Are you a JC General Paper student looking for sample essays on environmental issues?
Or are you preparing for this topic of the environment (or anything that is natural, NT man-made) for your upcoming GP exam? Use the following sample full length essays on this sub-topic of animals, pollution, environmental degradation, etc.
(More GP topics here)
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Q1: Why is there a growing awareness of ecological issues in the world today?
People are becoming more and more concerned with the damage and destruction that mankind has caused Earth and her flora and fauna. This can be attributed to many reasons.
Technology has become more advanced and with such advanced technology scientists are able to engage in experiments and research that involve the ecosystem be cause that they realise that it is to man’s benefit to gain more information about the world he lives in. From such experiments, new data and information concerning eco logical issues are obtained. Hence, there is now more information than ever about the planet we live in to assimilate. With more information available, people have to become more aware of ecological issues.
Going hand in hand with the enormous increase in information are improvements in the mass media achieved through technological advances. People see, read and hear more about ecological issues because of the improved accessibility to information through the newspaper, television, cinema, books, radio and so on. Also to be considered are the greater availability of sources of information due to the variety of television channels and radio stations, more libraries to lend books and so on. Hence, the mass media, more than ever, influence people to care about the planet they live in.
The increasing opportunity for education, in conjunction with the two above-mentioned factors, is contributing to the growing awareness of ecological issues in the world today. More and more children receive formal edu cation nowadays because governments realise its importance. Even adults find it easier to go back to studying due to the emphasis placed on education. Schools ac quaint children with the harm man is doing to his environment and teachers succeed in moulding their minds to make them care for the environment when they grow up because children are more impressionable. Therefore, people are becoming more and more concerned for the environment.
With better education, many people around the world today are enjoying better living standards. As people be come increasingly affluent, life becomes more than just survival and the question of where to get their daily bread. They take time to care about what is happening around them and have the spare time and energy to devote them selves to ecological causes.
Organisations such as Green Peace, Friends of Wild life and The Green Society are growing in popularity. Many celebrities and stars make known that they sup port environmental care. World renowned singer, Sting, writes and sings songs about wildlife protection. Supermodels pledge not to model in fur coats, the latest being Claudia Schiffer, boosting support for environmental care. These people in the limelight help improve the image of ecological causes and hence make concern for ecological issues more fashionable.
With a bigger percentage of the population being concerned with ecological issues, the governments of the affected countries pay more and more attention to them. Lobbies for more governmental protection of the environment become more effective and successful. With government participation, the green cause advances faster because the governments set examples that the people can look up to. Campaigns for environmental concerns launched by the governments more effectively achieve growing awareness of ecological issues in the world to day. The trend of growing awareness of ecological is sues proceeds by the “Domino Theory.” If one person is affected, a chain reaction occurs and in no time, every one is affected. It is fortunate that awareness is growing since the issues are very serious.
Q2: “The place for animals is in the wild, not in zoos.” Discuss?
The place for animals is in the wild but when one considers the state of the wild at the moment, I am inclined to disagree with the statement. The natural habitats of animals that are high on the extinction list are now unsuitable for the animals or totally destroyed. Hence in order to make sure that most of these animals survive into the twenty-first century, animals should be kept in breeding colonies in zoos in order to perpetuate the species. Circuses are, of course, not the place for animals but I feel that as long as the animals are well-treated. circuses can be used to teach children about animals or inspire concern for animals.
Most environmentalists feel that the place for animals is in the wild. I do not totally agree. This is because industrialists and big businesses can not be expected to stop their exploitation of the environment immediately and thus the wild is in no fit state to be the abode of animals at present. Zoos or circuses, if well-run, can be a refuge for animals. Animals need a lot of space to roam around but the forests and jungles are being cut down at such a rapid pace that even if small pockets of the wild are pre served to keep animals in, they will not be enough. For example, in Africa, governments are trying to save the white rhino and African elephant from slaughter by the poachers by setting up nature reserves. These nature re serves are only a means of slowing down the slaughter and not a solution. This is because the animals, in foraging for food, often wander out of the protected zone and get killed. Even if they stay inside the protected territory, the poachers go after them anyway because the reserves are usually under-manned or strapped for cash to pro vide better security.
