Controversial environmental issues

Controversial environmental issues might as well include them all.

Each of the environmental challenges explained on Ask Alloporus from the global effects of climate change, world population growth, food security and land management, to the local consequences of a stream polluted by a single small factory, is controversial simply because we all see the world differently. 

Some of us will see great opportunity in the natural capital that the environment presents whilst others see nature as delivering vital services to mankind that must be conserved and protected.

Others may not consider the environment at all.

Once there is a difference of opinion the environment itself is a controversial environmental issues, because humans invest their values in it, and values compete.

The photograph above was taken in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, one of the world’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries and a fascinating oddity, being an inland delta where water from a sizeable river does not drain to the sea but spreads out across the land.

Ask around and these are some of the things you might hear from those who have been lucky enough to visit this wonder of nature...

  • As a wilderness area it is essential that we limit the number of visitors and have no go areas otherwise the essence of wildernesses lost, worst it is lost forever.
  • I cannot imagine a more peaceful place to visit, it was enough to sit in the shade and listen to the birds.
  • It was good. We saw elephants, lions and a hippo. No buffalo though even though the brochure said there would be buffalo.
  • It was 3 ½ spirals with a span of nearly 2 m so I was pretty pleased about it. My father had hunted here back in the 70s and his two kudu bulls were far smaller, so I guess the Delta still has it.
  • It is harder now to collect the thatched grass. We must walk further into the bush and there are many lions. We are frightened.
  • It’s not fair that the wild animals eat all the grass that should be for our animals. And when we want to hunt we must have a license. This is bad. Must I let our children starve while the lions get fat.
  • There is no doubt that the buffalo can be a source of cattle disease so it is becoming harder to keep wildlife and livestock far enough apart to meet the export regulations required by our export markets.
  • It is a criminal waste to see all that water just evaporate into the sky when irrigated crops could feed the nation.
  • As the member for this district it is my job to represent all the views of the people to the Parliament and we must see development here to create jobs and support health and education services.

Just about everywhere you will find such a wide range of views represented — usually all at once and each one delivered with great passion.

one of Africa's great wildlife sanctuaries, the Okavango Delta in Botswana floods annually in the dry season as water arrives from summer rainfall in Angola

What causes controversial environmental issues?

Controversy comes about because the views of all these people — anyone with a stake in the place or what it can deliver — will differ.

People are always invested in their own needs and wants and for a place like the Okavango this could mean anything from hunting for sort to hunting for subsistence and using the water to grow crops; or just to let ot all be natural. 

It boils down to how we define natural capital [what the environment has to offer in the way of goods and services] and then what to do with it.

At its crudest, keeping a wilderness without generating income is unacceptable to local people who have no job or land to feed their families.

Shooting a kudu bull just  to hang its head on a wall is unacceptable to most modern eco-tourists.

Using some of the water for irrigation outside of the Wilderness area might sound sensible, but is still controversial — will the removal of water affect natural flooding regime that gives this place its character and its wildlife?

  • keep off         
  • use it or perish

Whenever preservation butts exploitation there are controversial environmental issues.

In the end it is actually about money.  Who makes it, and what they do to the environment in the process.




› controversial environmental issues


Confused Confucius spurned the monastic life for the world of work, moral conundrums and mobile devices. His sayings, questions and incongruous idioms on the environment and modern life bring delight and bafflement in equal measure...  check out more Confused Confucius sayings.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.
controversial environmental issues | giraffe in the Okavango delta Botswana

wildlife such as this giraffe in the Okavango Delta, Botswana will always be on the list of controversial environmental issues where there is competition with people for land and grazing


Recent Articles

  1. Global environmental issues

    Jul 26, 15 07:19 AM

    Global environmental issues fall into three broad categories based on the extent of their effects. Thinking this way helps us to know when the issue is real.

    Read More

  2. GFC | many routes to environmental issues

    Jul 26, 15 06:59 AM

    The GFC hit hard and fast, reverberating through economies everywhere. There are a number of ways that this impact fuelled environmental issues.

    Read More

  3. Fracking | A classic environmental issue

    Jul 26, 15 05:47 AM

    Fracking is drilling and injection of liquid to fracture deep rock layers and release natural gas. It is similar to drilling for oil but far more controversial — find out why.

    Read More