Environmental protection

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Environmental protection is the practice of protecting the natural environment by individuals, organizations and governments. [1] Its objectives are to conserve natural resources and the existing natural environment and, where possible, to repair damage and reverse trends. [2]


Due to the pressures of overconsumption, population growth and technology, the biophysical environment is being degraded, sometimes permanently. This has been recognized, and governments have begun placing restraints on activities that cause environmental degradation. Since the 1960s, environmental movements have created more awareness of the various environmental problems. There is disagreement on the extent of the environmental impact of human activity and even scientific dishonesty occurs, so protection measures are occasionally debated.


Overconsumption is a situation where resource use has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem. A prolonged pattern of overconsumption leads to environmental degradation and the eventual loss of resource bases.

In biology or human geography, population growth is the increase in the number of individuals in a population. Many of the world's countries, including many in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia, have seen a sharp rise in population since the end of the Cold War. The fear is that high population numbers are putting further strain on natural resources, food supplies, fuel supplies, employment, housing, etc. in some of the less fortunate countries. For example, the population of Chad has ultimately grown from 6,279,921 in 1993 to 10,329,208 in 2009, further straining its resources. Vietnam, Mexico, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the DRC are witnessing a similar growth in population.

Environmental degradation

Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. As indicated by the I=PAT equation, environmental impact (I) or degradation is caused by the combination of an already very large and increasing human population (P), continually increasing economic growth or per capita affluence (A), and the application of resource-depleting and polluting technology (T).

Approaches with regards to environmental protection

Voluntary environmental agreements

In the industrial countries, voluntary environmental agreements often provide a platform for companies to be recognized for moving beyond the minimum regulatory standards and thus support the development of best environmental practice. For instance, in India, Environment Improvement Trust (EIT) has been working for environmental and forest protection since 1998. A group of Green Volunteers get a goal of Green India Clean India concept. CA Gajendra Kumar Jain a Chartered Accountant, is the founder of Environment Improvement Trust in Sojat city a small village of State of Rajasthan in India [3] In developing countries, such as Latin America, these agreements are more commonly used to remedy significant levels of non-compliance with mandatory regulation. [4] The challenges that exist with these agreements lie in establishing baseline data, targets, monitoring and reporting. Due to the difficulties inherent in evaluating effectiveness, their use is often questioned and, indeed, the whole environment may well be adversely affected as a result. The key advantage of their use in developing countries is that their use helps to build environmental management capacity. [4]

Ecosystems approach

An ecosystems approach to resource management and environmental protection aims to consider the complex interrelationships of an entire ecosystem in decision making rather than simply responding to specific issues and challenges. Ideally the decision-making processes under such an approach would be a collaborative approach to planning and decision making that involves a broad range of stakeholders across all relevant governmental departments, as well as representatives of industry, environmental groups and community. This approach ideally supports a better exchange of information, development of conflict-resolution strategies and improved regional conservation. Religions also play an important role in the conservation of the environment. [5]

Ecosystem A community of living organisms together with the nonliving components of their environment

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the system through photosynthesis and is incorporated into plant tissue. By feeding on plants and on one-another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes.

International environmental agreements

Kyoto Protocol Commitment map 2010 Kyoto Protocol Commitment map 2010.png
Kyoto Protocol Commitment map 2010

Many of the earth's resources are especially vulnerable because they are influenced by human impacts across many countries. As a result of this, many attempts are made by countries to develop agreements that are signed by multiple governments to prevent damage or manage the impacts of human activity on natural resources. This can include agreements that impact factors such as climate, oceans, rivers and air pollution. These international environmental agreements are sometimes legally binding documents that have legal implications when they are not followed and, at other times, are more agreements in principle or are for use as codes of conduct. These agreements have a long history with some multinational agreements being in place from as early as 1910 in Europe, America and Africa. [6] Some of the most well-known international agreements include the Kyoto Protocol.


Discussion concerning environmental protection often focuses on the role of government, legislation, and law enforcement. However, in its broadest sense, environmental protection may be seen to be the responsibility of all the people and not simply that of government. Decisions that impact the environment will ideally involve a broad range of stakeholders including industry, indigenous groups, environmental group and community representatives. Gradually, environmental decision-making processes are evolving to reflect this broad base of stakeholders and are becoming more collaborative in many countries. [7]

Many constitutions acknowledge the fundamental right to environmental protection and many international treaties acknowledge the right to live in a healthy environment. [8] Also, many countries have organizations and agencies devoted to environmental protection. There are international environmental protection organizations, such as the United Nations Environment Programme.

