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Mankind's Effect upon the Environment.

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Introduction

Mankind's Effect upon the Environment "The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives." Native American Proverb Around 500,000 years ago the very first Homo sapiens walked upon planet earth. How they exactly got there is still heavily debated amongst society today. What the very first Homo sapiens were presented with was a lushes green environment full of animals, some of which do not exist today, and a huge variety of plant life. The very first humans were quite obviously nowhere near as intelligent as the average human being today, but still had a great deal of intelligence. They realised that they had to eat food in order to stay alive, although perhaps not why or what it did to them. They therefore ate plant life, and hunted animals using wooden tools made from tree branches. Wood was a big fuel for them; they used it to make shelter, to burn for warmth and also for weapons. Yet this did not affect the environment nowhere near as much as it has been polluted in the present day. This is because there was a lot, lot fewer humans than there are today, so equilibrium between the environment and human survival was sustained. This introduction surely tells us that the very first primitive humans were not aware of the impact they were causing on the environment, the small increases in the Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming they were causing. So, as time has proceeded 500,000 years forward to the present day surely modern civilisation has built technology to overcome this massive problem. Well in fact no, it is rather a lot worse. "There's so much pollution in the air now that if it weren't for our lungs there'd be no place to put it all." Robert Orben There are not that many things on earth that are classed as vital to the human population. Obviously there is oxygen, food, water, but perhaps one thing that is never thought of is fossil fuels. ...read more.

Middle

As I just mentioned plant organism will decrease so therefore there will be less photosynthesis and so more CO2 will remain in the atmosphere. So following on from leaching and into Eutrophication, ions (primarily phosphates, Nitrates and Potassium) find their way into streams and lakes in various ways. As a result of these excessive elements, growth is encouraged and there is an algae "bloom." Dead algae plants rise to the surface of the water where aerobic micro-organisms decompose the algae. Both the rapid algae growth and aerobic micro-organisms demand a lot of oxygen from the water. With no oxygen all organisms in this part of the river die, because they cannot respire. Also the algae bloom prevents light getting through to the plants below the surface of the water so they die because they are unable to photosynthesise. This reduces the levels of oxygen even more. So, because of the use of fertilisers to make a crop yield slightly better, an ecosystem, within a river, is completely destroyed. Acid rain is a widespread term used to describe all forms of acid precipitation (rain, snow, hail, fog, etc.). Atmospheric pollutants, particularly oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, can cause precipitation to become more acidic when converted to sulphuric and nitric acids, hence the term acid rain. The problem of acid rain is not a new one but the nature of the problem has changed from being a local problem for towns and cities to being an international problem. Again it is important to remember that humans did not create acid rain, they enhanced it. Precipitation is naturally acidic because of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) produces sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides which can increase the acidity of rain or other precipitation. Sources of sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen may be natural such as volcanoes, oceans, biological decay and forest fires, or may arise from combustion sources. ...read more.

Conclusion

Nuclear power has a significant part to play in maintaining a balanced energy policy. It currently contributes to 26% of the UK's electricity generation and a great deal more in countries like France and Germany. Nuclear power generation does not contribute to air pollution and can therefore help to reduce acid rain and global warming. Nuclear power generation uses the fuel uranium to produce electricity. Uranium is a highly concentrated energy source that is available throughout the world in large quantities. 1 tonne of uranium can produce as much electricity as 2000 tonnes of coal. Once uranium has been used, it can be reprocessed and recycled to make more fuel. During the reprocessing, plutonium is given off as a by-product. The plutonium can then be used to generate power in fast reactors. Electricity is generated in a nuclear power plant when an extra neutron is added to the nucleus of a uranium atom. This causes it to split apart and release heat energy. As the nucleus splits apart, several neutrons are released, which can then collide with another nucleus and cause further fission of uranium atoms. This leads to a chain of reactions. The heat produced during fission converts water to steam, which then turns a turbine and generates electricity. In a power station, the amount of energy release is controlled to provide an even heat supply. Unfortunately, waste generated by the nuclear industry is radioactive and must therefore be disposed of with extreme care. As I said the radioactive material must be managed, to present no hazard to humans or the environment. The radioactivity of waste however, will decay over time. So with an overview of all the alternative energy sources, does nuclear power look like mankind's best way alternative energy source, to prevent further destruction of the environment? Written and researched by Peter J Webster Mr. J. Stott Peter. J. Webster - 1 - ...read more.

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