Humans & the Environment

  • Humans depend on the environment to get the resources that they need to live.

  • Humans have the ability to affect the environment in many different ways.

  • Construction, pollution, resource use, and preservation are just a few of the ways that human actions affect the environment.

Human Populations and Resources

Humans depend on renewable and nonrenewable resources for many things, including energy.
Renewable resources are resources that can be replaced by natural processes, over time. Renewable resources include wood, water, and wind. Sometimes renewable resources are used at a faster rate than they can be naturally replenished. For example, some species of fish are harvested at a faster rate than they can naturally replace themselves.
Nonrenewable resources have a finite quantity. This means that once they are removed from the Earth, they cannot be replaced. Nonrenewable resources include fossil fuels and minerals, such as gold and uranium.
As human populations increase, the amount of resources used by people will also increase. For this reason, it becomes more and more important to manage the Earth’s resources carefully because many of the resources available on the Earth are limited.
People can use technology and good decision making to guarantee that essential resources such asclean water are available and to conserve resources by reusing, reducing, and recycling.

Local, Regional, and Global Issues

Environmental issues can impact a small local area, a larger region, or they can impact people around the world.
The extinction of a small animal that only lives in a very small area would most likely be a local issue because it does not impact people outside of that small area. An oil spill in the ocean, on the other other hand, might have an impact on a larger region that includes multiple states or countries.
Some environmental issues are considered to be global. Ozone levels, greenhouse gases, air and ocean temperatures, and weather patterns are all parts of the environment that are connected to the whole world.

Examples of Environmental Issues

Construction & Habitat Destruction
When humans build houses or other buildings, the habitats of some animals and plants can be damaged. This reduces the number of plants and animals that can live in the habitats. Sometimes, so much of a plant or animal's habitat is damaged or destroyed that the organism becomes endangered or goes extinct.
A foreign substance is something that is not normally found in a particular location. Pollution is formed when foreign substances become dissolved in air, water, or soil.
Humans cause pollution in a variety of ways. For instance, when we burn fuel in our homes, cars, factories, and electrical power plants, we release foreign substances into the environment. When we farm and care for our lawns, chemical fertilizers and insecticides can become dissolved in water and travel to lakes, rivers, and streams. Humans also affect the environment when we throw away garbage. If our garbage is thrown away in the wrong place, the environment may be polluted, and wildlife and habitats can be hurt.
Conservation & Preservation
Humans can also have positive impacts on the environment. Conservation is the preservation and careful management of the environment and of natural resources. There are projects designed to replace forests that have been cut down for human use. Creating parks or other green spaces can also provide habitats for plants and animals. Recycling can help reduce the amount of resources humans use.
We can reduce the amount of pollution we produce by carefully cleaning wastewater from factories and water treatment plants before it is returned to the environment. Residents should find ways of reducing the harmful effects to the environment caused by chemicals used for farming and lawn care. This could be by using less harmful chemicals or using the chemicals in a more responsible way. Finally, we should work to find cleaner fuels to reduce the amount of air pollution.