Although environmental protection is not simply the responsibility of government protection acts , most people view these agencies as being of prime importance in establishing and maintaining basic standards that protect both the environment and the people interacting with it.


Tanzania is recognised as having some of the greatest biodiversity of any African country. Almost 40% of the land has been established into a network of protected areas, including several national parks. [9] The concerns for the natural environment include damage to ecosystems and loss of habitat resulting from population growth, expansion of subsistence agriculture, pollution, timber extraction and significant use of timber as fuel. [10]

Zebras at the Serengeti savana plains in Tanzania Zebras, Serengeti savana plains, Tanzania.jpg
Zebras at the Serengeti savana plains in Tanzania

History of environmental protection

Environmental protection in Tanzania began during the German occupation of East Africa (1884-1919) — colonial conservation laws for the protection of game and forests were enacted, whereby restrictions were placed upon traditional indigenous activities such as hunting, firewood collecting and cattle grazing. [11] In year 1948, Serengeti was officially established the first national park for wild cats in East Africa. Since 1983, there has been a more broad-reaching effort to manage environmental issues at a national level, through the establishment of the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) and the development of an environmental act. In 1998 Environment Improvement Trust (EIT) start working for environment & forest protection in India from a small city Sojat. Founder of Environment Improvement Trust is CA Gajendra Kumar Jain working with volunteers. [12]

Government protection

Division of the biosphere is the main government body that oversees protection. It does this through the formulation of policy, coordinating and monitoring environmental issues, environmental planning and policy-oriented environmental research.The National Environment Management Council (NEMC) is an institution that was initiated when the National Environment Management Act was first introduced in year 1983. This council has the role to advise governments and the international community on a range of environmental issues. The NEMC the following purposes: provide technical advice; coordinate technical activities; develop enforcement guidelines and procedures; assess, monitor and evaluate activities that impact the environment; promote and assist environmental information and communication; and seek advancement of scientific knowledge. [13]

The National Environment Policy of 1997 acts as a framework for environmental decision making in Tanzania. The policy objectives are to achieve the following:

  • Ensure sustainable and equitable use of resources without degrading the environment or risking health or safety.
  • Prevent and control degradation of land, water, vegetation and air
  • Conserve and enhance natural and man-made heritage, including biological diversity of unique ecosystems
  • Improve condition and productivity of degraded areas
  • Raise awareness and understanding of the link between environment and development
  • Promote individual and community participation
  • Promote international cooperation [13]
  • Use ecofriendly resources.

Tanzania is a signatory to a significant number of international conventions including the Rio Declaration on Development and Environment 1992 and the Convention on Biological Diversity 1996. The Environmental Management Act, 2004, is the first comprehensive legal and institutional framework to guide environmental-management decisions. The policy tools that are parts of the act includes the use of: environmental-impact assessments, strategics environmentals assessments and taxation on pollution for specific industries and products. The effectiveness of shifing of this act will only become clear over time as concerns regarding its implementation become apparent based on the fact that, historically, there has been a lack of capacity to enforce environmental laws and a lack of working tools to bring environmental-protection objectives into practice.


The Longwanqun National Forest Park is a nationally protected nature area in Huinan County, Jilin, China Longwanqun national forest park creek 2011 07 25.jpg
The Longwanqun National Forest Park is a nationally protected nature area in Huinan County, Jilin, China

Formal environmental protection in China House was first stimulated by the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden. Following this, they began establishing environmental protection agencies and putting controls on some of its industrial waste. China was one of the first developing countries to implement a sustainable development strategy. In 1983 the State Council announced that environmental protection would be one of China's basic national policies and in 1984 the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) was established. Following severe flooding of the Yangtze River basin in 1998, NEPA was upgraded to the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) meaning that environmental protection was now being implemented at a ministerial level. In 2008, SEPA became known by its current name of Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China (MEP). [14]

Command-and-controlEconomic incentivesVoluntary instrumentsPublic participation
Concentration-based pollution discharge controlsPollution levy feeEnvironmental labeling systemClean-up campaign
Mass-based controls on total provincial dischargeNon-compliance finesISO 14000 systemEnvironmental awareness campaign
Environmental impact assessments (EIA)Discharge permit systemCleaner productionAir pollution index
Three synchronization programSulfur emission feeNGOsWater quality disclosure
Deadline transmission tradingAdministrative permission hearing
Centralized pollution controlSubsidies for energy saving products
Two compliance policyRegulation on refuse credit to high-polluting firms
Environmental compensation fee

Pollution control instruments in China

Environmental pollution and ecological degradation has resulted in economic losses for China. In 2005, economic losses (mainly from air pollution) were calculated at 7.7% of China's GDP. This grew to 10.3% by 2002 and the economic loss from water pollution (6.1%) began to exceed that caused by air pollution. [15] China has been one of the top performing countries in terms of GDP growth (9.64% in the past ten years). [15] However, the high economic growth has put immense pressure on its environment and the environmental challenges that China faces are greater than most countries. In 2010 China was ranked 121st out of 163 countries on the Environmental Performance Index.