Another reason why pockets of these reserves in the wild are not safe places for animals is these reserves are usually unable to sustain the animals in terms of food and shelter. Take the example of the African reserves. again. The reserves are becoming barren due to the actions of the elephants in stripping the trees and saplings for food and also to scratch their backs. And because the reserves are limited in area, there is not enough time for saplings to grow into trees during the period of time when the elephants forage in other areas. This is because the elephants quickly strip the other parts of these reserves and soon return to the stripped areas. This is the problem with nature reserves in other parts of the world, too. The limited land area just can not sustain the animal population.
Therefore the wild is not the place for animals. In a zoo, if the zoo is run by knowledgeable conservationists, the animals can be transferred to a substitute diet. They then need a smaller area to roam in since there is no need to forage for food. Hence animals can be safe from poachers and multiply till the day comes when the wild is safe for them again.
Another reason the wild is not the place for animals is that the threat hanging over their heads is already too strong for them to overcome even if we leave them alone in the wild. This is true of the golden bats and pink pigeons of Mauritius. This island in the Indian Ocean has many unique varieties of fauna which are worth preserving just for their beauty alone and much more so because of the unknown medical qualities which they may possess. The primary forests of the island are being cut down for settlements, hotels, and towns for the tourist trade. There were stipulated areas that were supposedly protected but still the number of pink pigeons decreased. But then along came the conservationist, Gerald Durrell, who captured specimens of these rare creatures and bred them in captivity in his Jersey zoo. After he had achieved the numbers he wanted, he set up a breeding colony on the island itself and now the pigeons are slowly being pulled back from the brink of extinction. Hence we can see that the animals’ place should not be totally in the wild because they might be rushed even more quickly towards extinction. This is because the wild is not as it was: pristine and natural. Man’s actions have upset the ecological cycle and even if we leave the animals in the wild now, they will not survive. Hence Mr Durrell’s method of establishing breeding colonies in the Jersey zoo means that there are more birds now safely in captivity and flourishing than in that so-called safe haven of a natural reserve in the wild.
The next reason for my being against the statement is that the wild is being invaded by outsiders, such as goats, cats, dogs, pigs, rats and rabbits. These animals are brought by man into the local unique ecosystems in such countries as the Cameroons, Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar. They are driving the native animals into extinction through depriving them of food, and, in the case of dogs and cats, they are hunting the native animals for food. The native animals of these islands usually have not faced any fearsome predators before and hence do not know how to defend themselves against the onslaught of domestic animals turned wild. For example, in New Zealand and Australia, the bush animals are dying out because of these “domestic” animals depriving them of food and safety, and thus to say that the place for animals is in the wild is to send them straight on the road to extinction. In Madagascar, the rabbits are eating the island barren and forcing the native animals into extinction and again, if not for the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Fund stepping in to establish breeding colonies in zoos around the world, some species of native animals would already be extinct.
Therefore, to say that “the place for animals is in the wild, not in zoos or circuses” is to be simplistic and irresponsible. What we should do now is to hang on to what ever animals are going extinct by establishing breeding colonies in zoos around the world, while trying to re store their natural habitat. Circuses are, of course, not as suitable as zoos but they could be employed to pass the message on to attract more attention for these crusades. Meanwhile, we must fight to save the wild and return it to its original condition. We owe it to the animals and our children.
Comment by GP tutor: Strong examples.
Q3: If you were the CEO of a company, what policies would you implement in light of the growing environmental degradation today?
The Earth has become increasingly threatened by is sues concerning the environment. As such, there has been a rising awareness of the environmental problems plaguing the Earth, for example the Greenhouse Effect and the rapid deforestation. Many plans have been carried out by individuals and groups to try to reduce such problems. Therefore, if I were the CEO of a company, I would try to implement environmentally-friendly policies.
Firstly, I would try to reduce the wastes produced by my company and recycle such wastes if possible. Landfills around the world have become full and precious land would have to be used to make more space for the wastes produced. Even if the wastes were incinerated, the resulting noxious gases would also pollute the atmosphere. Recycling of waste materials like metal, plastic and pa per would not only help with such problems of insufficient space, it could also help in preserving the resources of the world.
