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Large Technical Systems and the Environment

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Large Technical Systems and the Environment

Student seminar 1: Global, regional and local environmental problems and challenges

Group 6:



Jims Madhavappallil

Rony Joseph

Sergio Fernández Blanco

Carlos de Hevia Sánchez

Swishy Prince John (Leader)

Kenechukwu Okoli

  1. How do the contemporary environmental problems differ across various region in the world? Analyse the possible explanatory reasons using selected environmental problems.

Nowadays our planet faces several environmental issues across the globe, some of them might be for the short and others for the long term. However, many of them affect certain regions of the world and many others are more intense in some areas than others, which is why we should spot these problems, their causes and consequences particularly not only in our planet but in every region.

So, what may it vary from one region to the other? The first things that might come to our mind have a natural origin combined with human activity, such as different climates, global air jet streams, ocean currents, and orography, that may intensify or decrease environmental problems in some regions. Nevertheless, another factor that changes from one region to the other is the human being activity itself, due to our different background, culture, traditions, commitment to the environment, resources, and local politics. All these issues should be addressed if we want to solve the contemporary environmental problems.

A good example of how nature can redistribute and concentrate an environmental problem is the ozone depletion. Even if it is a global issue, it is known that this problem affects drastically the polar regions[1], especially in the South pole, which means that regions such as the southern parts of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Chile suffer the worst consequences from a problem caused by societies and industries from all around the world. Likewise, another problem stressed in a region by nature is Pacific Patch[2], a formation of floatable debris “trapped” on the Pacific Ocean due to convergent ocean currents in the area.

Nevertheless, as mentioned before, many other environmental problems are stressed by human activity in certain regions itself, due to a cultural, political or logistical matter. Example of which would air pollution that affect certain areas located in South East Asia, across the whole region between Myanmar and Vietnam during the local dry season, when all rice fields in the area are burnt completely and the smoke rests in the region until the firsts rainfalls in the wet season, and then, acidic rains will wet the land with pollutants from the air. This issue, for example, affects the region whose people produce the pollution and culturally accepts it, because the regional economy in the area is considered more important than pollution. Another example of how politics and commitment to the environment may differ drastically from one region to the other happens in rainforests of Malaysia and Brazil. Malaysia is the largest exporter of palm oil in the world, and its government contributes to the deforestation of its rainforest in order to increase production and boost the economy. In Brazil’s case, it is really easy to spot the different policies from one state to the other within the same country in the soy plantations matter, it just takes a glance at a satellite picture to realize how devastated the Amazon is in the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso (local policies low taxes on soy plantations and deforestation), and how pure and preserved it is in the State of Amazonas[3], where the local government is really protective in this matter. And the list goes on and on in several   other issues, such as policies in waste disposal, regional acceptance in fracking or nuclear power…

In conclusion, to address every single contemporary environmental problem we need first to spot the cause, source, and origin in order to understand what could be changed and where all our efforts should be focused on.

Question A references:

[1] Slides from Aerospace Technology at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

[2] Slides from lecture (LE 2) of Environmental Pollution and Large Technical Systems

[3] Google Maps, Satellite view, border among States of Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Amazonas, last access 12/09/2018.

  1. What are the challenges in addressing contemporary environmental problems? Discussions should consider the interest of various global, regional and national actors, the geographical coverage and also complexity of such problems

Natural resource depletion

Two major factors that cause natural resource depletion are rapid growth in population and consumption. Current world population is six billion, growing at a rate of 1.3 percent per year. The UN has estimated populating to be 8.9 billion in 2050. The demographic transition is the change of birth rate and death rates over time. In many parts of the world, the desired number of children is too high for a stabilized population, hence rendering the impact of contraception and voluntary family planning population growth insignificant. In addition, even if the idea of contraception and family planning brings fertility down, in most developing countries population growth will continue because more uneducated young people of productive age exist.1 

The rate of loss in Biodiversity

It is a natural occurrence for some species goes into extinction. However, in this present dispensation, human activities have rapidly accelerated biodiversity loss (a period known as the Anthropocene epoch). The rate of climate change is a catalyst for the loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity loss occurs both at local and regional levels. However, it has a huge impact on how earth systems function because they are connected to other planetary bodies.

Although it’s now believed that a richmix of species supports the adaptability of ecosystems. However, regarding the earth as a whole, little is known about how much biodiversity can be lost before the ability to adapt weakens. This information shortfall has resulted in a preliminary estimate of biodiversity loss making it difficult to set. 2



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