How the Environment affects Food and Supply Esssay

How the Environment Effects Food and Supply


The purpose of this report is to discuss the current state of food and environment in the field of natural resources like soil, ocean, climate and melting glaciers and their affects.

By examining a range of academic articles in summary books, newspaper articles and internet sites on the topic of food and environment, this report states the situation of natural resources, environment pollution, over development and some global phenomenon caused by global worming and melting glaciers. The report then considers the further development and global worming, melting glaciers effect on food and environment.

Floods and droughts

In the beginning of this essay, the issue of how environmental disasters impact food will be discussed. It is clear that our “Mother Earth” is getting hotter, with the effect of global warming. It is because of “Greenhouse effect” which is due to the massive and rapid development of several industries from developing countries. It was proved that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased “from 316 ppm in 1958 to 385 ppm in 2008” (Kirkham 2011, p.370). It has worsened the issue of melting glaciers; which, in turn, causes flooding and droughts over many areas in the world.

The high percentage of glacier melting is the main reason of the rise of sea level which causes floods in over the world. Unexpected floods could impact seriously on crops growth, it “can have a negative effect on the financial performance of farming as a result of crop damage … reduced crop and livestock yield and quality/condition” (Thorne, Evans and Rowsell 2007, p.130). It means that flooding does not only affect the quantity but the quality of food source as well. For instance, a recent flooding that happened in 25th of August in 2012 in Burma after several weeks of continuously raining has driven eighty-five thousands of people homeless as well as more than two hundred thousand hectares of rice field “have been swamped” (The Guardian 2012). It was also expected to require a long time for the people and fields to recover.

While there are countries that are struggling with floods, drought is also a problem in others because the weather changes wind patterns that moves cloud and humidity through the air that causes the imbalance in water distribution. Since May this year, North Korea has been suffering the most severe drought in 105 years which threatened to damage this country’s “breadbasket”, especially when this country has already experienced a critical lack of food. North Korean was also notified an estimate amount of 3.5 million people are with the risk of malnutrition and famine (The Telegraph 2012).

Because of these destructions, it is possible that in the near future, countries using rice as a main food will have to face with a huge shortage of food, while Burma and North Korea are considered sources for rice suppliers. Furthermore, even if the amount of food could be sustained, its quality is unsure due to the pollution issues.

Marine pollution

Marine pollution can be traced back as early to the Roman times. Industrial waste, farm runoff and trash dumping into the oceans have caused much imbalance to the ecosystem in which many organisms thrive in. Despite many efforts made by eco-friendly organizations and campaigns to reduce pollution, it is still happening at a large scale.

Pollution is essentially the introduction of harmful contaminants not part of a natural ecosystem. They may range from the man-made pollutants like chemicals, pesticide, industrial residue, oil, sewage, plastics and other solids. These contaminants end up contaminating not only the water in which much of the marine life live in but they also cause a disruption in the global food chain. When fish consume these contaminants, humans are simultaneously affected as they catch and eat the fish. Therefore, radioactive or poisonous contaminants may drastically harm us and as such pollution does affect us as much as it does the marine ecosystem.

Excessive pollution may even cause any entire ecosystem to collapse and thus fishing may be near impossible once this happens. Fish will become scarce as an entire food chain will be broken beginning with water in the ocean being unsuitable for inhabiting.

Oil spills

Oil spills are usually the most common of all marine pollution. Much of it comes from spillage from large ships and vessels as well as oil rigs. In addition, drainages and rivers also transport oil into the oceans from cities and industry. As oil’s density is lesser than water, it usually stays at the surface which causes sea mammals and birds to be affected much more than fishes as it causes these animals to die when they drink the water or come out to the surface to die due to the toxins of the oil.

Sewage disposal

Another cause of pollution if sewage disposal. Much urban sewage that is dumped into the ocean is untreated or under treated. Sewage alone contains much bacteria and even diseases. Fishes may sometimes eat these sewage and the bacteria may then thrive in them. This affects us when we catch and later consume the fishes, causing the bacteria to then be transferred into our bodies. Aside from affecting us in that manner, humans may also be affected by the diseases in the water and beaches closures may occur.

Toxic chemicals

Toxic chemicals make up the bulk of marine pollution. Much of these toxic chemicals are dumped into the oceans deliberately despite much international laws banning such dumping. Accidental leakages from industries also cause these chemicals to disseminate through soil, water and through water vapour in the air. From the tiniest organisms in the ocean such as plankton to larger animals up the food chain like polar bears. They become affected by these chemicals as they are able to travel long distances through currents in the ocean. People, who are at the highest end of the food chain, end up consuming the highest chemical load as it is multiplied up the food chain.

To conclude, our food is largely dependent on the physical environment that it comes from. Pollution causes much disarray to the purity and freshness of our food as it affects us directly once we eat them. Fish that has been tainted by toxins from chemicals may cause cancer, damage to immune systems, behavioral problems, reduced fertility and even death in extreme cases.

Global warming and its effects on sea levels

Global warming is causing a drastic problem to humans and their food source alike, namely fish, by causing alarming increases in sea levels. The cause of global warming is initiated by the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is when the sun’s heat is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere when greenhouse gases cause it to be radiated back to earth. Normally, some heat from the sun is absorbed into the earth’s surface while the rest is radiated back to space. When humans burn fossil fuels like petroleum, natural gas and coal, they create excessive amounts of carbon dioxide which are the major components of greenhouse gases.