Also, I would implement policies to dispose of waste responsibly. The irresponsible dumping of wastes by some firms has led to pollution of the world’s seas and oceans, and has even rendered some pieces of land unsuitable for habitation. Thus, if firms are willing to spend part of their resources on waste disposal, such problems would be reduced by a large extent.
Secondly, I would try to find for less polluting methods of production and to seek renewable or sustainable resources. This means that I would find production methods that would cause less harm to the environment, for example, production that does not release toxic or pollutive gases into the atmosphere. Also, more efficient methods of production can be used as these methods would help save on the resources required for production. Seeking alternative resources that are renewable or sustainable also helps, for example using hydroelectric or geothermal energy instead of fuel-generated electricity. Such a policy would mean that the precious resources of the Earth would be preserved for future use.
Thirdly, I would implement policies concerning the matter of environmental emergencies. I would make sure that my company is prepared if any environmental emergency occurred. This means that a set of guidelines would be used to deal with them, for example an oil spill. Also, I would ensure that the company would take responsibility for any environmental damage directly or indirectly caused by the company. This, for example, could mean paying the whole or a percentage of the clean-up costs involved in an oil spill by one of the company’s ships.
Most importantly, the company must inform the public of such environmental damages and not hide it from the public eye. If an emergency occurs that threatens the people in the vicinity, the company should also help in evacuating the people. Even if the emergency is not potentially dangerous, the public should still be informed as they have a right to know.
Finally, I would have a Director of Environmental Is sues on the Board of Directors. This director should be well informed in matters of the environment and be qualified to handle such issues. The director would be the person to set the guidelines for environmental emergencies and help in the implementation of the abovementioned policies. Also, plans made by other parts of the company should be accessed by him or her, to deem if the plan is environmentally sound. If that is not so, the director would be permitted to modify or veto the plan with my permission. Also, the Director of Environmental Issues would be responsible for conducting a yearly assessment of the company for its environmental consciousness. The results would be published and made available to the public, and steps would be carried out to try to effectively deal with any problems found during the assessment.
Although such policies may take some years to implement and the financial costs may be high, such policies would ensure that the company would be considered “green” or environmentally conscious and help save the Earth. If the many companies of the world are willing to make such changes, then the Earth would be assured of a longer life, and make it possible to sustain future generation. As a Kenyan proverb states, “the Earth is not ours, it is loaned to us by our children.” Thus, he should ensure that we are able to return such a “loan” and not destroy the Earth before it is passed on to the next generation.
Q4: “The sea is a bottomless rubbish pit.” Comment.
Although there is still an abyss or two that oceanographers have yet to explore and determine the actual depth of, the majority of the seas and oceans around the globe have actually been carefully charted and continually monitored for any changes by satellite. They all have varying depths and are not infinitely deep. Therefore, we cannot generalise that all oceans are bottomless.
The image of the oceans being a rubbish pit is also a rather sweeping generalisation. There are people who are inconsiderate and selfish in their habits of littering the seas, but to totally brand the seas as a refuse disposal area would be too inaccurate. This is due to the fact that many other people around the world still make a conscious effort to preserve the sanctity of the oceans.
The sea is also an enormous pantry for the world’s growing population. It houses various kinds of fish, mammals, and vegetation that serve as a form of subsistence, especially for island nations and coastal regions. The people of Japan have relied on the oceans for their food sup ply since the beginning of their existence when they realised most of their land was too mountainous and unsuitable for farming. Micro Polynesia also relies heavily on the sea as they barely have enough land to live on, much less grow food products. It would hardly be correct to say that we get our Beluga caviar from a giant ‘rubbish pit’. Neither would anyone think we were mentally sound if we told them our scallops and lobsters were picked from among rubbish.
There are also certain medicinal uses for the vegetation and animals that live in the sea. Stress symptoms have been known to be alleviated when treated with products originating from an aquatic vegetable species known as “Kelp”. Sharks fins have been traditionally esteemed by the Chinese as a delicacy and is thought to be of medicinal value. Therefore, it is also rather incorrect to say that some of our medicine comes from the dustbin.
