Cities are overcrowded. Vehicles pile up on narrow streets and squelch thick black smoke into the air. Close proximities limit personal space and hygiene, and allow viruses to fester. With so little space to settle, people resort to living in places unfit for residency, tainting rivers dark, and littering our streets with poverty. These are just some of the problems that overpopulation inflicts on our fragile environment.
Population on Earth is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030. A growing population entails increased human activity with expanding interests and demands. Providing for these needs will require the production and shipment of goods which will increase carbon dioxide emission—and that’s only the beginning.
To keep up with the consistent rise in demand, we will need to figure out more ways to satisfy people’s needs. This will lead to extracting natural resources that are already decreasing drastically. Abusing these resources could result in a complete depletion of not only these resources, but the destruction of the ecosystem to boot.
As humans, we sometimes feel entitled to claim things that are not rightfully ours. This has been evident through history, with ambitious conquerors, ruthless dictators, and ridiculous arbitration cases threatening the peace. People are naturally selfish. It is normal to live putting your interests first before anyone else’s. In contrast, it takes great consideration to appreciate or even give back to people who have gone out of their way to help you.
In the same way we so easily push people aside, we’ve failed to acknowledge the suffering our planet has been going through. At the same time, we’ve also failed to realize that our ignorance is worsening the problem, creating tiny issues that will expand into gaping holes that future generations will have to resolve.
For now, it may seem like environmental issues do not impose immediate threats to society, but it’s only a matter of time before we feel the effects. One example is the ever-changing, erratic weather—unexpected rainstorms during the dry season cause floods on coastal cities around the world. Climate change is the primary suspect, but though originally identified as natural phenomena, an increase in carbon dioxide in the 1960s caused it to become an unnatural threat. Climate change is now seen as normal precipitation patterns that change due to increasing heat in the atmosphere. It warms our oceans, and is also the cause of stronger typhoons, longer droughts, powerful heatwaves, and eventually, longer frost-free seasons.
To make things worse about the imposing threat of climate change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claims that we have already surpassed the highest levels of acceptable carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—the ‘point of no return’, as scientists call it. This means that CO2 levels will stay above the recorded 400 ppm (parts per million) threshold permanently.
In line with the recently recorded CO2 threshold, NASA reported August 2016 as the hottest month since 1880. The hottest months before were recorded within ten years of it. Is it safe, (or rather, dangerous) to assume that the Earth can only get hotter from here? Permanent high concentrations of CO2 gasses could dangerously affect ecosystems. The Great Barrier Reef, whose lifespan boasted 25 million years of diverse marine life, was recently announced dead due to coral bleaching. Once known as the Earth’s largest living organism, it is terrifying to imagine what the future Earth’s oceans will look like after the immeasurable loss of species of fish and mammals dependent on it.
Rises in temperatures also affect the coldest parts of the globe, including Greenland, Arctic, and Antarctica. Melting ice leads to higher sea levels, which expand our oceans, submerge small islands, and wipe out coastal cities. Now, the sea level is rising at an annual rate of 0.32 inches—twice the average from 80 years ago. Majors cities like Miami, New York, Mumbai, and Shanghai are expected to sink if CO2 levels continue to rise.
Climate change is deteriorating our environment rapidly. We are the root cause of the problem, but also hold the key to preventing catastrophes. CO2 levels will not drop immediately, but we can still stop them from increasing. To do so, however, the world has to effectively remove activities like burning fossil fuels to lessen harmful emissions.
The United Nations’ (UN’s) Paris Agreement was entered into force in 2016, and aims to limit the rise of global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. This agreement is also key to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which is to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.” As ordinary citizens, we may feel insignificant to this great cause, but I strongly believe that this issue can thrive from individual volunteerism. Joining organizations committed to helping the environment can be more effective and cost efficient if we act together.
Global warming is a serious issue. We have already reached the ‘point of no return’, but this is not reason enough to give up. Though seemingly hopeless, scientists still believe that preventive action can preserve our planet and aid in helping us rebuild it.
We must remember that we need the Earth more than it needs us. The Earth was filled with lush forests and clear waters until humans came to exploit and dirty it. We have abused our planet long enough.