“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.”
Earl Nightingale, Entertainer
What Is Human-Environmental Interaction?
Human environment interaction can be defined as interaction between the human species with different local ecosystems. Human interventions can impose significant externalities on our ecological systems.
In many cases, human and environmental interests diverge and many profit-maximizing firms do not care too much about the destruction of ecosystems as long as they are able to make enough money.
Therefore, it is crucial to set strict regulations and to take additional measures so that human-environmental interactions and the implied adverse effects can be limited to a certain extent.
In this article, it is examined in detail how human interactions affect our environmental system and what measures we can take to mitigate the adverse consequences.
Examples of Human-Environmental Interaction
- Energy production
- Meat production
- Water supply and water pollution
- Illegal dumping
- Air pollution
- Resource extraction
Deforestation currently is a big environmental problem. Large areas of forest are cut or burned down in several parts of the world. The problem of deforestation is especially severe in the Amazon Rainforest where many trees are intentionally burned down by farmers who want to have more farming space since they can make more money with farming than with sustaining their forests.
Therefore, in areas where deforestation is a big issue, humans impose big negative externalities on many animals and plants which lose their natural habitats through this human-environmental interaction. Through the loss of habitats, many plant species will die and some which are already endangered may even become extinct.
Animals in the affected areas will have to leave and relocate to other areas that are not yet affected by human interventions. If these animals do not find a new habitat, they are also likely to die. Deforestation also contributes to the global warming issue.
Since trees are a natural storage space for greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, deforestation leads to the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere which in turn speeds up the global warming process.
Therefore, the human environment interaction of deforestation can lead to significant adverse effects on our environmental system.
In order to be able to meet the demand for fish worldwide, large amounts of fish have to be caught every day. This leads some fish species to become endangered. In the last decades, the fish populations of some fishes declined in a dramatic way due to overfishing practices since there had been lax fishing limits.
Human-environment interactions regarding fishing practices may lead to the extinction of some fish species if we do not protect them more efficiently. If the fish population is decreased too much, we are likely to lose an important food source.
Moreover, since the marine ecosystems are quite complex, overfishing may also lead to several other adverse effects. All marine life is connected to each other. For example, if the population of fishes decreases, other populations will increase in numbers. This increase may lead to an ecological imbalance and the overall effects are hard to predict.
Mining is another example of human-environment interactions. Since mining often requires large areas of land, it can destroy the habitat for many animals and plants. While many plants may die off, animals may have to relocate to new habitats.
Moreover, mining can also lead to several kinds of pollution. Since in the mining process, precious metals have to be extracted and have to be separated from useless by-products, this separation is often done with toxic substances.
For example, in some poor countries in Africa, there are children who use mercury to separate gold from dirt. However, these children often do not even wear any kind of protection like gloves. Thus, these children will suffer from severe health conditions and their life expectancy therefore will be quite low.
Mining can also lead to soil pollution if these harmful substances are not disposed in a proper way. Moreover, waste from mining activities is often disposed of into nearby forests or other natural places in order to avoid disposal costs, which also leads to adverse effects on ecosystems from this human environmental interaction.
Another interaction of humans with the environment is farming. Farming is quite important to humanity since it can be considered to be the biggest source of basic food supply. Without farming, we would not be able to buy bread or other crop products.
Moreover, we would also not be able to consume meat since crops are also crucial to feed cattle. Although farming is crucial to meet the basic food demand, it can also have severe environmental effects.
Through the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, the soil can be polluted and the long-term fertility of fields can be reduced because of that. Moreover, many insects may die off due to the toxic ingredients of pesticides.
Through a feedback loop, this may in turn also hurt farmers in the long run since insects are crucial in the pollination process. If there are not enough insects, farmers will suffer from a substantial decline in crop yields and may therefore even lose their livelihood.
In our current age, energy is produced with a significant fraction of coal and other fossil resources. Another big fraction is energy from nuclear power plants, while only a small fraction comes from renewable green energy sources like wind.
Therefore, the production process of electricity implies the emission of large amounts of harmful gases, including greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane which in turn contributes to global warming.
Moreover, we have to get rid of nuclear waste somehow. This is often done by just disposing it into mines deep inside the ground. However, by doing so, we risk contamination of the surrounding areas for a quite long period of time.
Therefore, human-environmental interactions in the context of energy production can impose significant negative externalities on our ecological systems and may also lead to ecological degradation.
The production of meat also involves some human environmental interactions. Most of our meat comes from domesticated factory farming. Large numbers of animals are raised in order to meet worldwide meat demand.
