Environmental stress is the pressure exerted by human interventions and natural events on the delicate components of the environment. It describes the pressure to co-exist and maintain balance in the context of the ever-increasing demands and damages that derails the natural balance. Given the extreme consumption patterns of the humans, it is prudent to assume that humans are the main culprits of environmental stress, which is seen in many different ways. This article will look at some instances of human mediated environmental stress and some of the natural phenomena which exaggerate the already weakened environmental balance.
The exponential population growth of humans, which surpassed the 7 billion mark in the year 2012, points towards an over consumption of the earth’s natural resources in the next few decades. However, it is not necessarily the number of people that puts pressure on the environment, but the over-consuming nature of humans that may break the natural balance. For instance, 5% of the world’s population, which inhabits the USA, consumes around 40% of the natural resources of the world. However, the poorest 5% of the world’s population does not even contribute significantly towards consuming any natural resources, including foods, oil, gas…etc. While industrial growth in the Asian region will shift the balance in the next few decades, the over consuming nature of humans will exert more and more pressure on the environment in the time to come.
With the industrial growth, humans make use of land for many developmental activities without considering the long-term impact that it may have on the natural balance. Loss of forest cover, soil erosion, depletion of ecosystems that contribute towards the natural balance, as well as depletion in the inland water ways are some of the negative effects of such developmental activities that will put the environment under enormous pressure.
Burning fossil fuel can also put an enormous amount of pressure on the environment and the drastic measures that are taken by humans in order to maintain a continuous supply has undone billions of years of natural effort. The carbon dioxide added to the environment can also cause a ‘green house effect’ where unusual hot temperatures are created within the atmosphere that can throw the balance of almost all natural cycles that provides sustainability to the environment. Acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer and changes in the world climate leading to adverse weather patterns are some of the effects seen even at present.
The most notable effects of environmental stress can be seen when diverse ecosystems, such as coral reefs and wetland ecosystems, deplete under the severe stress that they face when sustaining life resulting from environmental pollution and toxicity. However, certain natural events such as droughts, can also have a detrimental impact on the environment, which could lead to the effects described earlier.
When looking at the potential causes of environmental stress and the effects that it is having on the natural balance, it is apparent that the earth may not be able to sustain itself for much longer. Therefore, it is time to act and relieve the environment from its pressures, at least to the level where the natural resources are given the necessary time to regain what has been depleted.