For this portion of Agenda 21, we will highlight some of the perils that we, as a global society, are facing, what they mean, and how we can relieve the affects.
The following subjects will be discussed on this page:
- Fresh Water
- Biological Diversity
Fresh Water Resources
Fresh water is an undebated requirement in sustaining all life on Earth. Humans
continually pollute and deplete this finite resource, especially in
developed nations, leaving it in poor quality and low abundance for
Earth’s natural ecosystems. It is used to control
desertification and deforestation, as well as sustain human activities,
including: agriculture, industry, hydropower, urban development,
fisheries, transportation and recreation.
- Deforestation and unsustainable agriculture have caused widespread erosion and soil loss. This
loss of nutrients has led to an increase in fertilizer use and, in
turn, is causing the acidification of surface water due to agricultural
- Salinization is occurring in rivers, lakes and soils as a result
of domestic and industrial waste
pollution has resulted in an increase in disease, of which has been
intensified by the growing water consumption of the worlds expanding
population and economy
- Climate change is
threatening low-lying water resources, precipitation patterns and
increasing occurrence of natural disasters, among other things, all of
which will be disastrous to our global food production
- Ensure and maintain a quality and abundant water supply for Earth
- Preserve and protect ecological functions of fresh water
- Adapt human activities to the capacity limits of nature
Programs and Activities:
- Water Management and Assessment:
technological, social, economic, environmental and human health must
all be integrated into water resource management, with rational use and
protection planning that reflects the needs and priorities of the
- Water Quality and Sanitation:
global effort to identify and analyze all fresh water resources, the
effects that human activities have on those resources, and the
development and implementation of realistic and comprehensive water
- Agriculture and Rural Water Supplies:
development of low-cost, environmentally sound agriculture technologies
that allow local and community-based agricultural water conservation
efforts to succeed, as well as promote an increased efficiency and
productivity of agricultural water use
- Climate Change:
after conducting research to better understand the effects of climate
change, we must implement national plans of action to counteract the
local effects of climate change
All of these processes
have lead to a loss in biodiversity and will continue to degrade our
fresh water quality and supply, eventually forcing a shift in human
behavior, after ecosystems are destroyed and our economic livelihoods
are severely threatened.
“An estimated 80
percent of all diseases and over one-third of deaths in developing
countries are caused by disease-contaminated water”
(Sitarz, Agenda 21, p. 69)
Agriculture and Rural Development
Despite the plentiful food resources
that those of us in the United States know and love, we are currently unable to
meet the needs of a large portion of the world’s people. A challenge that developing countries must
face is not only that of meeting the growing populations demand, but doing it
in a sustainable way. Developing
environmentally sound agriculture techniques is one of the most important
factors in preserving the quality of agricultural lands and must become a focus
because the opportunity to cultivate new land is extremely limited. The essential goal of these countries should
be to ensure access to sustainably grown, nutritional food to all of their
people, especially because the agriculture industry is the backbone of most
developing countries economy.
- Available land
for agriculture is extremely limited
agricultural practices are destroying the health of our soils, like the
extensive use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, and monocropping
techniques are depleting the soils nutrients
- Present land use
is far exceeding the carrying capacity of the land, which greatly increases the
rate at which top soil is eroding and results in accelerated desertification
- Increase food
production in a sustainable manner to feed expanding populations
- Ensure access of nutritional,
sustainably grown food to all of the world’s people
- Creation of new
economic conditions, including price control, subsidies, trade and land tenure
policies, that support sustainable agriculture and rural development
Programs and Activities:
Policy and Food Security:
implementation of policies pertaining to land tenure, population trends,
appropriate farm technologies and an open trading system by the national
government, enhancing rural populations access to food
Land Use Planning and Soil Erosion:
programs must be developed for each land and climate zone based on the
identification of sustainable land uses and production systems to control
inappropriate land use
Resources: indigenous species must be
identified and their genetic resources must be protected, especially those of
whom are at risk of disappearing
- Pest Control: techniques for the use of traditional and
non-chemical methods of pest control, including integrated pest management,
must be collected and made available
Production: development of new technologies to
enhance soil fertility and produce topsoil from local sources
- Rural Energy
Supplies: focus on production and development
of environmentally sound low-cost and easily-maintained technology
All of these activities listed are
only a fraction of the reforms that need to be made to cause a shift in our
agriculture and rural developmental habits.
With the proper policies, we can greatly reduce the growing impact that
we have had on our environment and protect what little agriculturally viable
land is left from erosion, nutrient depletion, pollution and many other human
Deserts and Droughts
Desertification: when an area is transformed into a desert. This occurs in arid, semiarid and dry sub-humid areas like South Africa, the Middle East, and China.
