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    A Study of the Negative Effects of Urbanization

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    Over the past few decades, numerous countries around the world have increasingly become more urbanized. Statistics show that since 1800, the urban population rose from 2 percent to 54 percent globally (“Urban Population (% of Total).”, n.p.; Torrey, Barbara Boyle, n.p.). Unfortunately, such urban population increase has led to various outcomes such as climate change, acid rain and deforestation that adversely affect the environment. Therefore, urbanization negatively impacts the environment on a global scale, national scale and personal scale.

    The world has increasingly become more urbanized and developed, unfortunately at the expense of many ill effects on the environment. In fact, one of the serious effects of urbanization is climate changes. The air pollution produced especially by transportation systems greatly contributed to climate change. This was due to the greenhouse gases produced which were responsible for preventing the radiation produced within the Earth’s atmosphere from escaping to Space.

    Accordingly, this led to an overall warming in the Earth’s climate (“How Do Human Activities Contribute to Climate Change and How Do They Compare with Natural Influences?”, n.p.). One country that was affected in this way is India. Home to approximately 22,000,000 vehicles, the air undoubtedly became greatly polluted. It became polluted to the point where among the world’s top 20 most polluted cities, 13 were found to be in India (“Automobiles and Pollution in India.”, n.p.). India’s environment was unfavorably impacted by urbanization as the gases produced by these cars trapped the radiation caused by other human activities. This radiation would eventually be reflected back into the atmosphere and cause heating in India’s climate.

    Moreover, when the urban population increases, the likelihood of acid rain will also increase and lead to adverse effects. Air pollution is a common outcome of urbanization caused by the gases produced through human activities such as burning fossil fuel and riding vehicles. This air pollution containing harmful compounds would then cause acid rain, a chemical reaction occurring when these compounds are emitted into the atmosphere (“What Causes Acid Rain?”, n.p.).

    One example is Hong Kong where air pollution has become a serious issue due to urbanization. At times, people would have difficulty seeing things beyond 8 kilometers (“Hong Kong: Heavy Air Pollution Threatens People’s Health And Local Economy.”, n.p.). Accordingly, due to Hong Kong’s severe air pollution, acid rain became a common outcome that negatively affects the environment. Gradually, this acid rain damaged Hong Kong’s greenery, water bodies and more (“Health & Environmental Effects of Air Pollution.”, n.p.). Likewise, there are still more damaging effects of urbanization on a country’s environment.

    As a country becomes more urbanized, more land space is required for expansion, often resulting in deforestation. For instance, a developing nation requires more land space in order to expand and construct more buildings. Often times, this expansion takes over the natural habitats of various species, and often leads to their endangerment. This unfortunate situation can be recognized in Bermuda, one of the most urbanized countries in the world, where only 1000 ha out of 5000 ha is actually forest land area (“Bermuda Forest Information and Data.”, n.p.). The reason for this small area of forest land was due to this nation’s speedy development which encouraged deforestation.

    In fact, scientists discovered that biodiversity rates had began decreasing ever since the population began growing each year by about half a million tourists. Eventually, this densely populated nation’s biodiversity status was declared as critical and endangered (“Bermuda.”, n.p.). These unfortunate effects of urbanization can also be noticed in the environment of U.S.A.

    Urbanization also negatively affects U.S.A’s environment in multiple ways. Presently, U.S.A has become modernized to the point where there is one car available for every two people (Torrey, Barbara Boyle, n.p.). Urbanization in U.S.A. has led to an increase of air pollution production which harmfully affects the environment. Eventually, it was proven that U.S.A.’s population size and the amount of CO2 that it produced shared a directly proportional relationship (Seto, Karen C., n.p.).

    Hence, urbanization unfavorably affects U.S.A.’s environment as CO2 along with the other gas pollutants emitted would trap the energy radiated from Earth’s atmosphere and act as a barrier, preventing this energy from being reflected into space (“Causes of Climate Change.”, n.p.). This would eventually lead to an increase in U.S.A.’s atmosphere temperature and could potentially cause a climate change. Another negative outcome of urbanization in the U.S.A. is the increased chance of acid rain. U.S.A.’s air pollution contains harmful substances like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide which are responsible for acid rain’s existence. Its transportation systems were the reason for more than 50 percent of all nitrogen oxide emissions and factories were the reason behind 69 percent of sulfur dioxide produced in the United States.

    Scientists also discovered that the states with the highest nitrogen oxide emissions were found to have a denser urban population, traffic and factories compared to other less urbanized U.S. states (“Acid Rain.”, n.p.; “Water Encyclopedia.”, n.p.). Ultimately, one can say that urbanization was indeed responsible for the rates of acid rain in U.S.A.

    As U.S.A. becomes more urbanized, more land space is required for further expansion and this negatively affects its environment. Over the past decades, U.S.A became more urbanized, expanding their land to further develop their country. Today, U.S.A. is covered with numerous houses, apartments, skyscrapers and more. As a result, only approximately 33% of U.S.A is covered with forests. In fact, every year, this figure was discovered to decrease by about 0.13% (“United States of America Forest Information and Data.”, n.p.).

    Researchers have also discovered that out of about 2,900 U.S. native species, 2,269 species were categorized as endangered (Osborn, Liz, n.p.; “Endangered Species Search by Area Selection.”, n.p.). Both of these decreasing figures were overall caused by urbanization. Hence, one can see that the continuous development of this nation led to harmful effects on its environment particularly through the decrease of forest land area and the number of U.S.A.’s native species. Yet, these unfortunate effects are not only seen on a national scale, but also in the life of one young Chinese girl.

