Pollution is the primary way in which humans have caused drastic changes of
wildlife habitats. For too long, man has behaved with little regard to the
ecological consequences of his habits. Nature and wildlife populations are
confronted with a bewildering array of pollutants that we intentionally or by
accident release into the environment.
Pollution can be viewed as the negative
alteration in the chemical or physical characteristics of the environment due to
human activities. On the global scale, this is evident in the melting of the
ice-caps, both at the poles and in mountain tops, and also in global warming
with the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
After World War II, the use of synthetic chemicals to control insect pests, weed
and fungi became an integral part of agriculture. The Nobel Prize for medicine
was awarded to Paul Mueller, a Swiss chemist, for discovering the insecticidal
properties of DDT. By 1964, the annual production of DDT in the US reached 90
million kilograms. By then, scientists were already discovering the disastrous
side effects DDT. In the 1970s, most industrial countries banned the use of DDT
because of its unacceptable side-effects on wildlife, humans and the food chain.
Modern society heavily relies on the use of fossil fuels. It is not just a
source of energy, but also a raw material for synthetic chemicals, plastics and
Styrofoam. Half the global use of petroleum is in North America and Europe.
Because of this, massive quantities of oil are transported around the globe each
year. An inescapable consequence of this is the accidental spillage of oil at
the point of extraction, in transit and even after delivery to refineries.
When a spill occurs, the most obvious effect on wildlife is that animal furs and
bird feathers get covered with oil which naturally has high concentrations of
toxic components. In the long term chemicals on beaches, in the water and in the
food chain may throw up a variety of impacts. These may include impaired
reproduction, reduced resistance to diseases, neurological damage and birth
defects in creatures that exist in that environment. These can easily lead to
the extinction of species.
The Exxon Valdez spill that occurred in March of 1989 adversely affected three
national parks, four national wildlife refuges and a national forest.
Eventually, the spill spread over an estimated 1400 miles of shoreline
blackening every bay, beach and estuary in California. Nature's recovery from
this may takes hundreds of years. A total of 36,466 dead seabirds, 1015 dead sea
otters and 144 bald eagles were recovered from the area. This excludes animals
that sink into the water when they die and fish.
The human population is extremely large. The advance of technology meets the
demands of this population. Not all technology is about human comforts. Much of
it is a response to basic human needs, like food, clothing and shelter. Every
morning, 7 billion humans have breakfast. Can you imagine the amount of work
involved in manufacturing just this one meal?
For the orderly existence of humans, disorder has to happen in the lives of
other creatures of the world and to the world itself. The total destruction of
wildlife habitats, human encroachment into existing habitats, and alteration in
climatic balance can directly be related to the existential needs of humans. It
may be impossible to stop this effect. At best, it can be mitigated.