Those who are concerned with protecting the environment often use the words conservation and preservation. These two terms are often confused and are used to mean the same thing, although differences exist.
Conservation is the sustainable use and management of natural resources including wildlife, water, air, and earth deposits. Natural resources may be renewable or non-renewable. The conservation of renewable resources like trees involves ensuring that they are not consumed faster than they can be replaced. The conservation of non-renewable resources like fossil fuels involves ensuring that sufficient quantities are maintained for future generations to utilise. Conservation of natural resources usually focuses on the needs and interests of human beings, for example the biological, economic, cultural and recreational values such resources have. The rain forest for example, contains a wide range of biodiversity, providing food stocks for local populations and a source of timber and medicines for other countries. Conservationists accept that development is necessary for a better future, but only when the changes take place in ways that are not wasteful. What the conservationist opposes is not the harnessing of nature for mankind's progression, but the fact that all too often the environment comes off the worse for wear.
Preservation, in contrast to conservation, attempts to maintain in their present condition areas of the Earth that are so far untouched by humans. This is due to the concern that mankind is encroaching onto the environment at such a rate that many untamed landscapes are being given over to farming, industry, housing, tourism and other human developments, and that we our losing too much of what is 'natural'. Like conservationists, some preservationists support the protection of nature for purely human-centred reasons. Stronger advocates of preservation however, adopt a less human-centred approach to environmental protection, placing a value on nature that does not relate to the needs and interests of human beings. Deep green ecology argues that ecosystems and individual species should be preserved whatever the cost, regardless of their usefulness to humans, and even if their continued existence would prove harmful to us. This follows from the belief that every living thing has a right to exist and should be preserved.
Air moves around the Earth because of the differences in temperature and atmospheric pressure that exist. Wind turbines harness the movement of air to produce energy. They do not emit any greenhouse gases and air pollutants, apart from those involved in their construction. The wind turns the blades which turn a rotor shaft. The resultant mechanical power is used to drive an electricity generator. Wind turbines are often grouped together in wind farms. They offer a highly sustainable form of energy.
Wind power has very promising potential in the UK as it lies in the path of Atlantic depressions (low-pressure systems), which bring windy weather. The UK currently has over 70 onshore wind farms, and it is thought that wind power could be supplying 10% of the UK’s electricity by the year 2025.
Wind farms provide a clean source of energy, but they do have some disadvantages. To some, they have a detrimental visual impact, and can be noisy in windy conditions. Suitable locations for wind farms are often in areas of scenic beauty and so careful consideration needs to be given before they can be built.
It is estimated that the UK has a very large offshore wind resource. As well as being sited on land, the scope for setting up wind farms out at sea, where strong winds blow more consistently, is now under investigation. "Offshore" wind power, as it is called, involves fixing the bases of the wind turbines firmly to the sea bed and ensuring that the turbines can withstand the prevailing conditions, which are much more hostile than those on land. Currently there are 13 ofshore windfarm in UK waters, most off the coasts of East Anglia, Lancashire and Cumbria.
One of Earth's most important natural resources is its atmosphere. The atmosphere contains air without which plants and animals could not survive. It contains greenhouse gases which keep the planet naturally warmer than it would be otherwise, maintaining an average global temperature above freezing that allows water to exist in its liquid state, a necessary condition for most life. If mankind is to protect and preserve this unique natural resource for future generations as well as other ecosystems, it must continue to address the problem of air pollution which affects the atmosphere from the local to the global scale. Currently, there exist four major air pollution issues: air quality, acid rain, global warming and ozone depletion.
Air Pollution and concern about air quality are not new. Complaints were recorded in the 13th century when coal was first used in London. Since the middle of the 19th century, the atmosphere of the major British cities was regularly polluted by coal smoke in winter, giving rise to an infamous mixture of fog and smoke known as smog. Today the emphasis has shifted from the pollution problems caused by industry to the ones associated with motor vehicle emissions.
Acid rain is a widespread term used to describe all forms of acid precipitation such as rain and snow. Atmospheric pollutants, particularly oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, can cause precipitation to become more acidic when converted to sulphuric and nitric acids, hence the term acid rain. Acid deposition, acid rain and acid precipitation all relate to the chemistry of air pollution and moisture in the atmosphere. Scientists generally use the term acid deposition but all three terms relate to the same issue.
The Earth has warmed up by about 0.6°C in the last 100 years. During this period, man-made emissions of greenhouse gases have increased, largely as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. In the last 20 years, concern has grown that these two phenomena are, at least in part, associated with each other. That is to say, global warming is now considered most probably to be due to the enhanced greenhouse effect.
The ozone layer filters out incoming radiation in the "cell-damaging" ultraviolet (UV) part of the spectrum. Without ozone, life on Earth would not have evolved the way it has. The discovery of a large ozone hole over Antarctica and its association with man-made CFCs led the world to take action to protect the ozone layer.
Agenda 21 calls for action in the energy production, transport and industrial sectors, to enhance energy efficiency and reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases which cause air pollution.