American Consumerism and the Global Environment
Our Environment

In any newspapers you read today, it is apparent that the condition of the global environment is abysmal. While global warming is probably the first environmental issue that comes to mind, there is also deforestation, pollution, water depletion, a possibility of grain and water shortages, and much more. Many people believe that these issues are not serious. Some of those who believe that they are still believe that they will fix themselves over time. This is not that case. People all over the world have been using resources at such a fast rate, that the resources have no time to replenish themselves. As for not being a serious issue: if the current levels of environmental destruction continue, the basic life-sustaining qualities of this planet will collapse.
Since the mid-1900s alone, more of nature has been destroyed than in all prior history, and the 5 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. People have used more of the earth’s natural resources since 1955 than in all of human history combined. What is happening to people? Do we not see our environment weakening? If people continue to destroy the environment at this rate, scientists predict that the North Pole’s ice cap could nearly disappear in the next few years. Yet still people pollute water with factories, wash away top soil to build malls, and destroy forests, possibly one of the most harmful acts humans could do.

But aren’t they only trees? Can’t we plant more of them? This isn’t a big deal, right? Forests are homes to more than tress that can be replanted. They are an anchor for most terrestrial life on the planet and serve as critical habitat that shelters roughly 2/3 of the world's plant and animal species. They also protect and maintain healthy watersheds. When forests are cleared, erosion washes tons of soil into rivers and streams, making them unfit for human uses and aquatic life as well. Forests also play a vital role as "carbon sinks" which curb human impacts on global climate by absorbing excess carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. So because of deforestation, global ecosystems have been (and still are) in sharp decline. From 1970 to 1995 freshwater ecosystems declined by 50%, marine ecosystems by 30% and forests by 10%. Not only is terrestrial life affected, but aquatic life is as well. 51% of the freshwater animal species of the world have declined in number, and in the U.S. 40% of the waterways have been contaminated so that they are no longer drinkable.

Facts about the Global Environment:

  • 58% of the world's coral reefs and 1/3 of all fish species are at risk of extinction from human activities.
  • Fisheries are collapsing: 44% are being fished at their biological limit.
  • The overall rate of extinction is estimated to be 1,000-10,000 times higher than it would be naturally, and this number is increasing.
  • A recent survey found 1 in 4 vertebrate species are facing serious pressure from human activities.
  • 1 of every 8 known plant species is threatened with extinction or is nearly extinct.
  • 1 in 10 tree species (8,750 of the 80,000 to 100,000 tree species known to science) are threatened with extinction.