China has taken initiatives to increase its protection of the environment and combat environmental degradation:

Rapid growth in GDP has been China's main goal during the past three decades with a dominant development model of inefficient resource use and high pollution to achieve high GDP. For China to develop sustainably, environmental protection should be treated as an integral part of its economic policies. [17]

Quote from Shengxian Zhou, head of MEP (2009): "Good economic policy is good environmental policy and the nature of environmental problem is the economic structure, production form and develop model." [16]

European Union

Environmental protection has become an important task for the institutions of the European Community after the Maastricht Treaty for the European Union ratification by all the Member States. The EU is already very active in the field of environmental policy with important directives like those on environmental impact assessment and on the access to environmental information for citizens in the Member States.


In Russia, environmental protection is considered an integral part of national safety. There is an authorized state body - the Federal Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology. However, there are a lot of environmental issues in Russia.

Latin America

Top 5 Countries by biological diversity Top 5 Countries by biological diversity.jpg
Top 5 Countries by biological diversity

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has identified 17 megadiverse countries. The list includes six Latin American countries: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Mexico and Brazil stand out among the rest because they have the largest area, population and number of species. These countries represent a major concern for environmental protection because they have high rates of deforestation, ecosystems loss, pollution, and population growth.


Panorama of the Iguazu falls in Brazil Foz de Iguaçu 27 Panorama Nov 2005.jpg
Panorama of the Iguazu falls in Brazil

Brazil has the largest amount of the world's tropical forests, 4,105,401 km2 (48.1% of Brazil), concentrated in the Amazon region. [18] Brazil is home to vast biological diversity, first among the megadiverse countries of the world, having between 15%-20% of the 1.5 million globally described species. [19]

The organization in charge of environment protection is the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment (in Portuguese: Ministério do Meio Ambiente, MMA). [20] It was first created in year 1973 with the name Special Secretariat for the Environment (Secretaria Especial de Meio Ambiente), changing names several times, and adopting the final name in year 1999. The Ministry is responsible for addressing the following issues:

  • A national policy for the environment and for water resources;
  • A policy for the preservation, conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems, biodiversity and forests;
  • Proposing strategies, mechanisms, economic and social instruments for improving environmental quality, and sustainable use of natural resources;
  • Policies for integrating production and the environment;
  • Environmental policies and programs for the Legal Amazon;
  • Ecological and economic territorial zoning.

In 2011, protected areas of the Amazon covered 2,197,485 km2 (an area larger than Greenland), with conservation units, like national parks, accounting for just over half (50.6%) and indigenous territories representing the remaining 49.4%. [21]


With over 200,000 different species, Mexico is home to 10–12% of the world's biodiversity, ranking first in reptile biodiversity and second in mammals [22] —one estimate indicates that over 50% of all animal and plant species live in Mexico. [23]

The history of environmental policy in Mexico started in the 1940s with the enactment of the Law of Conservation of Soil and Water (in Spanish: Ley de Conservación de Suelo y Agua). Three decades later, at the beginning of the 1970s, the Law to Prevent and Control Environmental Pollution was created (Ley para Prevenir y Controlar la Contaminación Ambiental).

In year 1972 was the first direct response from the federal government to address eminent health effects from environmental issues. It established the administrative organization of the Secretariat for the Improvement of the Environment (Subsecretaría para el Mejoramiento del Ambiente) in the Department of Health and Welfare.

The axolotl is an endemic species from the central part of Mexico Axolote.jpg
The axolotl is an endemic species from the central part of Mexico

The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT [24] ) is Mexico's environment ministry. The Ministry is responsible for addressing the following issues:

  • Promote the protection, restoration, and conservation of ecosystems, natural resources, goods, and environmental services and facilitate their use and sustainable development.
  • Develop and implement a national policy on natural resources
  • Promote environmental management within the national territory, in coordination with all levels of government and the private sector.
  • Evaluate and provide determination to the environmental impact statements for development projects and prevention of ecological damage
  • Implement national policies on climate change and protection of the ozone layer.
  • Direct work and studies on national meteorological, climatological, hydrological, and geohydrological systems, and participate in international conventions on these subjects.
  • Regulate and monitor the conservation of waterways

