Topic 4: Environmental Policy



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Ecology and Sustainability



Ecology

The natural relationship between living organisms, e.g. people, trees, plants, etc. and the environment around them.


At the heart of this issue of environmental politics is the concept of ecology, which essentially means how different organisms and natural substances react and function within the environment in which they reside.
On a basic environmental level, any living organism, whether it is a human being or a plant, requires certain basic conditions in which to live and be sustained. When this natural ‘social’ environment is disrupted or damaged in some way, it has an effect on the living organisms that exist within it. In this context, when the global, ecological environment changes or is damaged in some way, all living creatures are therefore affected. This becomes evident in the form of changing and more extreme weather conditions, questions arising over the sustainability of the earth’s resources, and the long-term fears about the quality of the atmosphere in which people live and the air that they breathe.


At the heart of environmental politics therefore is the issue of resource depletion, namely that the earth’s resources are being depleted, eroded or damaged and need to be protected as a result. For example, the large-scale destruction of trees and woodland in some parts of the world has raised major concerns about the long-term future of this vital commodity in such regions, which in turn has environmental implications, in particular damage to the ozone layer and the levels of oxygen and the local climate produced as a result. Such damage to the ozone layer is said to be a key factor in the changing environment and weather conditions witnessed across parts of the globe, and in this context some large multinational organisations such as McDonald’s have been widely criticised for their company’s role in the promotion of business practices that have resulted in large-scale damage to woodland areas, ultimately undermining the sustainability of such particular geographical areas in the long run.


Many scientists have likened this development to a ‘greenhouse effect’, in that the earth is warming up like a greenhouse due to the damage caused to the formerly protective ozone layer. Such environmental warming has been caused by ‘greenhouse gases’ flowing through the earth’s environment, gases created by long-term environmental pollution. Many such gases have been caused by the widespread use of fossil fuels such as coal, and forms of ‘renewable energy’ such as wind power have emerged as a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative, although various governments of recent years have even criticised for placing too much emphasis on such renewable methods.
The level of CO2 in the atmosphere is now 386 parts per million. In 1958, it stood at 315ppm. Before the Industrial Revolution, it was 280ppm.3


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