Environment Negative Impact
What causes the largest negative impact on the
environment? (Natural and/or caused by human existence). Please provide
a comparison of this environmental macro-threat to a micro-threat such
as the environmental damage caused by one US American middle class
family living in the mid-atlantic seaboard during a ten year period.
Thank you in advance for your time and charity in responding to my query.
I'm not sure what your question is getting at, with regard to "largest"
environmental negative impacts, most all of the natural ones are short
term, unpredictable, and infrequent (e.g. Pinatubo), and all of the man
caused ones are aggregates of the "micro-threat" of the average consuming
family, e.g. a nuclear power plant meltdown or damming of a river are the
result of thousands of average micro-threats all wanting more electrical
energy. Likewise leaching landfills from all their refuse, strip mining
operations, chemical plant or train truck accidents, all of these are
activities made in the name of meeting the desires of the micro threats.
Donald Yee Ph.D.
San Francisco Estuary Institute
180 Richmond Field Station,
1325 South 46th St. Richmond, CA 94804
Your excellent question requires extensive research, and that is beyond
me. You may want to start your research by using the Internet or a
reference library. You may, however, find just the information you want
in articles in popular magazines such as National Geographic, Scientific
As for natural- vs. human-caused pollution, it is a rather complex issue.
First there is a question of terminology. Does nature pollute? Perhaps the
natural phenomena that lead to a "worsening environment" (as we understand
it) are just that, natural. Can we call these phenomena "undesirable" and
"polluting"? What is pollution after all?
We generally cannot undo what nature does on a maco scale. I doubt that
we can ever reverse the effects of a massive volcanic eruption. Our
understanding of our environment is marginal at best. For now, we seem
to be mere bystanders in this evolving drama, the evolution of our planet,
our environment. What we can do is to watch our activities and their
impacts. When in doubt about their adverse effects, we should try to stay
on the safe side. On the other hand, when there is evidence, compelling
evidence that our use of CFC gases or our space flights contribute to the
thinning and destruction of the ozonosphere it makes sense to curtail
What we can do is to watch study, and evaluate our planet and its
environment and look for the changes that our activities may bring about.
No doubt our activities have far-reaching effects, and the concern is that
by the time we begin to understand them it may be late.
Regarding the impact that a particular family in a particular setting may
have on the environment, I would suggest that you use energy consumption
as the yardstick. I do not know of a better one and I think energy usage,
statistically speaking, correlates well with the waste produced, air
polluted, and resources consumed by an entity, be it a person, a city, or
Dr. Ali Khounsary
Advanced Photon Source
Argonne National Laboratory
Argonne, IL 60439
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Update: June 2012