Everything in the natural world is interconnected - from the geology, the weather and the soil through the smallest microorganism and the largest mammal, to the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.
A delicate balance exists that, if disturbed, puts the whole ecosystem in danger of extinction.
We are part of this balance, and it is up to us to conserve this balance, to care for and protect our natural resources so that we and future generations can benefit from clean air, clean water, wilderness areas, healthy soil and the benefits of biodiversity.
In short, we need to keep the environment healthy to ensure human survival.
Aside from the ecological balance, a healthy environment also provides:
· Aesthetics – we are able to enjoy nature’s beauty and find emotional and spiritual well being
· Commercial opportunities – jobs, tourism as an industry
· Food, clean air, and clean water
· Pollination of crops
· Photosynthesis and oxygen production
· Recreational opportunities – ecotourism, hiking, hunting, and fishing
For these reasons we need to continue to provide sanctuaries where wildlife can flourish in a protected and natural environment to foster biodiversity, and to find other ways to conserve what we have and ward off threats such as:
· Deforestation – the decrease in the number of trees that results in reduction of the moisture content in the atmosphere and an excess of carbon dioxide. There is an increase in soil erosion and also a rise in soil temperature because of loss of cover, affecting further plant growth
· Afforestation – the planting of alien trees to be used for industry, affecting soil quality, thus removing natural support for indigenous wildlife
· Desertification – the act of turning cropland or grazing into desert through bad farming and overgrazing practices
· Overpopulation –either by overstocking or ignoring the need to cull, or through the introduction of artificial waterholes, discouraging natural migration of animals
· Global warming, leading to disappearance of natural habitats
· Unregulated hunting and poaching, leading to an imbalance in animal populations and possible extinction
· Floods due to poor developmental planning
· Draining of wetlands causing loss of habitat to thousands of animal species, as well as interfering in natural water flows
· Pollution of air and water by vehicles, factories, mines, waste chemicals, etc.
· Alien plant invasion. Alien plants threaten the survival of indigenous vegetation by spreading aggressively as a result of not having natural enemies, using up more water than indigenous plants, and out-competing them, creating an imbalance in the ecosystem.
· Uncontrolled fires
· Bush encroachment, leading to changes of habitat
· Over exploitation of resources such as coal
· Indifference to the environment
· Poverty - Socio economic needs are inextricably linked to the environment, and it is essential that the trust and support of local communities be gained through consultation and participation so that tangible benefits of conservation are realised
There are going to be conflicts, however, because there is a need for more land and more food for growing populations, but we need to weigh up the benefits of development against the risk of possible harm done to the ecosystem. It is possible to exist in harmony if we use the environment in sustainable ways to ensure that we continue to have resources in the future.