the area by over-populating and killing off the native species.
Recently, sightings of a destructive exotic bird called the Red-Billed Quelea have caused concern as the bird species may damage crops and affect native bird species of Singapore. The bird is believed to have been brought into the country through the cage-bird trade. If we are not prudent enough or careful, invasive species can cause a lot of damage to native species and cause unrepairable damage to the environment on the whole.
4. Inappropriate Land Use
When then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew introduced the “garden city” vision on 11 May 1967, it has since transformed Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment that makes life a whole lot more pleasant for all of us living in it. All around the world, green spaces provide habitat for wildlife, space for forests to produce oxygen, and wetlands to clean our freshwater.
Green spaces are also a rare resource nowadays as we keep using land inefficiently, turning them into gas fields, roads, factories and even private property. All these can fragment the natural landscape, force out wildlife and even cause natural disasters.
5. Global warming
Research has shown that if the earth heats up by another 2 degrees Celsius, humans will become extinct. No matter where you live in the world, global warming affects us all. We're pretty sure everyone is feeling it one way or another, be it icebergs breaking away in Antarctica or ridiculously hot afternoons in Singapore.
Some places are already facing damage that are irreversible, like the coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and the squeezing out of polar bears in the Arctic. These changes will only continue to get stronger, negatively affecting the ecosystems that we and the rest of the wildlife rely on, unless we start playing our small parts in creating change.