Is Humankind Dangerously Harming the Environment? - Agriculture Essay Example

The issue of whether mankind is dangerously or negatively harming the environment has been a debate over a long period of time - Is Humankind Dangerously Harming the Environment? introduction. Individuals and scholars make quite compelling arguments on either spectrum of the issue. From the argument between Lester Brown and Bjorn Lomborg, it is evident that the debates on this issue may continue for a much longer period of time. Both authors did agree to some extent that humans do deplete the earth’s resources; however Lester Brown had a more sonorous argument because he equated the effects of such depletions towards the livelihood of mankind.

Though opposing, both authors agree on some key issues regarding the environment which are highly supported by Lester Brown in his argument. Firstly, both authors agree that species are becoming extinct and the forest are depleting. Lester acknowledges that the world economy is increasing at a rapid rate, and that economic growth is presently the main goal of governments today. However the demands of such growth, far exceeds the many of the planet’s natural capacities (p. 312). He also acknowledges that the “growth in grain harvests has fallen behind the growth in population” (p. 13). Lester laments on the fact that the cumulative effects of soil erosion on land productivity, the loss of cropland to desertification, and the accelerating conversion of cropland to non-farm uses are all environmental trends that contribute to the global loss of species and forests (p. 313). Bjorn is quoted on p. 320 as admitting that species are indeed becoming extinct, “Third, although species are indeed becoming extinct…” Lester states that food insecurity would soon be the main focus of national governments, overshadowing the issue of terrorism.


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Secondly, both authors agree to some extent that pollution, predominantly carbon dioxide emissions, is a factor that effects the environment negatively. Since carbon dioxide is proven to be the cause of the increased temperature of the planet as mentioned by Bjorn, “Carbon-dioxide emissions are causing the planet to warm” (p. 324), Lester mentions its effect on crop production. “Crop ecologists at the Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have jointly concluded that each 1? C rise in temperature during the growing season cuts 10% off the yields of wheat, rice and corn (p. 15). In Lester Brown’s article the issue of industrialization was addressed. It shows a direct relation towards the growth of a country economically and its subsequent decline in the field of agriculture. Lester, using Japan as an example along with China, South Korea and Taiwan, says that through rapid industrialization of a country lands that were dedicated to crop production begins to be utilized for industrial and residential development. Also sparks an increase f roads highways and parking lots to accommodate cars and drivers.

This leaves farmers with lands that are not economical to cultivate, thus forcing them to abandon their plots and seek employment elsewhere. With the vast reduction of cropland and individuals willing to continue work in the field the country is forced to import a large majority of their crops. The effect of largely populated countries like China to require the importation of crops would be that is causes a strain on the global economy. Also the subsequent rise the world grain prices may destabilize governments in low-income, grain-importing countries (pgs. 16-317). Although both authors agree on certain issues, they seem to disagree more. Bjorn’s main theme in the argument is that although the aforementioned issues are true and occurring, they are but an exaggeration. He mentions that Paul Ehrlich and Lester Brown has created a litany of environmental fears namely the depletion of natural resources, population out growing food production, species and forest disappearing and the pollution on the world’s air and water. Bjorn thus states that no evidence supports the litany presented.

He however thinks that energy and other natural resources have become more abundant. He states that more food is now produced per head of the world’s population and more so than any time in history. He also mentions that although species are becoming extinct, it is occurring at a much lower rate than often predicted. And that the release of greenhouse gases does appear to be a long-term phenomenon, but its total impact is unlikely to pose a devastating problem for the future of humanity (p. 320).

Bjorn mentions that since scientific funding goes mainly to areas with many problems it may give an impression that many more potential problems exist than is the case. He also says that because the fact that environmental groups need to be noticed by the mass media and need to constantly be making money, they may exaggerate the information; he gives an example that the Worldwide Fund for Nature issued a press release entitled, “Two-thirds of the world’s forest lost forever”, when the truth turns out to be nearer 20% (p. 323). Bjorn claims that the source of confusion is the attitude of the people.

Given that people tend to be drawn to the negative side of news than the positive or good, it compels newspapers and broadcasters to provide information that appeal to the masses even if the information is deeply skewed. It leads to significant distortions of perception. He gave the example of El Nino where the benefits of the climatic phenomenon far outweighed the damages; however the benefits were not reported as widely as the losses (p. 324). Bjorn argument involved a great deal of statistical information that failed to be attached to the effects of humankind on the environment.

He agrees with some of the issues that Lester Brown presents, but states that the information that is presented to the public is exaggerated. The fact is that the effects of depleting forests, loss of species, consumption of natural resources, et cetera, however small the percentages may be is still negatively affecting the environment. One hundred years may pass and no ill effects may be noticed, but it may not be the same in the next century or the other after that. Bjorn’s argument is focused mainly on the present and fails to address the effects of the continuous negative effects of humankind’s ill treatment of the environment.

He should have used his statistical information to further project in to the future to determine if he would still stand by his statements. Human’s action towards the care of the environment is an issue that would be debated countless over time since it involves politics and the economy of the world. Lester’s argument was more resonant due to the fact that he made a direct link to the effects of man’s actions on the environment, and related how the negative effects would in turn harm humankind.

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