Humans and the Natural Environment: The Future of Our Planet (Our Fragile Planet)

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It has taken three billion years of evolution to create this massive diversity of life forms around us. Nature played a coy role, slowly tinkering with the genes, chipping away unfit members of each species and creating new ones. Today there are an estimated million species on our planet [3] , many of whom we dont even know about!

Through the last two billion years of evolution, life which by itself seems like a chemical reaction gone horribly out-of-control has found ways to creep into the nook and corners of our planet. Life is found in the frosts of the northern Arctic to the hot Saharan deserts, from the depths of the oceans to the highest mountains. Life has found ways to exist even in the Mariana trench , where the pressure of the water above is equivalent to 50 jumbo jets piled onto your body!

Despite this gigantic spread of life on our planet, it is quite troubling when one finds absolutely no evidence of life for light-years around us! It makes one realize what a precious treasure our planet holds and how careful we must be to conserve the diversity of life on our planet. If we think of geological time as one calendar year, with the earth being born in January, we could calculate life to have arisen sometime in May.

See a Problem?

Mankind came into existence in the last 7 minutes of December 31st, and the Industrial Age began only 3 seconds before the clock struck midnight! We have also managed to blast mountains upon mountains for minerals, stones and granite, clear up swathes of forestland, fill our atmosphere with radiation-trapping gases and render countless animals and plants extinct , spiking up the rate of extinction to times higher than the natural rate [6]. Thanks to the most intelligent creature that ever walked on the surface of the earth, Earth has become even more fragile What are the causes of this high extinction rate being seen today?

The foremost reason is the increase in human population. Reduced infant mortality, increased longevity and technological advancements in almost every field led to a population explosion , that put additional pressure on our natural resources. But we also cannot deny the fact that as a civilization, we have been greedy and irresponsible. We chopped down rainforests for making chocolates , without regards to its consequences.

How to Save Our Planet

Human activity since the Industrial Revolution has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Climate change coupled with habitat destruction has rung a death knell for species since s [10]. This number, however, represents only the documented extinctions; the upper bound of this number is 1,40, species per year! A large percentage of the Indian population also depends on locally found flora and fauna for economic sustenance [15]. Thus, loss of biodiversity will not only perturb existing natural interactions but also impact the sources of livelihood of millions of Indians.

In addition, the traditional knowledge associated with the species such as medicinal uses, economic importance and cultural practices will be severely affected. What kind of traditional knowledge will get lost? Think about the all the stories about gods and goddesses your grandmothers told you - the story of how Lord Ganesha got his elephant head or why leaves of the Shami plant are given as good luck during Dussehra.

Do you know or remember enough such stories to tell your children and your grandchildren?

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Humans – the real threat to life on Earth | Environment | The Guardian

Think about all the herbal extracts and home-made remedies your mom made when you were sick. Imagine the various leaves and herbs your mom and grandmother used in their delightful recipes.


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Do you think you will be able to use them in another 50 years, when the habitats where these plants grew naturally are no longer existent? Numerous communities across India - like the Bishnois of Rajasthan and the tribals of Uttarakhand - have several interesting cultural practices intricately associated with local biodiversity. What would happen to the culture of these communities?

Are you aware of the myriad facets of nature, the beauty of the hills, the serenity of the riverside, the feeling of sitting in lush meadows the way your father and grandfather were? Most of us urbanites in India are disturbingly disconnected with nature. And with the natural habitats on their way to becoming extinct, and the growing urbanization within India, these experiences will soon be distant memories Every year, in the monsoons, we used to go out into the Western Ghats for treks.

The magnificent Sahyadris used to be lush green in the monsoons, with streams of freshwater rolling down the hills and the moist air brushing against our skins. Even today you can go for hikes and treks and experience the majesty of the mountains. But everyone realizes that pristine natural areas are rapidly on the decline.

There are developments like Lavasa in eco-sensitive areas. Development in the present form is unsustainable and harmful for the life and soul of the planet. Tropical forests and tropical oceans are amongst the richest biodiversity zones on earth. It is estimated that two-thirds of the biodiversity of earth is present in tropical regions.

But as per studies and available data, tropical forests are depleting at the rate of 0.

THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY IS CLOSING

Although tropical forests and oceans are resources for umpteen other natural products but a single input oxygen alone shows the immense importance of these habitats in survival of most of the life forms on earth. Huge loss in avian, reptilian and amphibian biodiversity is also clearly visible. The major reasons for decline in biodiversity are loss of habitat, anthropogenic activities such as release of dangerous synthetic pollutants, increase in concentration of green house gases resulting in global warming and climate change, overexploitation of natural resources, spread of diseases and invasive species due to human interference.

Because of their ability to adapt metabolically and genetically to almost any conditions on the planet, microbes are present in every corner of the earth and are considered as the building blocks of the ecosystems. These little creatures which mainly include bacteria and fungi are by and large responsible for biological cycling of nutrients, biodegradation of wastes natural or human generated , providing various vital services to plants and animals apart from being most commonly exploited as biological tools in industries.

Hence it is important to study the diversity of these organisms in different habitats and ecosystems. However, it is almost impossible to estimate the diversity of microbes by present tools and techniques. It is even more difficult to determine or estimate the microbial species which have got extinct from the ecosystems.

Environmental News

Some recent studies suggest that population of very important microbes such as symbiotic nitrogen fixing rhizobial species have declined drastically from the soils where chemical pesticides are being used continuously, as observable by decline in nodulation in legume crops. Similarly lichens are becoming extinct with increase in pollution levels of air and soil. Decline in soil organic matter also results in loss of microbial diversity. These are just a few visible examples of decline in population of useful microorganisms from ecosystems.

Microorganisms are important to maintain the sustainability of the habitats and environment as whole, thus it becomes imperative to conserve the microbial diversity of the ecosystems. Environmental sustainability index is in direct relation to the biological diversity. Hence there is an urgent need to protect the diversity so as to sustain the life on earth. Biodiversity conservation should be the top priority of all the nations.

Although several protocols, regulations and agreements have been framed but still the targets have not been achieved. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the steps required to protect it. Its main goal is to provide forum and networking for the governments, non-government organizations, businesses, scientists and individuals throughout the globe to work for conservation of biodiversity, and achieve targets of sustainable development.

Addressing concerns that national boundaries are an artificial way of dividing up the world's resources, Leape says: "It's another way of reminding ourselves we're living beyond our means.

A person's footprint ranges vastly across the globe, from eight or more "global hectares" 20 acres or more for the biggest consumers in the United Arab Emirates, the US, Kuwait and Denmark, to half a hectare in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Afghanistan and Malawi. The global average consumption was 2. The UK, with an average footprint of about 5. Topics Climate change.

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