11 Facts About the Environment That Might Surprise You

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With the human impact on the environment meeting a critical point, how much do you know about the effect we have on the world we live in? 

What threats does climate change pose? Can recycling make a difference? What’s the true extent of plastic pollution?

Climate change is happening at an alarming rate, threatening our very survival. Keep reading to learn 15 facts about human impact on the environment – and what you can do to help. 

15 facts about the environment that might surprise you

The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050 

Human population growth is one of the leading causes of environmental problems

In addition to being unsustainable, this growth also puts pressure on natural resources like food and water. It increases air and noise pollution, requires more space for housing and basic amenities, and through all of this continues to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. 

We use more than 80% of the Earth’s freshwater supply

However, we only get about 10% of that water from rainfall. 

Most of the rest comes from rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers. Groundwater supplies 25% of all freshwater used in the US.

However, groundwater tables have been falling worldwide for decades because of overuse and drought-like conditions. Groundwater withdrawal directly affects surface water sources that themselves are already strained.

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Agriculture contributes significantly to global warming

As humans continue to need more land for agriculture, they take up more room for farming and displace wildlife, leading to deforestation, soil erosion, and increased use of harmful pesticides. All of this contributes to drastic effects on our planet, including global warming. 

Crops are grown intensively, increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide fertilizes plants making them grow faster and bigger. This then adds more greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.

As farming becomes less efficient, green methods become more important. Greenhouses consume large amounts of energy. Livestock production consumes large areas of land and depletes topsoil. Waste products create pollution.

Factory farms produce vast quantities of manure. Manure management is inadequate or not practiced at all. Farms cause earthquakes as buildings are built on unstable soils.

In the same vein, aquaculture (the farming of fish) serves as a major contributor to ocean pollution. A lot of waste escapes into waterways during capture and when farmers dispose of their catch. Fish waste decomposes slowly and poisons aquatic ecosystems.

Ocean acidification occurs because of increased carbon dioxide emissions 

These emissions, released from human activities, lead to the process of ocean acidification

This leads to lower pH levels and threatens coral reefs, shellfish, and plankton ecosystems. It can also cause coral bleaching and in general, tends to destabilize vulnerable ocean habitats. 

Water shortages are becoming increasingly common. 

Some countries are using up their underground water reserves. Others are drilling new wells for drinking water, but this takes a long time to produce results.

Water conservation should be made compulsory. Drip irrigation is one way to save water without reducing crop yield. Crops waste less water than traditional sprinkler methods. Rain barrels are another simple method of saving water.

Rain barrels work because they force rainwater away from the house instead of allowing it to pool around the foundation, where it becomes wasted water. They can hold 5 gallons of water which usually lasts a family of four almost two weeks.

Food production contributes significantly to deforestation

Farms take up large areas of land and create massive amounts of waste. To grow enough food to feed the growing population, building a sustainable ecosystem is crucial. Land use needs to be changed, or the population will suffer from hunger.

One solution would be to develop vertical farms (greenhouses on buildings). Vertical farms are built on top of tall buildings. They reduce emissions, increase food security and improve health.

Another solution would be to expand into space. Space exploration allows us to live better off the Earth. Farming activities such as crop farming and livestock grazing take place at great distances from cities. Exploring space creates jobs, reduces pollution, and improves society.

Most plastics leak chemicals into the ocean

Plastic leakage causes environmental damage and harms wildlife. 

Plastics don’t biodegrade quickly and often end up in landfills or littering the streets, and ocean currents can cause discarded plastics to travel huge distances. 

Large and microplastics cause significant harm to marine life. 

Many species ingest the plastic thinking it’s food and become ill or even die. Others get caught inside larger plastic items. 

Nuclear power remains dangerous

Even though nuclear reactors produce almost none of the harmful emissions other forms of power generation do, they still pose a risk to health and safety — the radioactive material released slowly throughout hundreds of years. 

Natural disasters can expose people living near a plant to radiation, which can result in radiation sickness, cancer, and even death. 

Of the 4.06 billion hectares of forest cover, only 5% of this exists in China

Forest coverage in China declined from 29% in 1990 to just 8% in 2009, and although China has banned logging in some regions, the country continues to lose forest cover every year. 

There are now more cars in China than trees. Urbanization means that more people are moving away from nature and towards cities. This leads to less oxygen being produced and higher carbon dioxide concentrations.

One of the biggest threats to species preservation is habitat loss 

Over half of the Earth’s land mammals live in Asia. Yet, only 3% of Asian forests remain standing. 

Habitat destruction poses a threat to biodiversity – as habitats disappear, so does the ecosystem.

Animals move toward urban centers because of food, water, shelter, and resources. Humans continue to cause mass extinction by destroying natural environments. Climate change also plays a role in the endangerment of species, as species that cannot adapt to changing conditions may become extinct.

There are over 7 million tons of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean 

In 2015, we created about 251 billion pounds of plastic. 

By 2050, scientists project plastic production could increase by 566%.

We need to consume less plastic if we want to see any improvement in the state of our oceans. 

If everyone stopped using plastic for one day, it would decrease the amount of plastic in the ocean by about one-fifth. It’s time to start reducing single-use plastic and promoting reusable alternatives.

You can make a difference today with Aspiration

Here at Aspiration, we believe that everybody has the power to make a positive change to protect our environment from the harmful effects of climate change. 

We offer a range of sustainable financial products including our carbon-neutral Aspiration Zero credit card. For every swipe of your card, we’ll plant a tree on your behalf to help restore the world’s forests and reduce global carbon dioxide levels. 

To apply for Aspiration Zero or to find out more, visit Aspiration today!

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