Pollution

For most of the time that humans have inhabited the earth our wastes were only of significance on a local level. In recent decades society has started to take seriously the impact of human actions on the planet in a broader sense. Pollution of the air, land and water comes from a variety of sources and continues to be a major issue for communities and countries across the globe. While measures have been taken to address pollution in various ways across many dimensions – from local waste collection and recycling programs to international hazardous waste protocols -- globalization has magnified the problems as pollution is often exported along with good and services. One of the major challenges of the 21st century is to find ways for a growing human population to reduce the amount and impact of contaminants we discharge to our shared natural resources.

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Recently Updated
Water pollution Last Updated on 2014-11-17 12:18:45 Water pollution is the contamination of natural water bodies by chemical, physical, radioactive or pathogenic microbial substances. Adverse alteration of water quality presently produces large scale illness and deaths, accounting for approximately 50 million deaths per year worldwide, most of these deaths occurring in Africa and Asia. In China, for example, about 75 percent of the population (or 1.1 billion people) are without access to unpolluted drinking water, according to China's own standards.[1] Widespread consequences of water pollution upon ecosystems include species mortality, biodiversity reduction and loss of ecosystem services. Some consider that water pollution may occur from natural causes such as sedimentation from severe rainfall events; however, natural causes, including volcanic eruptions and algae blooms from natural causes constitute a minute amount of the... More »
Pollution Last Updated on 2014-11-09 17:40:04 Pollution is environmental contamination that results in harm or death to living organisms. Most pollution is in the form of chemical additions to air, water or soil; however, in modern times starting in the mid-twentieth century noise and light have been considered as pollution sources. Most pollution is man-made, with natural fluctuations in atmospheric composition, surface water bodies and soil considered temporal gyrations in the Earth's natural history. The chief driver of pollution is the massive growth in human population, which induces the proximate causes of intensive agriculture and extraordinary industrial output. The United Nations and the Blacksmith Institute[1] are two prominent organisations that tabulate locales of the greatest pollution intensity; while their listings do not correspond precisely, the overlap countries that both entities agree are the worst polluted... More »
Air quality in megacities Last Updated on 2014-09-18 16:40:27 Ambient air pollution in an increasingly urbanized world directly threatens the health of a large fraction of the world’s population. There is growing recognition that air-borne emissions from major urban and industrial areas influence both air quality and climate change on scales ranging from regional up to continental and global. Deteriorating urban air quality affects the viability of important natural and agricultural ecosystems in regions surrounding highly urbanized areas, and significantly influences regional atmospheric chemistry and global climate change. This challenge is particularly acute in the developing world where the rapid growth of megacities (cities having population equal to or more than 10 million) is producing atmospheric pollution of unprecedented severity and extent. For example, the deterioration of air quality is a problem that is directly experienced... More »
Ecosystem services fact sheet Last Updated on 2014-07-09 17:01:53 This ecosystems services fact sheet is intended to provide an overview of the subject of ecosystem services, e.g. the economic consequences to humankind of benefits provided by the natural environment. This fact sheet was originally developed by the Ecological Society of America (ESA). Have you ever considered that the cereal you eat is brought to you each morning by the wind, or that the glass of clear, cold, clean water drawn from you faucet may have been purified for you by a wetland or perhaps the root system of an entire forest? Trees in your front yard work to trap dust, dirt, and harmful gases from the air you breathe. The bright fire of oak logs you light to keep warm on cold nights and the medicine you take to ease the pain of an ailment come to you from Nature’s warehouse of services. Natural ecosystems perform fundamental life-support services upon which human... More »
Causes of extinction Last Updated on 2014-06-13 19:39:40 Causes of extinction have prehistorically been dominated by natural earth processes such as geological transformation of the Earth's crust and major climatic oscillations, as well as species interactions; however, since the ascent of modern man during the Holocene, the causes of extinction have been dominated by the activities of humans. Rates of species extinction have increased rapidly since the early Holocene epoch, chiefly due to activities of humans; further acceleration of extinction rates began approximately 1600 AD, with the onset of accelerated human population growth and expanded scope of agriculture.  Natural causes of extinction are regarded as being an irrelevantly small fraction of present extinction events, but are important to understand for historical and academic context.  Darwin was the first to fully articulate the concepts of speciation and... More »