Human Impact on Ecosystems

[mb1] Because of technological advancements in the past few hundred years, Humans have begun to alter the ecosystem in profound ways. We therefore need to become environmentally literate in order to ward off negative results from our choices. If we alter our environment in a large way we can destroy the world we live in.

We have on earth two types of resources-renewable and non renewable resources.

Renewable resources- such as solar power and food. Yet even these resources may be stressed if we use them up at a rate where the species of food for example may not be able to replenish itself. For ex, if we eat up bass at a rate faster then they multiply the species becomes endangered and we are at risk of losing them. Many goyishe scientists are very afraid of the world having to many people and that the world will reach carrying capacity.

Non-renewable resources- such as fossil fuels-for ex. gas. If we deplete these resources we will never have them again.

Soil formation-soil forms when rocks break down after being exposed to the elements and is maintained by roots of trees and plants. This soil is then the host for many organisms and decaying matter. The decay then gets transferred into plants that use the material of the deceased organism. (This flow is called the Energy flow. Although nutrients can be recycled, energy CANNOT. The loss of energy into the atmosphere in the process of heat needs to be replaced by a different type of source. This is done by the sun.) If plants are not there the soil gets washed away in the rain are not planted, the soil quickly loses its footholds and the habitat is in danger of being destroyed and making the land infertile.

Water cycle- water flows from the clouds in the form of rain. The extra rain flows into bodies of water which evaporate and go into the atmosphere and seed the forming clouds with water.

Many goyim propose population control as a strategy in which we can protect the environment. Other strategies are the 3 R’s-reduce, this means don’t use the lights in your house when you don’t really need it reuse,- don’t use paper plates use dishes and use them many times, recycle-don’t throw things in the garbage rather recycle the used materials.

Pollution-is the harmful change in the water, soil, or air of a habitat which has a negative impact on the species of life living in that habitat.

These are some of the ways how humans can alter the environment in a negative way:

Land clearing activities to set up human settlement, or to provide for the needs of humans, kills wildlife and may habitats that lived there.

Direct harvesting-the destruction or removal a species from a habitat is called direct harvesting which can lead to the extinction [mb2] of a species. For ex. the death of the passenger pigeon which numbered in the billions in the 1800’s is extinct now!

Habitat destruction[mb3] - by activities such as deforestation kills off many species which are unable to recover from the destruction of their habitat. The size of the rain forest are therefore half what they where 150 years ago. This can lead to a loss of biodiversity which in many cases loses forever the ability to find new cures[mb4] from those species that where lost due to habitat loss.

Imported species-many times people unwittingly bring in new species into established habitats. Because of the entry of this new species, the old species are threatened either because of increased competition or because of the predator capacity of the new species. This then causes sometimes irreversible damage to the existing species. To then control these new pests are very difficult since if one introduces a natural predator it may itself become a new pest. Chemical controls don’t either do such a good job at control. The safest and most reliable way of pest control is using scented traps to capture and kill the pest.

[mb1]The sefer Chasidim wrote that one should be careful as a mailah of chassidus never to hurt or harm animals (Sefer Chasidim-13a) protection of the environment.

[mb2]The Ramba”n in Devarim 22:6 says that one should not act in wanton destruction of a species and that is the kavana behind the mitzvah of oso vies bnoi. The chinuch applies this mitzvah to kan tzippor but adds that Hashem will not let an animal become extinct.

[mb3]See the Tanna Dbai Eliyahu (end of perek 1qouted by the mahrza”v in Birashis Rabbah 10:7) where he says that all the creatures in the world are there to heal people-that means to use to get refuos for them as the gemara in Shabbos 77b says clearly. Thus with the loss of habitats there is resultant loss of medicinal applications that are lost as well. Thus we see that Chaza”l knew this secret of medicinal uses from animals in the past as well. See the medrash mentioned above that explains besides the utilitarian purposes of animals there is a purpose for every creature even though they don’t seem to have one since they all are there to act as Hashem’s shiluchim as it goes on to recount. This idea against destroying creatures without a purpose is also found in the issur of bal tashchis which applies to all things.

[mb4]We see from Yechezkel (47:12) that plant leaves where used for medicinal purposes