"Only when the last tree has been cut and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize
that we cannot eat money."
Cree Indian proverb

What do we mean by the Environment?


People have many different ideas as to what comprises ‘The Environment'. Its physical components can be divided into Land, Sea and the Air, in other words everything around us. Within them live animals and plants, not forgetting that human beings are themselves animals and part of the Environment. For thousands of years people have lived in harmony with their environment, living off natural resources. The growth of modern industry has produced many benefits for people, particularly in the raising of general standards of living, but it has also increased human impact on the environment in ways that dramatically affect the balance of nature.

Mountain village
© L Hamonic



Natural Food Chains - The Balance of Nature


Within and shared between the physical components, there are many complex food chains. For example, people eat bread, produced from wheat, grown in soil, which needs water, so that microbes can live in it to help roots to develop so that the wheat can grow. People keep animals such as goats for milk and meat, collecting their dung and spreading it on the cultivated soil. This, known as an ecosystem, contains living components: people, wheat and microbes; and non-living components: soil and water. All of course need oxygen from the air, together with energy from the sun.


Ecosystem example
© Katana.re

The components of this ecosystem interact with those of other such food chains: birds may feed on the wheat grain, or on insects which live on the plants, and so on. When the components suffer change, through man-made or natural causes, an ecosystem may go out of balance with serious consequences for the food chain. Imbalance in one ecosystem may damage the balance of other food chains which are linked to it.


Foodchain example
Source: Environmental Protection Agency


Non-physical Components of the Environment


Modern development can have many effects on the natural environment, some negative and some positive. For this reason all new projects undergo an environmental impact assessment. This not only looks at impacts on the natural environment: it also looks at those on people who live or work in the area of the project, including the social impacts. Will it improve their quality of life at home or at work? What effect does it have on the landscape they live in? Will it affect traditional cultural values? These are some of the non-physical components of the environment.

Urban Jungle