Over the years, Earth has seen many natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, floods, and landslides. While these events are mostly natural occurrences caused by various factors, man-made mistakes can also contribute to them.
Biggest Man-Made Environmental Disasters in History
Some of history’s biggest environmental catastrophes have been caused by human activity and can do immense harm to both environment and people alike. These man-made catastrophes may originate from crime, civil disorder, terrorism, war, biological/chemical threat, cyber-attacks, or more – these man-made disasters deserve special recognition.
Oil spills are a typical example of man-made environmental disasters, devastating those living near the site and surrounding ecosystems. Not only do the spills cause death to marine life, but they can also pollute, which has serious health repercussions.
Chemical waste dumping and leaks are examples of man-made environmental catastrophes that can have catastrophic effects on both humans and the environment. For instance, the Love Canal disaster in California saw an industrial waste dump seeping into the waterways of the city. The toxic substances from this spill saw their way into homes and businesses, ultimately forcing hundreds of families to relocate.
In November 2005, several explosions at a petrochemical plant in Jilin, China, caused toxic fumes to be released into the nearby Songhua River. Since this river provided drinking water to many cities nearby, many people were evacuated, and the area was left with severe chemical contamination.
In 1986, Chornobyl, Ukraine, experienced the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident, and its consequences were catastrophic for both people and animals alike. Over 2 million people were exposed to a toxic cloud of radioactive materials; thousands died from radiation poisoning.
Overfishing is a serious issue in the ocean and has the potential to do great harm. Decreasing fish populations can have detrimental effects on all aspects of marine life, from the food chain to local fishing communities.
Lake Victoria in Africa is currently facing an unprecedented combination of environmental crises: chemical and raw sewage pollution, overfishing, an outbreak of water hyacinth plants, and explosive algae blooms. Fishing in the lake – which supports millions of livelihoods across Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania – has become increasingly difficult due to these issues.
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is a serious issue, leading to the loss of vast amounts of biodiversity and an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. This process contributes significantly to global warming and could cause further destruction if left unchecked.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patches are large areas in the North Pacific Ocean that form gyres – or accumulations of debris and rubbish. This can pose a major problem for marine life and is believed to have been caused by plastic waste that floats around in the waters. Estimates suggest this garbage patch contains up to five million tons of plastic waste which blocks sunlight from plankton and other marine life, potentially leading to their death.