Furthermore, many regard the ocean as a thing of immense beauty. The many colours and shapes that are hid den under the oceans’ surfaces are sometimes beyond the ability of even the most gifted artist to re-create in any medium. The visual spectacle of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s coast has left many visitors in awe. The gracefulness and elegance displayed by the fish and mammals that live in the ocean enrapture both men and women alike. Such beauty could certainly not come out of the garbage.
The seas are also a playground for many of us who live on solid ground. Leisure activities which make use of the sea are becoming immensely popular. Sports like scuba-diving, sailing, jet-skiing and others of the kind have larger followings than ever. Hence, it would be rather incomprehensible to call the sea a rubbish pit and treat it like one.
The ocean provides unseen opportunities and hope for the future, Ecologists and scientists are probing deep into the ocean with the most advanced technology available to find organisms which might hold a possible cure for the common cold or even cancer. As our earth gets gradually exhausted of her secrets, man is turning to the oceans for answers to many of his present-day problems. If the phrase in the question were totally right, it would be like looking for answers in a waste-paper bin.
However, the perception of the ocean as a rubbish pit does ring true at times. Oil slicks and tons of refuse wash up on seashores all over the world. Ecological systems are disrupted with members of the food-chain sometimes totally wiped out by Man’s callous deeds. The sea is in deed not bottomless and the rubbish we indifferently fling into the sea will eventually wash up on a seashore some where or choke and drown an innocent sea creature.
In conclusion, the sea is not a bottomless rubbish-pit as indicated in the question, but a delicate eco-system where the balance of nature is so easily upset by our actions. It will be beautiful and for our use for centuries to come, but could indeed become a hideous rubbish pit if we persistently misuse it.
Q5: Economic growth is destroying the planet. Do you agree?
Well yes, man’s actions have been distorting nature’s equilibrium through agriculture and industrialisation, in name of economic growth. Ever since fire was discovered, forests have been cleared for a industrial Revolution, which was based on coal b pollution and destruction of the environment have risen. Massive use of other fossil fuels and the spread chemicals, since 1925 have had dramatic effects Is de led 15-20 years these effects have become alarming an economic system obsessed with growth and on is continuing to intensify its high technology an attempt to increase productivity. In what ways is de environment being wrecked?
1. Changes to the atmosphere caused by the ever-exploding burning of fossil fuels and tropical forests and de increase in carbon dioxide and other gases, which have led to the so-called “greenhouse effect” and probable global warming: acid rain (containing converted oxides of sulphur and nitrogen), mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, and the depletion of the ozone layer, caused mainly by the discharge of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs.
Effects: Exorbitant use of petroleum has led to heavy tanker traffic with frequent collisions in which huge amounts of oil are spilled into the seas. These oil spills have not only polluted the most beautiful shores and beaches of Europe, but are also seriously disrupting the marine food cycles and thus creating ecological hazards. The generation of electricity from coal is even more hazardous and more polluting than energy produced from ail. Underground mining causes severe damage to miner health, and strip-mining creates conspicuous environmental consequences, since the mines are generally abandoned once the coal is exhausted, with huge areas of land left devastated. Coal-burning plants emit vast quantities of smoke, ash, gases and various organic compounds, many which are known to be toxic or carcinogenic. Acids carried by the wind are washed down to earth as acid rain or snow. Eastern New England, Eastern Canada and Southern Scandinavia are heavily affected by this type of pollution. Thousands of lakes in Canada and Scandinavia are dead or dying already; entire fabrics of life that took thousands of years to evolve are rapidly disappearing.
2. Deforestation (especially in the tropics), bringing the destruction of species and precious medical plants, distortion of regional climates, erosion and degradation of the soil and an increase in albedo (ratio of total solar electromagnetic radiation reaching the earth to its reflection). Factors destroying the forest are: agriculture and shifting cultivation; settlers moving in after logging: the direct effect of logging and infrastructure development: marketing of timber and promotion of other forest by products (game, tourism and so on); mining; forestry to service debts.
