What will the planet look like in the future? What are the social, environmental, economic, and political implications? What is the role of governance? How will civil society respond to the challenges? These are just some of the many questions that dominate the field of interdisciplinary environmental studies in the face of a rapidly changing environment. Undoubtedly, the physical environment has undergone significant, natural changes throughout the history of the Earth. However, recently, with the explosion of human populations and the accompanying needs and demands, the rate of change and the magnitude of impacts have become worrisome and it is becoming increasingly evident that human activities are the driving force behind the changes that are taking place today. Whether it is food and shelter demands, our appetite for consumption or an addiction to fossil fuels, the accompanying consequences such as species extinction, deforestation, massive oil spills, retreating glaciers, environmental injustices, a diminishing ozone layer, conflicts over increasingly scarcer resources, droughts, floods, etc., demonstrate that our global environment is being pushed to its limits and vulnerable populations are already feeling the consequences of a changing environment. Will technological innovation and ingenuity coupled with increasing awareness and concern be enough to transform societies into more sustainable models of consumption and production?
Steam Explosions, Earthquakes, and Volcanic
Eruptions—What’s in Yellowstone’s Future?
Yellowstone, one of the world’s...
Human population explosionLast Updated on 2014-02-26 17:23:15
Approximately 7.2 billion humans inhabited the Earth in year 2013. By comparison, there might be 500,000 elephants of different kinds, 200,000 chimpanzees, 100,000 gorillas, 20,000 polar bears, 3,000 tigers, 2,000 giant pandas and 200 California condors. Notably, the human population has grown about ten-fold over the past 300 years and nearly four-fold in just the last century. This monumental historical development has profoundly changed the relationship of our species to its natural support systems and has greatly intensified our environmental impact, particularly regarding species extinctions. Equally amazing are the signs that, in our generation, the human population explosion is abating (Figure 1; note that, here and below, many of the values given are estimates and, after the year 2005, projections). Our numbers are expected to rise by another 50%... More »
The North American MosaicLast Updated on 2013-10-24 15:12:08
An Overview of Key Environmental Issues
The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation obliges the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to “periodically address the state of the environment in the territories of the Parties.” To meet this obligation, the Secretariat has developed this report—The North American Mosaic: An Overview of Key Environmental Issues—with the support of environmental reporting experts from the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States.
This report describes a wide variety of environmental trends and conditions across North America. The breadth and diversity of the subject are astounding: from tiny invasive zebra mussels to global greenhouse gases measured by the teragram; from the last remaining vaquita porpoises to vast expanses of boreal forests and marine ecosystems; from invisible... More »
Vertical farmingLast Updated on 2013-10-24 00:26:41
The advent of agriculture ushered in an unprecedented increase in the human population and their domesticated animals. Farming catalyzed the transformation of hunter-gatherers into urban dwellers. Today, over 800 million hectares is committed to agriculture, or about 38% of the total landmass of the Earth. Farming has re-arranged the landscape in favor of cultivated fields and herds of cattle, and has occurred at the expense of natural ecozones, reducing most of them to fragmented, semi-functional units, while completely eliminating others. Undeniably, a reliable food supply has allowed for a healthier life style for most of the civilized world, while the very act of farming has created new health hazards.
For example, the transmission of numerous infectious disease agents - avian influenza, rabies, yellow fever, dengue fever, malaria, trypanosomiasis, hookworm,... More »
Changes in the Landscape of Arctic Traditional FoodLast Updated on 2013-10-21 23:45:06
This article, written by Tim Lougheed*, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The article is a verbatim version of the original and is not available for edits or additions by Encyclopedia of Earth editors or authors. Companion articles on the same topic that are editable may exist within the Encyclopedia of Earth.
The Changing Landscape of
Arctic Traditional Food
The earliest European explorers seeking a northwest passage to Asia did not know what to make of the indigenous inhabitants they encountered in what is now Canada. In the 1500s, Martin Frobisher thought they were Asians and took a number as slaves; none survived more than a few weeks in captivity. Later adventurers acquired a profound respect for the knowledge that had enabled Inuit (“the... More »
Future changes in ultraviolet radiation in the ArcticLast Updated on 2013-09-13 23:21:38
This is Section 5.7 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
Lead Authors: Betsy Weatherhead, Aapo Tanskanen, Amy Stevermer; Contributing Authors: Signe Bech Andersen, Antti Arola, John Austin, Germar Bernhard, Howard Browman,Vitali Fioletov,Volker Grewe, Jay Herman, Weine Josefsson, Arve Kylling, Esko Kyrö, Anders Lindfors, Drew Shindell, Petteri Taalas, David Tarasick; Consulting Authors: Valery Dorokhov, Bjorn Johnsen, Jussi Kaurola, Rigel Kivi, Nikolay Krotkov, Kaisa Lakkala, Jacqueline Lenoble, David Sliney
While there are early signs that the Montreal Protocol and its amendments are working, a return to normal ozone levels is not likely to occur for several decades. Scientists primarily concerned with chemical contributions may be interested in the earlier signs of ozone recovery (for example, a reduction in the downward trend in ozone levels), while those... More »
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