Effects of Agriculture on the Environment

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Effects of Agriculture on the Environment


Agriculture has changed dramatically, especially since the end of World War II. Food and fibre productivity rose due to new technologies, mechanization, increased chemical use, specialization and government policies that favoured maximizing production. These changes allowed fewer farmers with reduced labour demands to produce the majority of the food and fibre.

Humans, like all other species, exploit their surroundings for the resources they need to survive. Our current exploitation of the world, however, is greater than those of most species. There are many reasons for this exploitation but we will focus on one and that is our technology, which is used for various purposes. Like a few other species, we use tools, but the hand-held tools that we originally used could only adjust extremely local conditions. Today we are able to shape entire regions and our technology has progressed to the point where we can level mountains and control the flow of rivers, something that was simply impossible a relatively short while ago. We can now modify our world relatively easily and quickly.

Agriculture is the major farming activity. Agriculture's scale means not only that large area is directly affected, but that local and even regional climates can be affected. The draining of water from rivers and watersheds for irrigation leads to drier natural habitats. Those rivers that receive runoff from farmland are often poisoned by excessive nutrients and pesticides.

As agriculture has become more intensive, farmers have become capable of producing higher yields using less labour and less land. Growth of the agriculture has not, however, been an unmixed blessing. It, like every other thing, has its pros and cons. Topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination, the decline of family farms, continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm labourers, increasing costs of production, and the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities. These are the cons of the new improved agriculture.

Environmental impacts have increased, including potential ruin of the soil and water resources essential to both farm productivity and human health.

Agriculture also leads to soil erosion, both through rainfall and wind. This soil can damage the aquatic ecosystems it ends up in, an...

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...e sun, this is of a longer wavelength and is absorbed by the atmosphere. The Earths atmosphere, thus acts like the glass of a green house, hence the 'greenhouse effect'.

The greenhouse gases are those that absorb the Earths radiation and thus contribute to the greenhouse effect, but water is also a major absorber of energy. Where there is an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases (as with CO2 due to the burning of fossil fuels) this results in an enhanced greenhouse effect - which is of concern as it could lead to climate change (i.e. global warming).

Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals--environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. A variety of philosophies, policies and practices have contributed to these goals. People in many different capacities, from farmers to consumers, have shared this vision and contributed to it.

So overall, Agriculture is playing a very important role in changing the lifestyle of different people. Agriculture might have made everything easy for us but it still has its cons. We see the effects of agriculture and how it affects the lives of other species and the environment.

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