Activity of Modern Man and Environmental Degradation


Modern man has, therefore, built up an extraordinary accumulation of ‘Human Biomass’ in which energy and materials flow, in enormous quantities from all other systems. He lives a life of comfort and luxury which requires additional resources.

His activities have acquired immense sig­nificance. The consequences of his actions have a global impact. He has successfully diverted a huge share of global production, 3.78 x 10′7 to 4.59 x 1017 kcals. for his own use out of the total world production of 7.7 x 1017 kcals per year. (Whittaker and Likens, 1975, Olsen et al, 1983).

Though the estimates are crude yet it is almost certain that a little more than half of the total world production is now consumed by a single species, the Homo sapiens. Of course, all this has not been without conse­quences. The activity of modern man has slowly been degrading the quality of global environment. Major aspects of human activity responsible for environmental degradation are:


1. Over-exploitation of natural resources.

2. Pollution of the environment.

(1) Over-Exploitation of Natural Resources :

The world population now stands at about 5.6 billion. Naturally such an extraordinary accu­mulation of human biomass is the result of availability of energy and material resources. To main­tain it in a reasonably comfortable state a huge amount of food, material and other resources are needed. Natural vegetation over a large stretch of land has been destroyed to be replaced by agricul­tural systems which are intensively managed to produce as much eatables as possible.


All other resources which could possibly feed the mankind are tapped. For materials other than eatables, such as fibers, wool, cement, stone, steel, metals etc. both biotic and a biotic resources are exploited. The growing demands have turned exploitation into over-exploitation now. This has brought the natural systems on the brink of total collapse.

(2) Pollution of the Environment :

With a rapid growth of human biomass which caused an ever-rising drain on natural resources, the amount of waste materials produced by human society has also multiplied. Dilution no longer remained a solution. As wastes grew in amount their nature also changed. Insecticides, plastics, polymers, plasticizers, heavy metals, toxic trace elements etc. which are the wastes of persistent nature, worsened the problem.

Discharge of waste gases grew so much in volume that acid rains appeared. Even the stratosphere has become polluted. Its ozone content is diminishing. Pollution now spoils more and more surface deposits of fresh water every day and threatens the sub-surface aquifers as well. The pollution of soil damages more and more agricultural land every year, putting it out of any productive use. The biosphere has been a natural victim. It has slowly been subjected to an ever rising stress caused by human activity. It has already begun to lose species after species.

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