When excessive heat is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere, this causes our earth to heat up beyond normal temperatures. This increase in temperature is causing ice caps on Mount Kilimanjaro and ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland to melt. When this happens, water levels will rise which will cause many problems which will upset the balance in nature. Cold water fish will not be able to survive as the water would be too warm. This would cause problems for people fishing them as a food source. Even coral reefs are dying as a result of the increase in water temperatures. This in turn could cause many species of fish who call it home to die which could in turn affect humans fishing for them. Another great drastic issue is raising water levels. Research has shown that low lying nations like the Maldives could be completely submerged should this occur. “Such a rise would have a devastating impact on low-lying island countries, such as the Indian Ocean’s Maldives, which would be entirely submerged.” (Stefan Lovgren, 2004). Densely populated areas like Nile Delta and Bangladesh would become uninhabitable as well. Not only will fishing be difficult but people will have a greater problem at finding higher ground suitable for living.

An imbalance in nature’s food chain would be caused by global warming that could drastically affect fishes as food source. As ice sheets melt in the Antarctic, the polar bears living would be adversely affected as the temperature would be increasingly too warm for them to live in. “Polar bears are entirely dependent on sea ice, you lose sea ice, you lose polar bears.” (Jay Malcolm, 2004). Hence, they may not be able to survive and the seal and sea lion population that would otherwise be controlled by the polar bears as part of their diet would multiply and overpopulation may occur resulting in many fishes being eaten and depleted. This depletion would be a negative factor for fisheries and human civilizations living in the northern hemisphere would have to then look for an alternative food source which would be difficult as their main source of protein and food are fish.

Intrusion of sea water

The rise in sea level also leads to the intrusion of sea water. As the development environment for rice crops is the fresh water, the increased salinity in soil can hinder rice growth and affect rice production. A study carried out by World Bank (2000) indicates that increased salinity alone from a 0.3 meter sea level rise will cause a net decrease of 0.5 million metric tons of rice production. Some low-lying deltas (which are the major rice crops in the world) of such river systems as the Ganges, the Mekong, the Nile, the Yellow, and so forth, have been affected by tidal wave. For example, as reported by FAO (1998), there were estimated amounts of 650,000 ha of saline soils along the coastal belt in the Mekong River Delta and 350,000 ha in the Red River Delta of Vietnam.

The release of pesticides

Water in lakes or rivers where the melting glacier flows through can be contaminated with pesticides. Some types of pesticides which contained harmful elements used to be used in agricultural production but they then were banned worldwide years ago. Most of the pesticides evaporated into the air and were finally trapped in layers of glaciers. Now, the rapid glacial melting is causing these hazardous chemicals to be released back into the environment, lakes, and rivers. For example, organochlorine is a type of pesticide having harmful contents. It was banned in entire USA due to its bad effects on humans’ health like leading to headache, dizziness, muscle weakness, or even cancer (Delaware Health and Social Services, 2010). This chemical, according to Blais (2001), shows an increase in one of the sub-alpine lakes in Canada. Such type of contamination can bring about negative impacts on the underwater ecology and creatures, while at the same time affects the source of water used for humans’ life as well as farming.

Global Solution

The only way to slow down glaciers melting is to slow global warming.

The global greenhouse effects requires a global solution, which requires the participation of the entire global community. (Rogers, 2012) We only have one earth, the protection for it need all citizen take part in.

Humankind has become dependent on burning fossil fuels to support our way of life, but it increases global warming at an unnatural rate. To restore the glaciers we need to utilize alternative energy sources, increase our energy efficiency and decrease our individual carbon output. (Rae, 2012)

There are many alternative energy available. Solar panels are made up of solar cells that trap the heat from the sun and convert it into energy. Wind turbines are towers that use the kinetic energy from the wind to generate power. Biofuels such as ethanol can be produced in your back yard by fermenting and mixing vegetable, fruit and grain waste; ethanol is used to make biodiesel fuel, a clean burning fuel for diesel engines. Electric cars are battery-powered instead of relying of the highly polluting internal combustion engine. Tidal and wave power utilize the massive power of the ocean by harnessing the energy with generators placed on the ocean floor. (Rae, 2012)

For individuals, try to take public transportation instead drive ourself; ride a bicycle if it helps; walk or jog to destination is also a good way to save time and strengthen body. Save power at home by taking shorter showers, recycling used water, turning off power for resting television, computers. Little things can make a big difference if done in a large scale, and they’ll go a long way toward reducing carbon footprint and saving the glaciers, slow down other effects of global warming.


This report has stated the currently major effects that environment made to the food growth and supply.

They are the field pollution due to over fertilization, unbalance of marine organism caused by over fishing, air pollution because of industrialization and urbanization. And even the melting glaciers which is a result of global warming has being a big concern: “When we see melt in places that we haven’t seen before, at least in a long period of time, it makes you sit up and ask what’s happening.” said NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati. “It’s a big signal, the meaning of which we’re going to sort out for years to come.”

It is not only simply the food or the environment that we should think about, but also the connection between. More systematic development need to be considered by government, organizations and companies.


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