All countries want to grow – the more the better. Economic growth is a desirable goal for all of society, since it is one of the fundamental elements by which to achieve economic development and, therefore, the increase of the life capacity of citizens.
However, the continued search for economic growth does not always have positive effects on society as a whole. Pollution, overexploitation and even depletion of natural resources are some of the drawbacks that economic growth can cause. As is logical, this has a negative impact on the quality of life of citizens.
The causes behind environmental problems
The environmental problems derived from sustained economic growth over time are several. Currently, a large part of these are mainly due to four factors:
- The models of consumption and industrial production that are used both in the most developed countries and in the developing countries, in which economic growth prevails over the environmental consequences of it.
- The increase of the world population during the last centuries, which has gone from one billion inhabitants in the nineteenth century to seven billion today. As a consequence, the demand for food and goods has increased, which has generated a depletion of resources.
- The lack of sensitivity and knowledge about the pernicious consequences of the degradation of the environment that surrounds us. Society as a whole is not aware of the direct relationship between the loss of environmental heritage and the economic and social impairment that this implies in the medium and long term.
- Various governments have stopped doing and have not adopted comprehensive measures of importance to address major environmental problems.
As we will see below, the interaction of these four variables has resulted in a series of environmental problems of major importance in society.
Main environmental problems that society has to face
There are five environmental consequences derived from the factors described above: pollution, the greenhouse effect and global warming, the reduction of the ozone layer, the loss of biological diversity and acid rain.
- Pollution. We define this as any type of alteration, whether physical, chemical or biological, of air, water or soil that produces damage to the living organisms that inhabit these environments. The main causes of pollution are the indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers, the fumes of uncontrolled gases from industries, domestic heating and the car park, and industrial waste and residues from large cities.
- The concentration of polluting gases is causing a progressive warming of the earth. According to an important nucleus of the scientific community, human action is behind this warming. Climate change is a consequence of global warming and manifests itself in phenomena such as desertification, the melting of glaciers, sea level rise and extreme weather events such as cold and heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, etc.
- Most of the ultraviolet radiation harmful to living beings is absorbed by the ozone layer. The problem is that in recent years it has deteriorated considerably, which seriously affects the health of human beings, plant growth and the basic forms of aquatic life.
- In recent decades ,the extinction of animal and plant species is dangerously accelerating. The destruction of their habitats and pollution are the two main causes of this phenomenon. The consequences can be disastrous for the future evolution of humanity because flora and fauna are sources of food and medicines for human beings.
- It takes place when the rain drags the sulfur dioxide and the nitric acid on the earth, substances that are produced by the combustion of coal and petroleum and its derivatives.Its consequences are the contamination of waters and soils, the destruction of vegetation and the deterioration of buildings
Fortunately, we are still in time to put an end to these environmental problems.
The solution for sustainable development
It is clear that these environmental problems must be solved and this solution will most likely go through sustainable development.
Sustainable development is defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. That is to say, sustainable development calls for growth today that does not condemn future generations to worse economic and environmental conditions than the current ones.
To achieve this, at the international level there have been several political movements. For example, in 1997, the famous Kyoto Protocol was signed, where a significant number of industrialized countries committed themselves to reducing their polluting emissions as of 2005.
However, the application of this protocol has been very problematic due to the fact that two major world powers, the United States and China, did not sign it, fearing that it could have a negative impact on their economies. However, in 2014 these countries reached an agreement to also reduce their emissions of polluting gases as of 2030.