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26 Environmental Issues

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Environmental issues are human driven processes that are considered destructive to ecosystems, quality of life and health. Most of these issues have appeared within the past two centuries, an extremely short period of time relative to the history of the planet. Many are exponential or hyperbolic meaning that they are growing at an incredible rate to the point that they represent an existential risk. The following is a partial list of environmental issues that are offered as examples.

Air Pollution

Introduction of harmful particles and gases into the air by processes such as industrial production, transportation and power generation.

Coral Reefs

The widespread loss of coral reefs on a global basis due to a variety of factors including warming water and changing ocean chemistry.


The loss of forests.


The process of fertile land becoming desert due to deforestation, climate change or mismanaged agriculture.

Destruction Of Ecosystems

An ecosystem is a cycle that supports life. These involve complex interactions between plants, animals and the elements that can be disrupted due to factors such as loss of habitat, climate change or extinction of a species.

Global Warming

A warming climate on a global basis attributed to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide.

Habitat Destruction

A reduction in biodiversity due to habitat loss primarily due to development. The majority of human land consumption is related to agriculture.

Habitat Fragmentation

The breakup of large habitats into small parcels that aren't large enough for ecosystems to thrive. Particularly impacted by roads and other infrastructure.

Invasive Species

A plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location. Theoretically, an invasive species can also be created by human processes such as genetic engineering. In some cases, an invasive species thrives causing a variety of environmental problems such as extinction or breakdown of ecosystems.

Land Degradation

A broad term for undesirable changes to land such as loss of rainforest to clearcutting resulting in desertification.

Marine Debris

Waste such as plastics and chemical sludge commonly found in oceans and other waterways. For example, a field of debris known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be twice the size of the state of Texas.


Small particles of plastic that are manufactured for use in a variety of products and industrial processes. Commonly found in marine environments in significant concentrations.

Nanomaterials Pollution

The potential for emerging nanomaterials to become a ubiquitous source of pollution. In many cases, it takes decades before the health and environmental impact of novel materials and chemicals are well understood.

Noise Pollution

Noise generated by industry, transportation and other processes. Associated with health, environmental and quality of life impacts.

Ocean Acidification

The observed decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans attributed to rising carbon dioxide levels.

Radioactive Waste

The release of radioactive material due to improper disposal, nuclear accidents and other factors such as weapons testing.

Resource Depletion

The depletion of natural resources due to unsustainable practices such as excessive use or mismanagement.

Sick Building Syndrome

Indoor pollution such as poor air quality caused by outgassing of chemicals from building materials and furnishings.


Particularly dangerous levels of air pollution found in many urban areas.

Space Junk

A debris field orbiting earth primarily caused by out of service satellites and components of spacecraft.

Toxic Waste

Poisonous chemicals, heavy metals, radiation, pathogens and other poisonous materials that are released into the environment by industrial processes, agricultural runoff, mining activities, waste incineration, energy production, transportation, construction sites, laboratories, private residences and hospitals.

Urban Heat Island

A tendency for cities to be hotter than the surrounding countryside due to lack of green space and other factors such as heat exhausts.

Visual Pollution

The widespread conversion of things that are aesthetically pleasing such as forests into things that aren't visually attractive such as highways and industrial infrastructure.


Production of waste such as household garbage.

Water Pollution

A general term for the changing chemistry of oceans and waterways due to waste and processes such as acid rain.

Water Scarcity

The lack of sufficient water resources within a region often related to environmental issues such as land degradation.
Next read: More Examples of Environmental Issues


This is the complete list of articles we have written about sustainability.
Adaptive Reuse
Broken Window Fallacy
Carbon Concrete
Cascading Failure
Circular Economy
Clean Air Zone
Clean Label
Climate Engineering
CO2 Per Capita
Coal Power
Comparative Risk
Creeping Normality
Cultural Lag
Cycle Highway
Deep Water Cooling
Disaster Preparedness
District Heating
Do No Harm
Do Nothing Farming
Dollar Voting
Economic Bad
Electric Boat
Embodied Energy
Environmental Issues
Environmental Justice
Environmental Problems
Existential Risk
Farm Robots
Fertilizer Tree
Fire Ecology
Food Sovereignty
Forest Dieback
Fruit Bagging
Global Change
Global Issues
Global Warming
Green Facade
Green Facades
Green Industry
Green Roof
Green Walls
Happiness Economics
Happiness Index
High-Speed Rail
Holocene Extinction
Human Scale
Jevons Paradox
Keyhole Garden
Keystone Species
Land Footprint
Light Pollution
Living Street
Market Failure
Material Diversity
Missing Market
Moral Hazard
Natural Capital
Natural Resources
Nearly Car Free
Noise Pollution
Ocean Plastic Cleanup
Outside Context Problem
Particulate Matter
Passive Design
Point Of No Return
Precautionary Principle
Product Transparency
Quality Of Life
Race To The Bottom
Rainwater Harvesting
Repair Cafe
Resilient Cities
Right To Know
Safety By Design
Slow Design
Slow Movement
Smart Glass
Social Responsibility
Soft Engineering
Soil Carbon
Space Junk
Sunlight Transport
Sustainable Design
Sustainable Economics
Sustainable Lighting
Sustainable Materials
Tactical Urbanism
Uneconomic Growth
Urban Density
Urban Design
Urban Heat Island
Urban Reforestation
Waste Is Food
Water Security
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Global Warming

A definition and brief overview of global warming.


The common types and sources of pollution.

Existential Risk

An overview of existential risk.

Precautionary Principle

An overview of the precautionary principle.

Comparative Risk

A definition of comparative risk with examples.

Energy Efficiency

The common types of energy efficiency.

External Stakeholders

The definition of external stakeholder with examples.

Economic Bad

Common examples of an economic bad.


The definition of win-lose with examples.

Climate Engineering

An overview of climate engineering.

Soil Carbon

Why carbon soil is important.

Daily vs Weekly Shopping

The shopping customs of cities.

Deconstruction vs Demolition

The difference between deconstruction and demolition.

Education vs Unlearning

The relationship between education and unlearning.

Grassroots vs Astroturfing

The difference between a grassroots movement and astroturfing.

Green Roof vs Roof Garden

The difference between a green roof and a roof garden.

Green vs Sustainable

The difference between green and sustainable.

Green Walls vs Green Facades

The difference between a green wall and green facade.
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