However, factory farming often involves the use of excessive amounts of antibiotics in order to ensure the health of animals. This can lead to health problems for humans consuming meat from these animals since humans can get antibiotic-resistant.
Antibiotic resistance may lead to a state in which antibiotics will no longer work for certain diseases. Therefore, antibiotic resistance can become a big problem for humanity and may lead to high numbers of deaths.
Moreover, factory farming can also be seen as critical from an ethical perspective. The conditions under which animals in factory farming are raised are often quite bad. Animals do not have enough space and may therefore also suffer mentally.
Meat production is also quite bad for our climate since animals emit large amounts of harmful greenhouse gases like methane which in turn contributes to global warming.
Moreover, the production of meat can be regarded as quite inefficient since for one calorie of meat, multiple calories of plant material have to be used. Therefore, if we reduced our meat consumption, we would be able to feed a higher number of people.
Water supply and water pollution
Water is crucial for all living organisms on earth. Through human-environmental interactions, the water supply may become endangered. In many countries, industrial by-products are just disposed of in nearby nature areas since it is easier and cheaper to get rid of the waste compared to disposing of it in official disposal facilities.
This behavior leads to soil pollution and eventually also to water pollution since harmful substances will be washed through the soil in our groundwater. Moreover, through the emission of harmful gases in industrial processes, these harmful substances will come back to our planet in the form of acid rain which also can lead to water pollution.
Water is a precious substance that is often not valued enough in our society. Water will become much scarcer in the future due to global warming. In many regions of our planet, people will no longer be able to live due to water shortage since they will no longer be able to tilt their fields or to raise cattle without sufficient amounts of water.
Therefore, human environmental interactions can have significant effects on water supply which will become a big issue in the near future.
Littering is another form of human intervention with nature. People are often in a rush and just throw their garbage on the ground right where they stand. This can often be observed in the form of used cigarettes which are just disposed of on the ground. This behavior is quite harmful to our environmental system since it implies a significant level of soil pollution.
Moreover, if people dispose of their used cigarettes in forests or in natural areas which are quite dry, this may lead to wildfires. In fact, most of the wildfires are started through the uncareful disposal of flammable material each year. Therefore, littering can be a seen as kind of human-environmental interaction that can turn out in severe adverse effects for our ecological systems.
Illegal dumping is another big problem that is imposed by humans on our environment. This is especially true for poor developing countries where people often lack the money to dispose of their trash in a proper manner.
Moreover, in these countries, people often have plenty of other problems and do not consider proper waste disposal as a main priority. Additionally, many industries just dump their garbage into nearby rivers, forests, or lakes, where it can cause all kinds of pollution.
For example, by dumping trash into water bodies, many water organisms will be contaminated and will die off. Moreover, also the water will get polluted to a severe degree which can lead to several kinds of human health conditions in later stages.
Air pollution can come through human-environmental interactions in several ways. In our daily life, we quite frequently use our cars which leads to a significant amount of greenhouse gases which are emitted into the air. It also leads to particle pollution and the resulting adverse health effects.
Moreover, our air is polluted through many industrial processes. Air pollution also occurs due to the large transportation distances of goods which are shipped or carried by plane in order to reach our stores. This transportation involves the emission of significant amounts of harmful gases which in turn can contribute to the global warming issue.
The extraction of resources can be regarded as a human-environmental interaction which can lead to many adverse effects for all kinds of organisms. In the resource extraction process, large areas of land have to be used which leads to the destruction of habitats for many animals and plants.
Since plants are not able to relocate to other areas, they may die off. Animals have the possibility to relocate and find a new habitat, however, many of them may not be able to do so since they are not able to adapt to new circumstances and therefore may also die. Resource extraction also often involves the use of chemicals in order to be able to separate useful resources from useless gravel or other dirt.
If these chemicals are not disposed of properly after the extraction process has been finished, this may lead to significant soil pollution. Moreover, toxic substances many end up in the groundwater which may lead to severe health conditions for humans in later stages. Therefore, resource extraction can lead to a number of adverse effects if it is not done with great care.
Measures to Mitigate the Adverse Effects of Human Environmental Interactions
- Reforestation and afforestation
- Fishing limits
- Higher fines and better control of illegal dumping
- Worldwide greenhouse gas certificates
- Stop littering
- Reduce meat consumption
- Reduce your carbon footprint
- Reduce overall consumption level
- Convince others
Reforestation and afforestation
Since deforestation is a big issue to our environmental system in the current state, we can counter this problem through reforestation and afforestation. Planting trees is crucial to replace the trees that are cut down in large numbers.
