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Ecosystems and How They Work sample essay

Question 1. The industrialization of the United States began after the civil war and started to peak in the late 19th century as capital equipment and tools were developed. This made the rapid production of more goods for more people possible. This resulted in the expansion of the factory system allowing people to make a living by manufacturing, commerce, trade or finance. Industrialization, urbanization and immigration caused people to move from the village to the city and together with the influx of foreign immigrants, this led to a dramatic growth in urban population (Faulkner, 1924).

The increasing density of industry, transportation and housing had negative impacts on both the land and the lives of the urban dwellers such that alongside with the revolution came the problem of pollution in all its forms – air, garbage, water and noise. The factories needed less variable energy production to run the factories thus energy production shifted from the waterwheel to the burning of fossil fuels and fuel oils. At first, the urban industrial centers took pride in black smoke as a symbol of progress and triumph of civilization.

With the invention of the automobile and its rise in popularity, their exhaust fumes further exacerbated the already noxious emissions from the factories. These led to a multitude of respiratory ailments. The problem of garbage came with the increasing population. These accumulated faster than they can be collected and disposed. Even the horse-drawn carts utilized for the collection contributed to this problem as the equine waste s created both health hazards and foul odors. Then, the industrial effluents and sewage from were polluting the river systems.

The public started to become aware that the environment cannot absorb limitless amounts of waste. By the 1960’s, the threat became too great. During the mid-twentieth century, the focus on environmental concerns was on the conservation of resources such as forest, ranges and water which led to the passage of laws such as the Taylor Grazing Act (1934), Soil Conservation Act (1935) and even the building of the Hoover Dam (formerly known as the Boulder Dam) to provide cheap electric power along with flood control, recreation and soil conservation.

In the 1960’s, according to the environmental historian Samuel P. Hays, there was a shift “in emphasis from resource efficiency to that of quality of life based on beauty, health and permanence… arising out of the social changes and transformation in human values in the post-War years” (cited in Faulkner, 2002). Various private organizations were found, public agencies established and acts passed to address environmental issues. In 1969, there was Friends of the Earth (FOE) which aimed to protect the planet from environmental disaster and to preserve biological, cultural and ethnic diversity.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) made it mandatory for federal agencies to prepare environment impact statement. To regulate the air and water quality, hazard and disposal management, the Environmental Protection Agency was established. In 1970, Earth Day was first promoted to fight environment causes and to oppose environmental degradation which led o the Environmental Movement. In the same year, the U. S. passed the Clean Air Act.

Almost two decades later, an agreement by industrialized nations called the Kyoto Protocol was reached to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Merchant, 2002). The cost of substantially reducing industrial pollution is high but the costs of ignoring it is even higher as it would compromise the sustainability of life itself. Question 2. “The biosphere is a closed ecological system with finite resources and its equilibrium is maintained by grand-scale recycling” (“Pollution”, 2004). Fungi and bacteria play major roles in maintaining a balanced ecosystem as they are in essence nature’s recyclers.

Some of these processes where they are involved include photosynthesis and respiration, nitrogen fixation and denitrification. When an organic material is decomposed, the atmospheric supply of carbon dioxide is replenished. Carbon dioxide is needed by plants for the photosynthetic process where oxygen is a by-product and released into the atmosphere. Oxygen is essential for human respiration. Plants also need nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the form of phosphates in order to flourish. These can be found in the soil.

Nitrogen is obtained through nitrification through microbes oxidizing ammonium to form nitrate and nitrate salts. It can also be obtained through bacteria living in the root nodules of legumes. They obtain fee nitrogen from the air, and synthesize or fix it or even just incorporate it into their bodies so when they die, the nitrogen compounds are released. The phosphorous cycle does not include a gaseous state. Instead, phosphates are removed from rocks where it usually occurs and distributed to both the soil and water.

The plant absorbs all the nutrients it needs from the soil, produce its own food, releases oxygen, then are eaten by herbivores, who themselves are eaten by carnivores. The phosphates absorbed are returned to the soil through urine and feces as well as from plant and amanimal decomposition. Since the industrial revolution, we have increasingly ignored or altered the natural cycles. The resulting explosion in economic output has come at the cost of the long-term and dangerous depletion of natural capital.

By relying on nitrogen fertilizer instead of organic farm wastes, we have reduced the fertility of agricultural lands and created dead zones in our oceans and rivers. Our logging operations and regular use of fossil fuels have increased atmospheric carbon concentrations to very high levels. By diverting or damming our rivers, we’ve dried out seas (or created new ones), changes local weather patterns and disrupted entire ecosystems. Nature will not be able to keep up if the natural cycles are disrupted by high quantities of wastes. We know this simply cannot go on.

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