New Zealand is renowned for its natural environment – beautiful beaches, movie-set mountains and pristine national parks. But though it makes for a good postcard, it doesn’t show the full picture of how we interact with our environment or the risk we run of ruining it for future generations.
As part of our theme of Impact, The Wireless looks at seven environmental threats the country faces: overfishing, waste, water degradation, fracking, air pollution, pests and erosion.
The fishing industry contributes an average of over $1.3 billion in export earnings to the New Zealand economy each year and 424,693 tonnes of fish were caught commercially in 2009. Commercial fishing and trawling are thought to have the greatest overall impact on New Zealand’s marine resources and, if unmonitored, have the potential to impact habitats and deplete fish populations.
Tasman Bay in Nelson suffered from major over-fishing in the late 1970s when vast numbers of spawning snapper were taken by pair trawlers in the bay. The region has implemented tight restrictions to prevent this occurring again.
In New Zealand, land filling is the most common method of solid waste disposal with the most recent annual figure of 3.2 million tonnes of waste being sent to municipal landfills. Programmes to minimise the impact of waste disposal in New Zealand’s focusses on the ‘5Rs’ of reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, and manage residual waste.
The degradation of rivers and lakes has potential risks for New Zealand’s ecosystems, for the economy, for food gathering and for the country’s international reputation. There have been strong increasing trends in phosphorus and nitrogen, particularly in catchments predominantly in farm land.
WATCH: We asked your opinions on the quality of water in New Zealand’s rivers.
Approximately $500 million of government and community money is currently committed to the clean-up of lakes, rivers and streams in New Zealand.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves the injecting of chemicals into the earth at high pressure to extract previously inaccessible oil and gas. The practice is controversial, with polarised views about its impact on the natural environment.
In New Zealand, the practice is mostly used in Taranaki and the amount of gas and oil extracted using the method is rising. Exploration has occurred in the Waikato region and could spread to other parts of the country if oil is discovered in significant quantities, though the Christchurch City Council voted unanimously to declare it a fracking-free zone.
In New Zealand cities, air contaminants are attributed to a high dependence on private vehicle usage and inefficient heating. Higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere contribute to greater health problems, including respiratory problems, asthma attacks and reduced immunity.
Stoats and rats pose a growing threat to New Zealand’s native bird population. This year, between $9 million and $12 million will be spent on the largest ever pest control programme covering 700,000 hectares.
The nesting Westland petrel are at high risk of predation and only around 4,000 birds exist in the Punakaiki area of the South Island’s West Coast. Te Papa researcher Susan Waugh is studying the birds and how the deomgraphics are changing over time.
The Ministry for the Environment says accelerated erosion is “the most serious and the least reversible of soil degradation problems”. Many forms of erosion exist in New Zealand including mass movement due to heavy rain and storms, surface caused by wind detaching soil particles from the surface and streambank that occurs when banks have been cleared of tree cover.
This content is brought to you with funding assistance from New Zealand On Air.
Cover image from Photo New Zealand.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“This entire planet is our home. We are the only species that systematically destroy our own habitat.”- Marianne Williamson
“One person alone cannot save the planet’s biodiversity, but each individual’s effort to encourage nature’s wealth must not be underestimated.”- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Pollution prevention is a major global concern because of the harmful effects of pollution on a person’s health and on the environment. Environmental pollution comes in various forms, such as: air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, etc.
Everyone is a stakeholder as we are all inhabitants of this one and only mother earth. Each person can contribute something to advance environmental pollution mitigation measures. Environmental protection means caring for our resources and subsequently for ourselves and ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come will have a better environment.
“If we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” – Wangari Maathai
You and I should therefore accept personal responsibility for the success of the environmental protection programs of our respective community by cooperating and actively participating in making the atmosphere pollution free. Help stop pollution today. Although on an individual basis, we can help combat pollution in our own immediate environment, efficient control can be best institutionalized through legislation. Thus, most countries have already addressed the issue by passing some form of pollution prevention measures.
Also Read: Phytoremediation- Solution to Contaminated Environment
Averting the onset of pollution in any area; i.e. be it on air, water or land, could be a start and the simplest preventive solution to the problem. This calls for a conscientious effort to adopt good practices or habits by the people, the passage and the proper implementation of appropriate government laws and strict compliance especially by potential industrial pollutants.
