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The Earth by nature is dynamic, consisting of an array of processes and interactions which are constantly changing. Recently humans have begun to alter the dynamics of these processes. Climate change is one of the biggest threats affecting our world today. We hear about climate change daily in our schools, from media and our peers, but we only hear about climate change worsening and never getting any better. Climate change also affects various parts of the environment that we rely on in order to survive. As such climate change manifests itself in various ways around the globe. Each of these manifestations poses its own unique risk on a global scale.
The article entitled “Sleepwalking into catastrophe”, gives us an indication of a report which cites the top 10 global risks in terms of likelihood and potential impact. Five of these risks are directly related to the environment with the remainder having indirect environmental links. This essay warns the world that we are placing ourselves ever closer to these global risks and it will be increasingly more difficult to mitigate against these risks in future. Although this seems to propose imminent danger scientific research may still provide a solution. The holistic discipline of geography is the study of physical features of the earth, atmosphere, oceans and of human activity. This may further include the distribution of populations, resources, political and economic activities. Geographers have studied the world using different techniques and methods in order to come up with solutions to environmental risks. Throughout this essay there will be information on some of these risks and how geography can be used as an effective tool to come up with solutions to mitigate against them.
Multiple environmental risks are listed within the top 10 global risk report posing a serious threat to global stability. Extreme weather conditions and natural disasters occur in a variety of ways such as floods, storms and droughts. All of these have increased under the influence of human induced climate change. This can cause serious damage to the environment, society and economy. This can affect an area with unique wildlife as resources and climatic conditions that are vital to their survival becomes scarce. Animals won’t have a source of water and can possibly die from dehydration and starvation as their food chain may be disrupted. The lack of water will also affect society in a similar way. People need water in order to survive, without water there will be a risk of dehydration and an increased incidence of illness, civil conflict and disease as people seek water from unhygienic sources. Droughts also affect our economy.
The economic development in the affected area will start to stagnate and people will start migrating from the affected area to go find water and other resources elsewhere. Floods are another natural disaster that causes serious damage to the environment. Chemicals and other hazards are released into the water that are fatal to wild life and plants. Animals that are not able to swim drown and the land floods destroying food supply for people and animals. Many in society are left destitute as floods destroy homes, municipal infrastructure and families. This impacts the economy negatively as governments must pay a large cost to rebuild municipal infrastructure. Skilled workers are also difficult to replace if they have been killed by such disasters. This further adds to the economic burden.
Man-made environmental disasters are disasters that are unpredictable and happen suddenly, there is no way to stop these disasters from happening but there are ways in order to prevent them from happening. An example of man-made environmental disasters are oil spills. These oil spills tend to affect the marine life. Marine animals are poisoned by the chemical constituents through ingestion or skin and eye irritation. Economies are effected when oil spills destroys pristine coastal environments. This pushes away tourists and cost governments a large sum of money to clean up. Society is affected with regards to their health, when inhaling the air, touching a product or eating the contaminated sea food that contains oil.
Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse refers to the death of ecosystems caused by either humans or natural disasters. This includes deforestation by humans as they cut down the trees of forests and use the lumber or claim the land where the trees were for agriculture purposes. Another factor that is causing biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse naturally and through humans is climate change. The pace of climatic change means that it is occurring too quickly species can’t adapt fast enough and are dying out to a point that they may even become extinct soon. Keystone species are particularly important with this regard sine their extinction could topple and entire food chain of an area.
Not all risks are isolated, many are inter-connected and each can have a potential effect on each other. For example, extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones may increase and flood coastal cities due to our failure to mitigate against climate change and adapt cities to such events. Coastal habitats may be permanently destroyed and resources may become scarce in such areas thus resulting in a loss of coastal species. Failure to mitigate and adapt is one of the most likely events to occur due to extreme weather conditions and large-scale involuntary migration. Events such as floods, droughts and rise in sea level which are all extreme weather events, potentially result in large scale of migrations of climate refugees. Another example of interconnected risks is extreme weather events and food crisis; if there are frequent extreme weather events, it makes farming difficult and crop yields unpredictable. Storms and tornados cause a lot of damage to the crop lands and farmers are unable to produce high yields. The increasing number of events makes it harder to rely on a steady supply of food. Flooding decreases the amount of available land for farming, as the land loses valuable organic topsoil because of water overflow. Droughts also decrease the process of cattle farming through dehydration and lack of animal feed.
Geography is holistic, it consists of chemistry, physics, geology, atmospheric science, public health, political science, math and oceanography. Global risks are complex and requires an approach that can assess each unique risk in a multi-faceted way. This makes geography the perfect tool to do so since through its under-lying disciplines, scientists create various solutions that tackle these risks in multiple ways.
For example, people in the world depend on water in their daily lives. Geography can examine the water resources that we have available or the lack there of. Upon examination a possible reason for a lack of water could be that there is less rain and this may be attributed to various reasons. Another option is to look at whether or not it was managed properly. Geography can then suggest what needs to change in order to make sure that the water resources is used in a sustainable manner till it is brought back up to adequate levels. This will support governments decision making by consulting on issue related to human geography, atmospheric science and natural resource management.
Geography has a role in collaboration. It tends to bring together disciplines which are seemingly unrelated for example epidemiologists, public health professions and researchers. If we are to tackle the above-mentioned global risks then a unification of the sciences needs to occur and geography provides the best tool to do so. Geographers together with other disciplines can help the world make sense of what is going on in the environment and what impact humans have on the environmental. Geographical research can therefore advise us on what we should and shouldn’t do.
To conclude, the combination of available information presented in the essay discusses how geography as a scientific discipline can contribute to tackling global risks faced by the environment.
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