Environmental Management in Practice: Compartments, Stressors, and Sectors - Vol. 2

Environmental Management in Practice: Compartments, Stressors, and Sectors - Vol. 2

Environmental Management in Practice: Compartments, Stressors, and Sectors - Vol. 2

Environmental Management in Practice: Compartments, Stressors, and Sectors - Vol. 2

Synopsis

This volume of Environmental Mmanagement deals with the problems that occur in the three compartments of the environment, namely air, water and soil. It also addresses the socio-economic sectors of industry, traffic, energy, agriculture and tourism.

Excerpt

Paul A. Compton

Part 1 of this volume introduces readers to the strategies employed in the management of the three environmental compartments of soil, air and water, and defines the major problems involved. the stressors that operate on these compartments arise from the growth and activities of the human population. Management strategies must therefore seek to reconcile the needs of the human population for environmental resources with the preservation of environmental quality. Many of these strategies are designed to combat the adverse consequences of pollution, and the management of solid waste disposal and noise pollution are also discussed here.

The proper management of soil, air and water is integral to the well-being of the human population. Our food is dependent upon maintaining the soil in good heart. Water is not only needed for personal consumption and hygiene but also to support the basic activities of society, including the proper functioning of settlements, industry and agriculture. None of these can be taken for granted and their management is becoming increasingly complex and costly. As for air, this is ubiquitous and treated as a free good, but here, too, it is obvious that air quality cannot be left to look after itself and that proper measures of pollution control go hand in hand with healthy living. the importance of air, soil and water is not, of course, to be measured solely against the yardstick of human well-being; they are also the environmental compartments within which ecosystems exist. the sensitivity of ecosystems to alterations in their environmental surroundings as a result of human activities is well known and profound changes have already been recorded.

The aim of soil management is the preservation of soil structure and fertility. As Cruickshank shows in his chapter, these are maintained, in the absence of human intervention, through the processes of nature. But agriculture disturbs the natural chain of events and good husbandry is needed to prevent soil deterioration and erosion. What constitutes good husbandry varies according to climate, topography and underlying geology. Agricultural practice is therefore a function of environmental conditions and historically humans have adopted a range of different strategies to maintain the soil in good condition. in tropical areas, for instance, the device of ‘slash and burn’ was used, whereby the soil is cultivated for a short time and then abandoned to allow fertility and structure to recover naturally. Fallow periods were also part of traditional agricultural practice in Europe, which evolved later into systems of mixed farming, with crop rotation, periods of temporary grass, and the return of animal waste to the land to maintain soil structure and fertility.

Pressure of population and the quest for greater production and profitability have, however, made these ‘environmentally friendly’ forms of agriculture unattractive to modern farmers. Sometimes the response has been to extend farming to uncultivated areas; but since this has invariably been done with only the haziest prior knowledge of local environmental conditions (which have subsequently turned out to be marginal for agriculture) the extension of cultivation to such areas has usually been accompanied by the adoption of inappropriate farming practices. in the case of the us Dust Bowl in the 1930s, and as we are currently seeing in the Amazon rain forest, these activities have resulted in rapid deterioration of soil fertility, the breakdown of soil structure and rapid erosion of the soil, in which the top layers are literally washed or blown away.

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