If we are not able to replace the trees in appropriate numbers, we will experience several adverse effects. Therefore, governments and municipalities should make sure that they plant enough trees.
Moreover, there are several organizations that aim to plant as many trees as possible in order to mitigate the adverse effects of deforestation on our planet.
The most prominent example of these movements is the Trillion Tree Campaign. You can support this campaign by donating a tree for as low as one USD per tree. Therefore, everyone of us can make a contribution to reforestation, even with limited amounts of money.
Another important measure to mitigate the adverse effects resulting from human-environment interactions is to set strict fishing limits. In the past decades, the number of fishes declined in a dramatic way due to overfishing. There were just no or not strict enough fishing quotes present in the past.
We have to change this in order to ensure that the stock of fishes is able to recover. Only by doing so, we can ensure the supply with enough fishes for future generations.
A loss of fish as food source would result in severe issues since many people rely on fishing as a single source of income and would therefore be hit in a dramatic way if fishing would no longer be an option in the future.
Therefore, setting strict fishing limits is crucial to ensure the recovery of populations and thus to ensure our supply with fish as a food source.
Higher fines and better control of illegal dumping
Illegal dumping is a big problem, especially in many developing countries where control mechanisms are not sufficient and fines are rather low. To take the incentives from industries for illegal dumping, the fines for illegal dumping have to be increased significantly.
Additionally, governments or municipalities have to make sure that there are better controlling instances. By doing so, industries will lose the incentive for illegal dumping since they have to fear high fines and will therefore be more eager to dispose of their trash on official waste disposal sites.
Worldwide greenhouse gas certificates
Since global warming is a big issue which is significantly enhanced through human behavior, we have to price greenhouse gas emission in order to give industries an incentive to reduce their greenhouse gas emission.
As long as the price for carbon dioxide emission is zero or quite low, industries will not care at all and continue to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.
If there are greenhouse gas certificates that have to be bought at a high price, industries are likely to adjust their production since they now would have an incentive to decrease their emission levels.
Therefore, greenhouse gas certificates are crucial to mitigate the global warming issue.
Littering can lead to soil pollution and several other kinds of environmental issues like wildfires. In order to prevent littering, we have to show people how damaging littering can be for our environmental system.
You can also make a contribution to a cleaner environment by simply using trash bins to dispose of your trash instead of just throwing it on the ground right where you stand.
With this small effort, you can make your contribution to mitigate littering and the environmental issues related to it.
Reduce meat consumption
You can also contribute to enhance your environmental footprint by reducing your meat consumption. Especially in our Western world, large amounts of meat are consumed on a daily basis. This leads to several kinds of environmental problems, including soil pollution and global warming.
Moreover, too much meat is also harmful to your health since it can lead to a number of serious diseases. Therefore, you can improve your ecological footprint and also increase your health level by reducing your meat consumption.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Through the use of cars, we emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases. The emission of carbon dioxide in turn contributes to the global warming problem. Therefore, in order to mitigate global warming and the related adverse effects, we have to take measures to reduce our greenhouse gas emission.
Switching from cars to public transport you can take on a daily basis. Moreover, you can walk short distances in order to save additional carbon dioxide and thus to reduce the adverse impact from human-environmental interactions.
Reduce overall consumption level
Since the industrial revolution period, our consumption levels skyrocketed since material goods became quite cheap due to mass production and the resulting low unit price.
However, this development also leads to a significant increase in several kinds of emissions from production processes. In order to mitigate these kinds of pollution, we should lower our consumption levels.
Education is key to change the behavior of people. This education should start pretty early in school or even preschool. We have to show children how our actions affect our environmental system.
By doing so, children will become aware and will take measures to mitigate their adverse impact on the environment. Moreover, they are also likely to convince their parents to be more environmentally-friendly.
Your contribution is a first important step! However, in order to multiply your positive impact on our environment, you also have to convince your family, friends and as many other people as possible about the importance of saving our planet. Only then will it be possible to mitigate our biggest environmental problems.
To understand human-environmental-interactions is crucial since humans impose several adverse effects on our environmental system. By understanding these adverse effects, we can take countermeasures in order to mitigate our adverse impact.
There are several tasks that you can make every day to improve your ecological footprint. By convincing others, you can multiply your positive effect on our planet.
Since we only have one earth, it is crucial that we take suitable measures and that everyone makes his or her contribution in order to secure a livable future for the next generations.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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