- Effects ~ 1 billion people
- Destroys range-land for livestock
- Intensifies decline of soil fertility and soil structure
- Increased degradation of irrigated croplands worldwide
The decline in productivity of land and livestock production has resulted in widespread poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Desertification also impacts human health as particulates from dust storms contribute to the affects of asthma, emphysema and other lung-related illness.
- Implement preventative measures by education and incentives for irrigation practices that will prevent the affects of desertification
- Do more to alleviate areas that are already affected by desertification by using methods to rejuvenate the soil and treat any poverty, health and famine effects.
"The decline in productivity and loss of crop and livestock production... has resulted in widespread poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. Desertification plays a key role in the famine which continues to afflict sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahel and Somalia."
(Sitarz, Agenda 21, p. 101)
Programs and Activities:
- Soil Conservation and Reforestation: By increasing vegetation cover on all lands periodically affected by drought, we can promote and stabilize water cycles in dry land areas, which will help maintain land quality and increase productivity. This can be accomplished with forest conservation, preservation, and reforestation.
- Education: It is imperative to develop comprehensive anti-desertification incentivized programs which can be implemented into national programs. Environmental education for local groups of all ages is also crucial, to prevent future calamitous affects.
Mountain ecosystems include
tropical, subtropical, and temperate climate areas, and represent an important
source of biological diversity, water and mineral resources. Forestry, agriculture and recreation in
mountain areas also provide key economic activities. Mountain ecosystems also feed lower-level
watersheds, and these watersheds are heavily relied upon for agriculture and
- Effects ~3.5 billion people
- Mountain areas are susceptible to accelerated soil erosion,
landslides and rapid loss of habitat and genetic diversity.
- Mountain areas are much more sensitive than most areas to
climate change, which results in lower snow fall and greatly affects water
yield for the following seasons.
- Decline in these areas due to poor land management practices and
cultivation of marginal lands.
- Mountain regions are home to some of the most endangered animals
and plant life.
There are many areas in the
world that depend on the mountain resources for their survival. Most areas, such as the San Francisco Bay
Area, rely on mountains for their fresh water supply from snowmelt (Hetch
“Approximately 10 percent of the Earth’s population lives in
mountain areas with higher slopes, while some 40 percent occupy the adjacent
medium and lower-watershed regions which draw on mountain resources,
(Sitarz, Agenda 21 p. 109)
Programs and Activities:
- Promote alternative income generating activities – sustainable tourism,
fisheries, and environmentally sound mining.
- Promote environmentally sound watershed development.
- Comprehensive approach to conserving mountain resources and
- Promotion of alternative livelihood opportunities for
sustainable mountain development, improving living standards of rural
populations in mountain areas.
- Local awareness for disaster prevention and relief.
- Develop mechanisms to preserve threatened areas and establish
“Humanity has systematically destroyed animal
habitats, over-harvested lands, inappropriately introduced foreign plants and
animals throughout the world and polluted every region on Earth.”
Agenda 21 p. 114)
Despite continuous efforts
since the wave of environmentalism that swept through the United States and
other countries in the 1970’s, loss of biodiversity has continued to
occur. The decline is largely caused by
human activities, through loss of habitat, over-harvesting, invasive and
foreign species introductions, human sprawl/resource consumption, and
pollution. The full consequences of loss
of biodiversity are unknown, but it could represent a dramatic shift for a less
- Effects: All life on earth
- Because of human activity, fragmentation, destruction, and
degradation of Earth’s natural systems has occurred.
- Settlements and populations near biologically-rich areas that
have suffered degradation are losing their livelihoods.
- Humanity is suffering uncountable losses in natural medicines,
fibers, foods, and building material that could be conserved and utilized in a
more sustainable matter.
Even though we have explored
much of the Earth, there is much, according to the scientific community at
large, that we have not yet seen or documented.
We do not know how many organisms, those that we have never seen or
recorded, have become extinct already through our unsustainable practices. Because we are dependent upon this planet and
its contents for all our successes, we need to take care to conserve and
preserve the planet for future generations, and to ensure the survival of the
“Although only about 1.4 million species
have been described, it has been estimated that there are at least 5 million
and perhaps as many as 100 million species on Earth.”
Agenda 21 p. 114)
Programs and Activities:
- Urgent action to conserve and maintain genes, species, and
ecosystems with a commitment to sustainable management and use of biological
- “Arrangements must be developed to ensure that the countries
providing genetic resources are able to equitable share in the benefits derived
from the commercial use of those resources.”
- The entire capacity—reproductive and biological—of land and
water species should be studied in detail, including native, cultured and
- Protected lands should be reinforced—new lands should be granted
protection under national or local government, and there should be a stronger
effort to conserve/preserve those lands for recovery.
- Governments and other agencies (non-profit) should distribute
information, educating citizens about the importance of genetic diversity and
what can be done to protect it.