If there are no pollutants, there will be no pollution. And yet, this is easier said than done. Certain bad habits are entrenched and industrial development somehow carries with it the concomitant burden of pollution. The cost to business and its commercial ramifications make this rather simple preventive approach quite complicated and more difficult to implement.
Everyone can help by self education and by adopting good and healthy practices. It is also important that we help raise awareness about the significance of environmental issues, their dire consequences and what can be done.
Also Read:Bioremediation- The New Age Cleansing Technology of the Environment
Every action or inaction of any person in regard to her or his surroundings has an effect- be it good, neutral or bad- on the environment. Nature already provides for our needs. Whatever we do to it gets back to us. If we are friends of the earth, it will also be friendly to us. By becoming aware and doing the right action, we choose to be part of the solution. What comes to mind now to serve as reminders include the following:
- Stop smoking or at least follow the “No Smoking” sign.
- Use unleaded gasoline in your cars.
- Keep your car properly maintained to keep it in good running condition to avoid smoke emissions.
- Share a ride or engage in car pooling.
- Instead of using your cars, choose to walk or ride a bicycle whenever possible. With this eco-friendly practice, you will also be healthier and happier by staying fit.
- Never use open fires to dispose of wastes.
- Adopt the 3Rs of solid waste management: reduce, reuse and recycle. Inorganic materials such as metals, glass and plastic; also organic materials like paper, can be reclaimed and recycled. This takes into account that the proven solution to the problem of proper waste management (especially in third world countries) is proper disposal (in waste bins for collection and not in the street where it could fall into drains), waste segregation and collection, and recycling.
- Start composting brown leaves in your yard and green scraps from your kitchen. It will reduce waste while improving your yard and garden soils.
- Reconnect with nature. Live green by using green power supplied abundantly and freely by wind and the sun. Hang your laundry to dry to minimize use of gas or electricity from your dryers. Enjoy fresh air from open windows to lessen the use of air conditioning system.
- Patronize local foods and goods. In this manner, transporting goods and foods prepared with GMOs which uses fuel from conventional energy sources will be minimized.
- Use eco-friendly or biodegradable materials instead of plastic which are made up of highly toxic substances injurious to your health.
- Create your green space. Value your garden. Plant more trees and put indoor plants in your homes. They clean the air, provide oxygen and beautify your surroundings. Thus, care for them and by protecting them, especially the big trees around and in the forest, you protect yourself and your family, too.
- Have a proper waste disposal system especially for toxic wastes
- Take very good care of your pets and their wastes.
- Never throw, run or drain or dispose into the water, air, or land any substance in solid, liquid or gaseous form that shall cause pollution.
- Do not cause loud noises and unwanted sounds to avoid noise pollution.
- Do not litter in public places. Anti-litter campaigns can educate the populace.
- Industries should use fuel with lower sulphur content.
- Industries should monitor their air emissions regularly and take measures to ensure compliance with the prescribed emission standards.
- Industries should strictly follow applicable government regulations on pollution control.
- Organic waste should be dumped in places far from residential areas.
- Say a big “NO” to GMOs or genetically modified organisms. Genetically engineered crops are not only bad for the environment since they require massive amount of fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides; but GMO altered foods are also health risks and negatively impact farmers’ livelihood.
Breathing is life. We know that we will survive without food for several weeks and without water for few days, but without oxygen, we will die in a matter of minutes. The oxygen, the air we breathe sustains us. So, let us make today and everyday a good day for everyone. Allow the earth to have more clean air. Help control pollution.
Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life. Nevertheless, life on earth took care of itself. In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago we didn’t have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we are gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.
We must help fight Global Warming by doing the following steps:
- Plant more trees
- Don’t waste water
- Use cloth bag and don’t burn plastic
Also Read: Importance of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
Mr. Laxmi Prasad Boda is a B.com (Hons) third year student in the Indian Institute of Management and Commerce (IIMC), Hyderabad, India. He can be contacted at laxmiprasad330[at]gmail[dot]com.
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