In November 2000 there were 127 protected areas; currently there are 174, covering an area of 25,384,818 hectares, increasing federally protected areas from 8.6% to 12.85% its land area. [25]



The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest barrier reef in the world GreatBarrierReef-EO.JPG
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest barrier reef in the world

In 2008, there was 98,487,116 ha of terrestrial protected area, covering 12.8% of the land area of Australia. [26] The 2002 figures of 10.1% of terrestrial area and 64,615,554 ha of protected marine area [27] were found to poorly represent about half of Australia's 85 bioregions. [28]

Environmental protection in Australia could be seen as starting with the formation of the first National Park, Royal National Park, in 1879. [29] More progressive environmental protection had it start in the 1960s and 1970s with major international programs such as the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, the Environment Committee of the OECD in 1970, and the United Nations Environment Programme of 1972. [30] These events laid the foundations by increasing public awareness and support for regulation. State environmental legislation was irregular and deficient until the Australian Environment Council (AEC) and Council of Nature Conservation Ministers (CONCOM) were established in 1972 and 1974, creating a forum to assist in coordinating environmental and conservation policies between states and neighbouring countries. [31] These councils have since been replaced by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) in 1991 and finally the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) in 2001. [32]

At a national level, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the primary environmental protection legislation for the Commonwealth of Australia. It concerns matters of national and international environmental significance regarding flora, fauna, ecological communities and cultural heritage. [33] It also has jurisdiction over any activity conducted by the Commonwealth, or affecting it, that has significant environmental impact. [34] The act covers eight main areas: [35]

There are several Commonwealth protected lands due to partnerships with traditional native owners, such as Kakadu National Park, extraordinary biodiversity such as Christmas Island National Park, or managed cooperatively due to cross-state location, such as the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves. [36]

At a state level, the bulk of environmental protection issues are left to the responsibility of the state or territory. [31] [34] Each state in Australia has its own environmental protection legislation and corresponding agencies. Their jurisdiction is similar and covers point-source pollution, such as from industry or commercial activities, land/water use, and waste management. Most protected lands are managed by states and territories [36] with state legislative acts creating different degrees and definitions of protected areas such as wilderness, national land and marine parks, state forests, and conservation areas. States also create regulation to limit and provide general protection from air, water, and sound pollution.

At a local level, each city or regional council has responsibility over issues not covered by state or national legislation. This includes non-point source, or diffuse pollution, such as sediment pollution from construction sites.

Australia ranks second place on the UN 2010 Human Development Index [37] and one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios of the developed economies. [38] This could be seen as coming at the cost of the environment, with Australia being the world leader in coal exportation [39] and species extinctions. [40] [41] Some have been motivated to proclaim it is Australia's responsibility to set the example of environmental reform for the rest of the world to follow. [42] [43]

New Zealand

At a national level, the Ministry for the Environment is responsible for environmental policy and the Department of Conservation addresses conservation issues. At a regional level the regional councils administer the legislation and address regional environmental issues.


The environmental protection in Switzerland is mainly based on the measures to be taken against global warming. The pollution in Switzerland is mainly the pollution caused by vehicles and the litteration by tourists.[ citation needed ]

United States

Yosemite National Park in California. One of the first protected areas in the United States YosemitePark2 amk.jpg
Yosemite National Park in California. One of the first protected areas in the United States

Since 1969, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to protect the environment and human health. [44] All U.S. states have their own state departments of environmental protection. [45]

The EPA has drafted "Seven Priorities for EPA's Future", which are: [46]

In literature

There are many works of literature that contain the themes of environmental protection but some have been fundamental to its evolution. Several pieces such as A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, Tragedy of the commons by Garrett Hardin, and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson have become classics due to their far reaching influences. [ citation needed ] Environmental protection is present in fiction as well as non-fictional literature. Books such as Antarctica and Blockade have environmental protection as subjects whereas The Lorax has become a popular metaphor for environmental protection. "The Limits of Trooghaft" [47] by Desmond Stewart is a short story that provides insight into human attitudes towards animals. Another book called "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury investigates issues such as bombs, wars, government control, and what effects these can have on the environment.

See also

Related Research Articles

Environmental law rules of law, promoting the protection of the natural environment

Environmental law, also known as environmental and natural resources law, is a collective term describing the network of treaties, statutes, regulations, common and customary laws addressing the effects of human activity on the natural environment. The core environmental law regimes address environmental pollution. A related but distinct set of regulatory regimes, now strongly influenced by environmental legal principles, focus on the management of specific natural resources, such as forests, minerals, or fisheries. Other areas, such as environmental impact assessment, may not fit neatly into either category, but are nonetheless important components of environmental law.

