How much is the Earth worth?

Michelle Nader, Staff Writer

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It is undeniable that humans have changed and altered the Earth. For millennia, humans have been using the earth for many of their needs as it provides many ecological services unobtainable from anywhere else; however, we have been harming the very thing that makes life possible for us. Many scientists believe that our beloved Earth will be entirely depleted of its resources by 2050. Without the planet, humans cannot live.

We produce 1.3 billion tons of trash each year. It would be foolish to assume that people remove waste properly, and all this excess trash can cause both environmental and health problems all over the world. Most of the garbage generates from industrial, developed nations, such as the United States, China, Brazil, Japan, and Germany. Developing countries often spend most of their resources on trash collection rather trash disposal, which leads to massive landfills that can’t adequately deal with the massive amounts of trash they collect. Around 70% of our solid waste ends up in landfills and much of our liquid runoff into surface water. This runoff can be detrimental to aquatic wildlife, changing the pH and nutrient levels in the water. Our trash problem could be significantly cut back if we recycled the correct way. About 90% of trash in cities could be recycled, but only about 40% is. We could also implement new policies to cut down on our waste. For instance, we could charge people for the amount of trash we produce, like a water or gas bill, instead of a flat rate each month. This change would force us to reconsider everything that we throw away and would encourage reusing more materials.

There are approximately 7,300,000,000 people on this earth today. With a number this large, it is no surprise that humans can change the course of this earth’s history. Our population is only increasing, and this means that we will experience many more ecological difficulties in the future. An increase in human population leads to famines and starvation. Because of this, people clear more and more land to plant crops to feed these dying people. People also cut down an area to make room for their homes and to create places to live. A higher human population also coerces all kinds of pollution. The most familiar type of pollution is air pollution. Exhaust from our cars, contents in aerosol sprays, and waste from factories all add to our pollution problem. Air pollution is destroying our ozone layer and therefore, intensifying the sun’s power. This pollution leads to global warming and climate change which is detrimental to other organisms on the planet. Humans also contribute to noise pollution, especially in big cities. Not only is it harmful to humans, but noise pollution can also affect wildlife. Many animals entirely depend on their sense of hearing and with distractions, like city noise, it can be hard to function as they normally should.

Every year we lose 18.7 million acres of forests due to deforestation. One reason for this destruction is for agriculture because farmers need to cut down forests to create room for their crops. Often they cut down trees and burn the remaining debris. This method is called ‘Slash and Burn,’ and this also creates much air pollution. Loggers also cut down the forest for their benefit, making a profit on the wood their cut and sell. Overgrazing and forest fires can also destroy forests. Deforestation and habitat loss are some of the main reasons that species become extinct. The cutting down of trees also increases erosion and air pollution and a decrease in biodiversity as well as primary productivity. Without excess trees, the soil is much more likely to dry out, disrupting the water cycle. Deforestation helps contribute to climate change because trees help absorb greenhouse gases that dramatically warm our earth. Eliminating deforestation is very unlikely, but there are various ways to help undo the damage such as farmers monitoring their animals so that overgrazing does not occur and it would be beneficial to try to replant the cleared trees.

These are only a few of the many effects humans have had on the earth. From this, it is clear that ecologically, humans are doing more harm than good and this needs to change. Not only are we affected by these foolish decisions, but other wildlife also pays the price. It is effortless to get caught up in the now result, but we must recognize and take the long-term consequences into account. We are destroying the planet, and we must acknowledge the effect we have and adjust accordingly. We really must be more careful when making decisions that impact the earth because in the end, this is the only planet we’ve got and at this rate, our future looks short.