Definition and Functions of the Environment
The total planetary inheritance and the totality of all resources is called the environment. The biotic and abiotic factors that influence each other are constituents of the environment. The living things like animals, birds, plants and forests form the biotic elements while air, water etc form the abiotic elements. Hence in order to study the environment one has to study the relationship between the biotic and the abiotic factors.
Functions of the Environment
The four vital functions performed by the environment are:
- It supplies natural resources: the resources can be both renewable and non-renewable. Renewable resources can be defined as those which do not get depleted on usage. Trees, sunlight etc are examples of renewable sources of energy. Non-renewable resources are those get depleted on consumption. For example fossil fuels.
- Environment assimilates wastes.
- It helps in the sustenance of life by providing bio and genetic diversity.
- It produces sceneries and landscapes which serve aesthetic purposes.
Today's world faces an environment crisis. This crisis is caused by the growing population and the extraction of natural resources for affluent consumption and production. This high rate of consumption of the natural resources has placed a heavy pressure on the environment in terms of its first two functions. Quite a few resources have become non existent and extinct. The quantities of wastes generated are more than the absorptive capacities of the environment. The ability of the environment to absorb degradation is called absorptive capacities. The developments in the past has polluted and dried up the rivers and other water resources thereby making water an economic good. Also, the intensive and extensive extraction of both the non-renewable and renewable resources has exhausted some of these important resources. We are also forced to spend huge amounts on technology and research to discover and explore new resources. The degraded environment quality has resulted in serious health hazards. The decrease in the quality of air and water has resulted in an increased occurrence of air borne and water borne diseases. Seventy percent of the water in India is polluted. The situation is worsened by global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer. These increase the financial expenditure of the government. The opportunity costs of negative environmental impacts are very high.
The question that has to be pondered on is that why are environmental issues confronting only this generation and why have our ancestors not faced such problems? The answers are the very factors which have aided economic growth:
- The population explosion which is considered as human capital has put pressure on the environment for its day today consumption.
- Industrialization has resulted in demand for environmental resources