3. Marine/fresh-water pollution as a result of noxious and toxic materials being released into the oceans. These enormous amounts of hazardous chemical waste are a result of the combined effects of technological and economic growth. Obsessed with the expansion, increasing profits, and raising ‘productivity’, the US and other industrial countries have developed societies of competitive consumers who have been induced to buy, use, and throw away ever increasing quantities of products of marginal utility. To produce these goods – food additives, synthetic fibres, plastics, drugs, and pesticides, for ex ample, resource-intensive technologies were developed, many of them heavily dependent on complex chemicals; and as production and consumption increased, so did the chemical wastes that are inevitable by-products of these manufacturing processes. The US produces a thousand new chemical compounds a year, many of them more complex than their previous, and more alien to the hu man organism. (The tragedy of Love Canal is a case in point: Love Canal was an abandoned trench in a residential area of Niagara Falls, New York, that was used for many years as a dump site for toxic chemical wastes. These chemical poisons polluted surrounding bodies of water, filtered into adjacent backyards, and generated toxic fumes causing high rates of birth defects, liver and kidney damage, respiratory ailments and various forms of cancer among the residents of the area. Eventually, the area was evacuated.)
(Recall Erin Brockovich movie, portrayed By Julia Roberts)
4. Desertification, resulting from over-exploitation of soil and misguided irrigation and agricultural practices. The long-term effects of excessive ‘chemotherapy in agriculture have proven disastrous for the health of the soil and the people, and for the entire ecosystem. At the same time crops are planted and fertilized synthetically year after year, the balance in the soil is disrupted. The amount of organic matter diminishes, and with it the soil’s ability to retain moisture. The humus content is depleted and the soil’s porosity reduced. These changes in soil texture entail a multitude of interrelated consequences. The depletion of organic matter makes the soil dead and dry, water runs through it but does not wet it. The ground be comes hard-packed which forces farmers to use more powerful machines. On the other hand, dead soil is more susceptible to wind and water erosion, which are taking an increasing toll. For example, half of the top soil in Iowa has been washed away in the last 25 years, and in 1976 two-thirds of America’s agricultural counties were designated drought disaster areas.
The massive use of chemical fertilizers has seriously affected the natural process of nitrogen fixation by dam aging soil bacteria involved in this process. Because their efficiency in absorbing nutrients this way is much lower. not all the chemicals are taken up by the crop but leak into the ground water or drain from the fields into rivers and lakes,
The ecological imbalance results in enormous in creases in pests and crop diseases, which farmers counteract by spraying ever larger doses of pesticides. New pests are becoming increasingly resistant to all pesticides.
The root of much of the problem is economic greed. Agricultural modernization’- mechanized large-scale farming is highly profitable for a small elite, the new ‘corporate farmers, and drives millions of people off the land. Thus fewer people are gaining control over more and more land and these landowners are resorting to more profit able crops for export, while the local population starves. Examples of such a practice can be found in Central America, Senegal, Mexico. Entrepreneurs in Columbia are changing from growing wheat to growing carnations for export to the US!
5. The health hazards of nuclear power are of an eco logical nature and operate on an extremely large scale, both in space and time. Nuclear power plants and military facilities release radioactive substances that contaminate the environment, thus affecting all living organisms, including humans. The effects are not immediate but gradual and they are accumulating to more dangerous levels all the time. In the human organism, these sub stances contaminate the internal environment with many medium and long term consequences. Cancer tends to develop after ten to forty years, and genetic diseases can appear in future generations. Many nuclear accidents have already happened, and major catastrophe have often been narrowly avoided. The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in which the health and safety of hundred of thousands of people were threatened is an example. Another is Chernobyl!
The world community has been slow in responding to the environmental catastrophe.
1) It was only in 1972 the United Nations Environ mental Programme (UNEP) was set up.
2) In 1987 the Brundtland Report defined the first coherent proposals for international action in the fight to safeguard the environment.
3) The Montreal Protocol of 1987 requested the signatories substantially to reduce the use of CFCs.
4) The World Environmental Conference in 1992, in Brazil, will be for coordinating environmental policies
5) A $100m research project in Indonesia is to establish to what extent growing plantation trees may be promoted without damaging the prospects of rainforest regeneration
6) Grass-roots movements in farming. Forestry etc as exemplified by the Greenpeace movement are initiating a profound change of values, attitudes, and lifestyles that will hopefully save ‘our planet.
