|Water and the Environment: Overview|
We are increasingly coming to appreciate how human activity affects our natural environment – how we impact the fragile balances and processes of ecosystems. Often, human manipulation of the environment produces what is known as a feedback loop, meaning that humans alter their surroundings in search of resources, only to find that their manipulations have harmed the natural systems that provide those resources in the first place. Scarcity drives people to find new ways of manipulating natural systems, resulting in more environmental disruptions. There are many who believe that we may be reaching a tipping point, where natural systems on which we depend for clean air, adequate water, and food will be irreversibly damaged. In this section, we will examine how the health of the environment impacts the water cycle and what role humans play in this particular feedback loop.
There are more people on the planet than ever before, using water in record volumes. Not only does this mean that more demands are placed on the finite amount of freshwater produced by the earth through the hydrologic cycle. It means that the freshwater supplies we do have are increasingly polluted and harder to capture. It means more “hydrologic shocks” that impact not only humans directly, but all ecosystems on which humans depend. It may mean millions of climate refugees as coastal regions all over the world become uninhabitable. See the Migration edition of the World Savvy Monitor for more on climate refugees.
In this section…