Volcanic Activity and Earthquakes
Natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes have led to a substantial shaping of the earth’s surface as well as the environment over millions of years. According to Cusick (7), a volcano is an area where molten rock or magma from the earth’s crust reaches the surface of the earth becoming lava. Volcanic eruptions can be usually effusive and explosive according to the chemistry of the lava. This includes the amount of silica and dissolved gases in the lava. Thick lava has high silica levels while fluid lava has low silica levels. The higher the amount of dissolved gases in lava, the more violent a volcanic eruption becomes. Earthquakes are as a result of seismic activity and they are associated with the movement of tectonic plates.
Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have had an effect on the earth’s surface as well as the atmosphere.
The hot lava and fiery clouds that occur during volcanic eruptions race down mountain sides destroying trees, insects, plants and other wildlife, and everything else in their paths. Ash that erupts into the sky falls back on the earth and creates a blanket that suffocates animals, crops, plants and humans. Volcanoes can also start forest fires. Also, volcanic eruptions affect weather and climate patterns. They produce sulfuric acid aerosols which form layers of haze in the stratosphere. This haze can remain in the atmosphere for several years and reflects radiation from the sun this reducing surface temperatures. For example, the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 in the Philippines caused rain patterns in Asia to shift temporarily and caused a drop in temperatures. However, they have their benefits. Gaseous emissions coming from volcanic vents for over millions of years formed the earth’s earliest oceans and atmosphere.
The possible solution to the devastating effects that humans have on the environment is the creation of sustainable systems. According to PNNL (1), a sustainable system is a set of ecologically engineered processes which are capable of economically meeting the society’s needs while at the same time maintaining the well being of the ecosystems. Human beings are in constant competition with other living organisms for space and resources. Increasing world population and increasing standards of living have continued to pose serious danger to the environment. Advances in technology are a constant threat to the environment with technologies such as nuclear weapons being capable of wiping out entire ecosystems. In creating sustainable systems, it is important to start from the basics. This includes efficient management of the available resources, the adoption of green technologies and the use of efforts geared towards restoring the environment.
First, it is important to manage resources such as water in a sustainable manner. Water supports life. With the water quantity and quality problems, there is need to recycle water, as well as utilize water harvesting systems. Second, it is important to reduce dependence on non renewable sources of energy such as coal and oil, and increase and encourage the use of renewable sources such as solar energy, wind energy and biomass. This includes investing in research and development in order to create affordable and efficient green energy technologies so that they can be available to a large number of people. Research on green technologies is also critical. These technologies include sustainable building technologies and green cars. All these would significantly reduce GHG emissions and thus conserve the environment. Other measures that can be helpful include planting of trees, the efficient use of resources and application of sustainable agricultural methods.
Cusick, Judy. Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis. Massachusetts: NSTA Press, 2007.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Reduce the Environmental Effects of Human Activities and Create Sustainable Systems. PNNL, 12 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.