International Union for Conservation of Nature international organisation

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, and education. IUCN's mission is to "influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable".

This is an index of conservation topics. It is an alphabetical index of articles relating to conservation biology and conservation of the natural environment.

Habitat conservation

Habitat conservation is a management practice that seeks to conserve, protect and restore habitat areas for wild plants and animals, especially conservation reliant species, and prevent their extinction, fragmentation or reduction in range. It is a priority of many groups that cannot be easily characterized in terms of any one ideology.

Protected areas of Brazil

Protected areas of Brazil included various classes of area according to the National System of Conservation Units (SNUC), a formal, unified system for federal, state and municipal parks created in 2000.

Environmental policy the totality of the government efforts to promoting the protection of the natural environment

Environmental policy is the commitment of an organization or government to the laws, regulations, and other policy mechanisms concerning environmental issues. These issues generally include air and water pollution, waste management, ecosystem management, maintenance of biodiversity, the protection of natural resources, wildlife and endangered species. Concerning environmental policy, the importance of implementation of an eco-energy-oriented policy at a global level to address the issues of global warming and climate changes should be accentuated. Policies concerning energy or regulation of toxic substances including pesticides and many types of industrial waste are part of the topic of environmental policy. This policy can be deliberately taken to direct and oversee human activities and thereby prevent harmful effects on the biophysical environment and natural resources, as well as to make sure that changes in the environment do not have harmful effects on humans.

Cabo Orange National Park

The Cabo Orange National Park is a National park located in Amapá state in the north of Brazil, near the border between Brazil and French Guiana.

Environmental issues in Pakistan include deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, climate change, pesticide misuse, soil erosion, natural disasters and desertification. These are serious environmental problems that Pakistan is facing, and they are getting worse as the country's economy expands and the population grows. Little is being done to tackle these issues, because the goals of economic growth and tackling terrorism within the country supersede the goals of environmental preservation. Although NGOs and government departments have taken initiatives to stop environmental degradation, Pakistan's environmental issues still remain.

Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Mexico) federal ministry of Mexico

The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources is Mexico's environment ministry. Its head, the Secretary of the Environment, is a member of the federal executive cabinet and is appointed by the President of the Republic. As of 2015 the appointed Secretary of the Environment in the cabinet of Enrique Peña Nieto is Rafael Pacchiano Alamán who was preceded by Juan José Guerra Abud, who was in the position from 1 December 2012 to 27 August 2015.

The Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) is a non-profit organization in South Korea that focuses on environmentalism.

Environment of Brazil

The environment of Brazil is characterized by high biodiversity with a population density that decreases away from the coast.

Jari Ecological Station nature reserve in Brazil

Jari Ecological Station is an ecological station in Brazil, located in the states of Amapá and Pará, created in 1984.

Guaraqueçaba Environmental Protection Area

Guaraqueçaba Environmental Protection Area is a protected area in the State of Paraná, Brazil. It includes Atlantic Forest, mangrove, salt marsh and estuarine environments in an area with a relatively low human population.

Index of environmental articles

The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, includes all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth.

Environmental governance is a concept in political ecology and environmental policy that advocates sustainability as the supreme consideration for managing all human activities—political, social and economic. Governance includes government, business and civil society, and emphasizes whole system management. To capture this diverse range of elements, environmental governance often employs alternative systems of governance, for example watershed-based management.

Environmental governance is a concept in environmental policy that steers markets, technology and society towards achieving the goal of sustainability. It considers social, economic and environmental aspects in the decision making of its policies.

Nature Protection Service (Spain)

The Nature Protection Service is a unit of the Spanish Civil Guard responsible for nature conservation and management of the hunting and fishing industry. It serves to carry out and oversee State provisions to preserve nature, the environment, water resources, and preserving wealth in hunting, fish farming, forestry and other nature related industries. They are also heavily involved in work against spills and contamination, illegal trade of protected species, unregulated hunting and fishing activities, protection of natural spaces, and prevention and extinction of fires.

Natural capital accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms. This process can subsequently inform government, corporate and consumer decision making as each relates to the use or consumption of natural resources and land, and sustainable behaviour.

Amapá National Forest

The Amapá National Forest is a national forest in the state of Amapá, Brazil.

Caatinga Ecological Corridor

The Caatinga Ecological Corridor is an ecological corridor in the caatinga biome of northeast Brazil.


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