    On a personal scale, urbanization adversely impacts the environment in which an eight-year-old Chinese girl lives in. On November of 2014, one girl living in the province of Jiangsu, China was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her news immediately spread all over Chinese media as she was declared to be the youngest person within all of China to have lung cancer.

    Her doctors all concluded that her polluted living environment was a major cause. Due to the urbanization of the cities within the Jiangsu region, the air pollution there had become a serious issue. Even today, the average air quality within the Jiangsu region adds up to about 160 AQI, labelling its air quality as unhealthy (“Air Pollution in Jiangsu.”, n.p.). As a result, the doctors blamed the harmful gases emitted into the air within the busy area she lived in for her resulting condition, lung cancer (Chatterjee, Patralekha, n.p.). In this way, she was affected by the urbanization of her home environment.

    Overall, one can draw the conclusion that the urbanization of the region she inhabited unfortunately affected her living environment which in turn, had a detrimental effect on her health. The harmful gases produced by the Jiangsu region’s vehicles, factories and more, due to its urbanization, were most likely the main causes of her lung cancer. Therefore, just as urbanization negatively impacted the environment in which this girl presently lives in, it will lead to future irreversible, adverse effects on the global environment.

    At this rate, urbanization will continue to adversely affect the environment. The first possible future scenario is that due to urbanization, more land expansion will be required, which, in turn, would harm the environment. This situation can be recognized in Singapore where its rapid development has led to a decrease in their plant population. Plants convert the carbon dioxide within the atmosphere into oxygen. However, due to deforestation, the air pollution in Singapore worsened (“Biodiversity Information.”, n.p.). Just like Singapore, other countries could be affected similarly in the future. This is overall likely to happen today as more buildings are constructed every day and more forest land is destroyed.

    Another problem that urbanization could potentially cause is air pollution produced by human activities, which will increase the chances of acid rain. Acid rain causes soil to become acidic, leading to the inability for a plant to mature. In worse cases, the leaves from trees would be eaten away by the acid rain. Acid rain also negatively affects the environment by polluting water bodies. As a result, both animals and people would have a harder time finding clean, drinkable water (“Acid Rain: Do You Need to Start Wearing a Rain Hat?”, n.p.). The likelihood of this taking place is quite high especially since more air pollution is generated as numerous countries continue to urbanize.

    The third possible future scenario is that the urbanization of a country will lead to an increase in energy consumption, inevitably harming the environment. In 2011, coal and natural gas supplied about two-thirds of U.S.A.’s energy. Consequently, this fuel combustion produced about 5,200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

    In numerous countries, every time, there was a higher demand to use energy, people would have to drill for natural gas or mine for coal. This production would lead to negative impacts on the environment by increasing the risk of climate change or warming of the atmosphere (“What Are the Effects of Overusing Energy?”, n.p.). Today, it is very plausible for this event to take place as millions of people continue to waste electricity every day. Therefore, several courses of action will need to be taken to counteract these possible future scenarios.

    In order to oppose these possible future scenarios, the following courses of actions must be taken. The first course of action that will counteract the increasing air pollution levels due to the reducing number of trees involves the government taking action. For example, Singapore’s government eventually realized that they had to take action and reduce the air pollution. Accordingly, they were eventually able to make Singapore, a ‘city garden’ by adding in parks, nature reserves, rooftop gardens and more (“Biodiversity Information.”, n.p.). Similarly, if the governments in other countries take the time and effort to make changes, they could help reduce the negative effects of urbanization on their environments.

    There are several courses of actions that should be taken to reduce the chances of acid rain adversely impacting the environment. Acid rain most commonly occurs due to people’s energy consumption. This is because higher demands would essentially cause energy producing companies to generate more air pollution. A few ways in which an individual could reduce the possibility of acid rain is by switching off electrical appliances when they are not in use, using equipment which use less electricity and choosing smarter options of transportation (“What Can You Do?”, n.p.). This would overall reduce the negative effects of urbanization from causing acid rain and other unfavorably effects on the global environment.

    The third course of action involves helpful solutions that would aid a large urban population in reducing their energy consumption and lessening their adverse impact on the environment. One could remove chargers from plug sockets when not in use, insulate the walls and roof spaces of a house, dry one’s clothes outside and so on (“Reduce Energy Consumption.”, n.p.). If these simple yet efficient steps are carried out by each household within an urbanized country, it would drastically reduce the amount of harmful gases emitted into the atmosphere. It would also help prevent global warming as there would be less gases present to reflect radiation back into the Earth’s atmosphere. These courses of actions will overall weaken the negative impact that urbanization has on the environment.

    Based on the overall research, urbanization indeed adversely affects the environment. I came to a conclusion that, even though, urbanization has helped us become a more modernized generation, it has also overall harmfully affected the living conditions of our environment. In fact, it is quite disappointing to have found out that along with urbanization came increases of air pollution, climate change, deforestation, acid rain, reduction in biodiversity and so on. Today, through urbanization, countries all around the world are becoming more developed.

    At this point, urbanization is inevitable, and it is even predicted that the global urban population will rise to become 66 percent of the entire world’s population by 2050 (“World’s Population Increasingly Urban with More than Half Living in Urban Areas.”, n.p.). However, from the knowledge I gained especially while writing the ‘possible future scenarios’ section, I learned that unless we strongly decide to take action, the unfavorable effects of urbanization on the environment will worsen. Therefore, we, as a population, must work together to maximize our chances of counteracting the negative effects of urbanization on this Earth’s environment.

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