Economic growth is necessary for cleaning up the planet.
1. It’s not cheap to be green-so, we see steps being taken in the developed countries than in the South – yet there are exceptions to the norm,
2. Japan’s powerful industrial background enables it to absorb the soaring costs. (i) Mitsubishi has established an environmental affairs department to inspect each of the firm’s divisions and operations.
(ii) Nissan introduced new equipment at its service centres to collect and recycle ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons from automobile air conditioners.
(iii) Having achieved a position of global dominance in the automobile and consumer-electronics industries, Japan’s Ministry of Inter national Trade and Industry’s wing, the Re search Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth has been given the expensive task of designing and producing technologies that will rescue the world from its dependence on fossil fuels.
3. Since 1976, Britain’s cosmetic chain, The Body Shop, has grown into an $84 million operation with stores in 37 countries and so it can afford the guiding principle of selling only environmentally friendly products and recycling and reusing as much as possible – “everything from fax to loo paper”.
4. Nearly 75% of the German firms and 100% of Dutch companies have designated a member of their board of directors to be responsible for environmental policy.
(i) A German chemical industry had invested huge amounts in environmental-protection technology-more than 2 billion marks in 1989 alone.
(ii) German managers in all industries are both businessmen and environmentalists and their consumers are equally strong Greens.
5. Mexico has been granted a huge loan, a portion of the costs for clearing up the environment; the rest of the money comes from States funds.
6. Where the Third World is concerned, the governments of developed nations have to put in more money, if the debt-for-nature concept is to pick up momentum.
And, yet, one does not necessarily have to be economically rich to undertake saving the planet.
1. Singapore has tried to be clean and green for decades. Previously, it used its wealth to clean up its rivers. Still, its campaigns and follow-up actions have not cost too much – save time and effort. plant tress all around S’pore.
So, it takes big money to install massive recycling technology, but in small ways a great deal can be done – ex ample Singapore. However, as the environment is in such a sorry state and not much has been done so far, billions have to spend on saving the planet from past wreckage and future devastation.
Q6: Do you agree that sustainable development is not realistic aim in today’s world?
Sustainable development – a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present but also for the future generations.
Candidates should understand that sustainable development goes beyond keeping the environment clean.
Growing environmental consciousness among individuals, corporations and governments. Increasingly cognizant (from campaigns and lobbying) of the need to balance short-term economic growth with long-term sustainability Pressure from environmentalists at home and abroad: As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and interdependent, environmental sustainability of a nation is no longer just that nation’s business anymore
The United States and China, two of the world’s biggest economies and polluters, have shown a change in attitude towards sustainable development in recent years
Compare the United States’ attitude towards the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen
Accord 17% of China’s electricity in 2007 came from renewable energy sources. It has the world’s largest number of hydroelectric generators. It may be able to meet all its electricity demands from wind power through (at least until) 2030.
Scientific and technological advances make sustainable development easier to achieve, e.g. alternative energy resources (vs. fossil fuels) and synthetic resources (vs. natural resources)
Human consumption, the engine of economic growth, is largely responsible for the fast depletion of resources.
To manage human consumption, individual and corporations are encouraged to Reduce their energy consumption (including their carbon footprint: staycations instead of overseas vacations) Reduce their water and food consumption (hunting of endangered species outlawed) Reduce, reuse, recycle materials Convert waste into resources (e.g. biofuels made from biomass)
Perennial conflict between environmental conservation and pursuit of economic growth Environmental conservation would invariably impede economic growth to a certain extent, an issue which developing nations are particularly concerned about Problem exacerbated by current economic woes (which are still plaguing the West); pursuit of economic growth takes priority
Evidenced by the lack of political will / governments paying lip service to / sabotaging environmental treaties, e.g. China attempted to wreck the Copenhagen deal
The heart may be willing but the flesh is weak Sustainable development can be costly, especially for developing nations effectiveness of solutions is in doubt, e.g. the farcical carbon credits/trading system
Profit-motivation and instant gratification trump social responsibility