Major environmental issues

Major environmental issues are plentiful. It seems that everything to do with the environment is an issue for someone. And in the way that only a world saturated with modern media can achieve, every issue has its own passionate advocates and naysayers each with an expert spot on a newscast.  

This makes real environmental issues hard to pick — and the scale really matters.

Imagine this situation. You come across an idyllic country cottage and it’s going for a song and you just have to buy it on an impulse because it would renovate beautifully.

What could possibly go wrong? Finance, builders, tradesmen, planning permission maybe, but surely nothing environmental…

  • Except you find out that the cottage has asbestos sheets in the roof of then that’s a major environmental issue.
  • So would be an unauthorized release of contaminated water from the fertilizer factory 10 miles up the valley when it ends up in the stream that runs by the cottage.
  • Climate change might affect the cottage if the steam has a wide floodplain or the valley is in a tornado zone, only floods and storms could happen either way.
  • All the issues to do with biodiversity conservation [biodiversity loss, invasive species, habitat loss] happen at the landscape scale and so there is not much you can do about them in and around your cottage. But you would notice them if you wanted to have bears in the backyard and spot rare birds on your afternoon walk.
  • Issues to do with the importance of agriculture or resource use [mining, waste management, etc...] probably don’t matter all that much if your cottage is a weekender or a place to retire to. Pension and investments will take care of any consequences of the environment failing around agriculture.

This cozy cottage is a great example of the NIMBY problem — not in my backyard — and it shows that scale is central to understanding all environmental issues.

Most major environmental issues usually happen at scale. They affect our economic and social systems rather than our backyard — except we are most concerned about our backyard [after ourselves].

This common conundrum is hard to pin down but is explained as you sift through the pages on Ask Alloporus

land use change, in this case for grazing, can alter the balance of natural capital | farmland in the central tablelands of NSW, Australia 

What makes the list?

Most major environment issues either have a

global impact [importance of agriculture, climate change, biodiversity conservation]

or are a genuine

local problem [environmental pollution, floods, odour, waste]

or are really

drivers that alter the ability of the environment to deliver goods and services [population, consumerism, land degradation].

Everyone has a slightly different list of environmental issues.

Priorities differ and sometimes the same topic will have more than one label, so it is not easy to pin down what actually is important.

Here is Ask Alloporus top 5 issues…

  1. Agricultural sustainability
  2. Land-use change
  3. Climate adaptation
  4. Biodiversity loss
  5. Water quality

Not all bad

What we like about this list is that they are fixable. Each issue is within our capability and capacity to resolve — should we choose to do so.

Plus if we fix them, then many other issues are fixed or at least become less prevalent [some forms of pollution, invasive species, pests, etc…]

Fixes will not be easy. They may cost both financially and in lost opportunity but they are within our power.

The lists could get shorter.

Let's be more specific

Click through on these links for more details on major environmental issues…

  • Food security is not something many of us think about. Only it may just creep up on us as the need for agricultural production doubles... read more
  • Soil degradation does not generate many Internet searches. It is not the first environmental issue that comes to mind for most of us. See why it probably should... read more
  • Environmentalism is part social movement and part philosophy that we need more than we realize even if can be extreme... read more
  • Land management is everywhere and essential to grow food and fibre yet creates any number of environmental issues. Here are a few... read more
  • Biodiversity loss is as inevitable as death and taxes, so why is it a major environmental issue? It has to do with what biodiversity gives us and how fast we are losing those services... read more
  • 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
  • Climate change issues are difficult, controversial, diffuse and acute all at the same time — meantime the real importance of climate as an environmental issue eludes us... read more
  • The GFC hit hard and fast, reverberating through economies everywhere. There are a number of ways that this impact fuelled environmental issues... read more
  • Resource depletion should worry everyone. It is happening without our knowledge and will test some of the most basic assumptions we have about how our economies work... read more
  • Greenhouse gas emissions make the list of major environmental issues because we assume that emissions reductions will make global warming go away. It is wise to be aware of assumptions... read more
  • Food recycling sounds odd given it is impossible to eat something twice. And yet the numbers on food waste are staggering and on their own justify the need to think recycling... read more
  • Food insecurity has always been there, like an unpleasant smell from a source that you cannot locate. Only the smell is getting worse... read more

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reliable water quality is essential for for wildlife | pelican on estuarine lake in southern NSW, Australia

reliable water quality is essential for for wildlife | pelican on estuarine lake in southern NSW, Australia

upland water quality can decline if too much vegetation is cleared or mining activities are not controlled | fast flowing stream in the highlands of Papua New Guinea

upland water quality can decline if too much vegetation is cleared or mining activities are not controlled | fast flowing stream in the highlands of Papua New Guinea


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