Environmental stressors are exceedingly complex agents that make impacts on a system through a variety of compounding mechanisms. Particular stressors exist within a continuum of environmental factors. These detrimental components interact with each other and generate perpetual feedbacks. The resulting exponential effects on the biosphere, often misunderstood or not calculated, at times remain hidden only to manifest when it’s profoundly too late.
This section will look at stressors that are now impacting our planet in irreversible and incontrovertible ways. Many of these identified stressors are currently posing a threat to the continuation of life on the planet. Additionally, there are still many as yet unidentified. In many ways it is becoming clear that “humanity is destroying the life support systems of the planet.” – Graham Saul
The Stockholm Resilience Center identifies 9 related boundaries to maintain in order to preserve the biosphere. In order to preserve life on the planet these boundaries must be maintained and not unduly stressed. However, we are now reaching critical stress levels that are approaching these boundaries and even surpassing what scientists commonly refer to as tipping points in our planetary and climate systems.
“Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen). Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries“. – Anthropocene.info
The stressors listed in this section are making large impacts on planetary boundaries and moving us beyond tipping points in many cases. Scientists have already said that we have surpassed the carbon tipping point for example. However, according to eminent climate scientist Michael Mann “‘we can still prevent many of the worst impacts of climate change from playing out”. Still others are saying we can maintain hope, as long as it’s wise hope. This also means we have to continue to take action, and stronger action at that. Each of these sections will list some actions you can take today on the individual level as well as attempt to discuss and address the larger big picture problems.
|Economic Growth||Among the myriad threats now facing humanity, our current economic system is a top culprit. It is an economy based on a form of capitalism often referred to as neoclassical or limitless growth economy.|
|Climate||Climate change is intensifying drought, storms, and floods around the world. Where nature has been destroyed by development, communities are at risk from these intensified climate patterns.|
|Population||The Project Drawdown analysis of available and workable policy measures to minimise global greenhouse gas emissions ranks family planning and educating girls among the top 10.|
|Forests||Deforestation is clearing Earth’s forests on a massive scale, often resulting in damage to the quality of the land.|
|Biodiversity||World Wildlife Foundation estimates 60% of global biodiversity loss results from clearing land for meat-based diets. Humans are a ‘force of Nature’. Our habits and preferences impact biodiversity immensely.|
|Soil||Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years.
In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected by other aspects of agriculture.
|Oceans||Human activities are threatening the health of the world’s oceans. More than 80 percent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities. From coral bleaching to sea level rise, entire marine ecosystems are rapidly changing.|
|Clean Water||Today fully one-sixth of the world’s human population lacks access to clean drinking water, and more than two million people—mostly kids—die each year from water-borne diseases. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) predicts that by 2025 one-third of all humans will face severe and chronic water shortages.|
|Atmosphere||Air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and methane raises the earth’s temperature. Another type of air pollution, smog, is then worsened by that increased heat.|
|Diet||The numbers don’t lie. Animal agriculture and meat consumption are significant contributors to climate change. Some are saying it’s now on track to be among the world’s biggest contributors to climate change.|
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