HUMAN AND THE ENVIRONMENT
A: Meaning of an Environment
The term environment was derived from the French word “environia” which means to surround.
- The environment is all the physical, chemical and biological factors external to a person, and all the related behaviours.
- It is the complex of physical, chemical and biotic factors that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival.
- The environment is the sum total of all surroundings of a living organism, including natural forcesand other living things, which provide conditions for development and growth as well as of danger and damage.
- Also the environment is everything that makes up our surroundings and affects our ability to live on the earth—the air we breathe, the water that covers most of the earth’s surface, the plants and animals around us, and much more.
- In its most literal sense, ‘environment’ simply means ‘surroundings’ (environs); hence the environment of an individual, object, element or system includes all of the other entities with which it is surrounded.
The environment can be divided into:
- Physical environment which refers to all the abiotic factors or conditions like temperature, rainfall, light, soil, minerals
- Biotic environment which includes all living forms like plants, animals and micro-organisms.
The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, is a term that encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof.
The concept of the natural environment can be distinguished by components:
- Complete ecological units that function as natural systems without massive human intervention, including all vegetation, animals, microorganisms, soil, rocks, atmosphere and natural phenomena that occur within their boundaries.
- Universal natural resources and physical phenomena that lack clear-cut boundaries, such as air, water, and climate, as well as energy, radiation, electric charge, and magnetism, not originating from human activity.
The natural environment is contrasted with the built environment, which comprises the areas and components that are strongly influenced by humans. A geographical area is regarded as a natural environment if the human impact on it is kept under a certain limited level
B: Natural Resources
Natural resources are materials provided by the Earth that humans can use to make more complex (human-made) products.
Natural resources are useful raw materials that we get from the Earth. They occur naturally, which means that humans cannot make natural resources. Instead, we use and modify natural resources in ways that are beneficial to us. The materials used in human-made objects are natural resources.
|Natural Resource||Products or Services / uses|
|Air||Wind energy, tires|
|Animals||Foods (milk, cheese, steak, bacon) and clothing (wool sweaters, silk shirts, leather belts)|
|Minerals||Coins, wire, steel, aluminum cans, jewelry|
|Natural gas||Electricity, heating|
|Oil||Electricity, fuel for cars and airplanes, plastic|
|Plants||Wood, paper, cotton clothing, fruits, vegetables|
|Sunlight||Solar power, photosynthesis|
|Water||Hydroelectric energy, drinking, cleaning|
Classification of Natural Resources
Natural resources are divided into: Renewable Resources and Non Renewable Resources depending on whether or not they replenish naturally.
Renewable Resources: These are resources that can regenerate or replace themselves. Or A resource which is replaced naturally and can be used again. A renewable resource is a resource which can be used repeatedly, regenerated and replaced naturally. Examples are timber, biogas, biomass, oxygen, fresh water, nuclear energy, air/wind, and solar radiation/energy
Non-renewable Resources: These are resources that cannot be replaced or replenished by natural processes. Or A resource which is of economic value that cannot be readily replaced by natural means on a level equal to its consumption. A non-renewable resource which is also called a finite resource. Example is fossil fuels (crude oil, coal and natural gas), metal ores, earth minerals, and groundwater.
C: Effect of Human Activities on the Environment
In recent years, scientists have been carefully examining the ways that people affect the environment. They have found that we are causing air pollution, deforestation, acid rain, oil exploration and mining / illegal mining (popularly referred to as “galaamsey”) and other problems that are dangerous both to the earth and to ourselves.
- Overpopulation: degradation of the environment, CO₂ levels increase, more fossil fuels is used, extinction of thousands of species as a result of hunting habitats destructions, etc.
- Pollution: water, air and soil becomes unsafe for use (poisoning all forms of life, both on land and in the water), depletion of ozone layer and contributing to climate change and global warming.
- Global Warming: increase temperature, ice melting, ocean levels rising, etc
- Climate Change: global temperatures increase, Earth’s weather patterns drastically change, barren wastelands, heatwaves, etc.
- Ozone Depletion: harmful UV rays reaches us which are detrimental to the health of all walks of life
- Ocean Acidification: acid reduces the pH levels in the water, depletes the calcium concentrations, coral reefs are damaged, etc
- Water Pollution: Phytoplankton and algae thrive off of nitrogen, deplete water bodies of oxygen and cause poison to accumulate in all life that consumes it (undrinkable water), etc.
- Deforestation: threat to survival of species, increases the greenhouse gases within the atmosphere which leads to further global warming, wasting of fertile lands and economic crops and trees resulting in soil degradation, etc.
- Acid Rain: accumulates in water bodies which are especially harmful to lakes and small bodies of water, depleting the soil of essential nutrients, damage leaves and slowly kills large areas of forest, completely eliminate entire species of fish, etc.
D: Ways of Conserving the Environment
Conservation is the protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water. Environmental conservation is the practice of protecting the environment and conserving its natural resources so as to ensure an improved quality of life for every living thing.A clean environment guarantees a clean water source for drinking, reduced diseases and infections, clean air, food security and a conducive climate.The following are some of the ways we can be conserved/protect the environment:
- Plant trees or tree planting
- Conserving water bodies from illegal human activities
- Not dumping plastic waste and solid wastes indiscriminately in drains,
- Ensuring that hazardous chemicals are not dumped in water bodies
- Practicing the 3Rs of reducing, reusing and recycling of plastic materials.
- Protect species with laws about poaching
- Use of laws by traditional rulers (taboos and totems)
- Stop deforestation
- Protect habitats by using guards
A: Dissemination of Information on the Environment
A series of environmental crises in recent years has made it necessary that information on the environment is supplied so as to increase awareness and knowledge of environmental degradation and its implications upon the complex systems of our planet. Collection, dissemination, and accessibility of environmental information is considered of great benefit to the citizens of any particular locality and community.
There are different ways by which information on the effect of human activities on the environment can be disseminated. The basic methods of information dissemination is called 3P’s namely, posters, presentation and papers.
Other methods of information dissemination are
- Publishing policy document,
- Publishing journals,
- Use of flyers, guides, pamphlets and DVDs,
- Using training manual/materials,
- Use of organized website (internet)
- Discussion on local radio,
- Discussion on television stations
- Press release,
- Use of local newspaper and
- Use of environmental fairs.
Teachers can play an important role by educating their pupils on the need for environmental conservation. Educating the community members on the dangers of environmental degradation and encouraging people to volunteer for clean ups in the communities will go a long way to help keep the environment and protect it from further destruction and degradation.