written by: Atula Gupta•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 1/30/2010
Our environment is a combination of many elements, both living and non-living that make up our surroundings. Some include natural elements and some are manufactured. Here is a basic understanding of what makes a "green" environment and how a balance of natural elements can define our existence.
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What is a Green Environment?
If you look up in the dictionary the meaning of the word environment, it will state something like this:
"An environment is all of the conditions, circumstances, etc. that surround and influence life on earth, including atmospheric conditions, food chains, and the water cycle."
Thus, the environment is our surrounding that includes living as well as non-living things. The non-living components like land, water, air, temperature etc. influence how animals, plants and we as human beings live in a particular area. Living creatures too are dependent on each other for food, shelter etc. For example, a polar bear lives in extreme cold conditions and eats mostly seal and fish, while a camel survives on thorny bushes and can bear extreme heat. If any of the environmental elements change, it automatically becomes harder and sometimes fatal for living organisms like these to survive.
The major components that form a particular natural green environment are,
The upper crust or the surface of the earth, on which we tread, is visibly different from the inner core of the earth. It has been formed by the cooling of molten rocks and the process continues with each natural change (earthquakes, volcanoes, shifting of the tectonic plates, etc.).
The soil conditions of a particular area do not change overnight. It is the amount of nutrients present in the soil, the minerals found, the presence and the nature of rocks that eventually make up the land, the kinds of trees, and animals surviving in the area.
Trees, plants and even grass play an important role (and have for many years) in maintaining the fertility of the soil and by stopping top soil erosion by firmly holding it with their roots.
Approximately 71% of the earth’s surface is covered with water. With the largest bodies of water being the oceans and the smallest being the tiny neighborhood ponds and lakes. All water present on the surface of the earth goes through a process of evaporation, condensation, formation of clouds and then the final downpour in the form of rain which then percolates under the ground to form ground water. This continuous water cycle is the harbinger of seasonal changes, climate changes, soil fertility, and aridity.
There is also another continuous process that involves rivers and streams flowing to the sea, forming the oceans we have come to know and love. These processes result in the movement of soil and sediment, formation of rocks, dispelling of plant seeds, and giving rise to different environmental conditions for different life forms.
Atmosphere, Climate and Weather
There is a thin layer of different gases enveloping the earth that help in sustaining life. This mixture of gases is known as the atmosphere which consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% argon and other inert gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor. The ozone layer, the outermost layer of the atmosphere, helps in reflecting harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun from reaching the earth. As the atmospheric pressure varies at different altitudes, so do the life forms that reside there.
The climate of a place is meteorological conditions over a period of time, like a few months or even a year. The climate depends on conditions such as the temperature, the rainfall, humidity etc. Weather on the other hand, is a day to day variation in these conditions. For example, one day, it can be sunny and cold or cloudy, misty and warm. Near the equator, the temperature is very similar every day, so much that there is no prominent difference between season changes and climate changes. Weather and climate seem to be one and the same in these areas.
No animal can live entirely on its own. For food, an animal must eat either plants or other animals. For example, a tiny amoeba feeds on plants and then gets caught, only to be eaten by a creature like a water flea. This flea is eaten by a newt which then becomes food for a hungry water beetle. A fish catches the beetle and later the fish is maybe caught by an egret. This then, would be an example of the food chain. The food chain is present universally, anywhere from a small pond to a huge rainforest. The food chain is a system where plants and animals of an area dependent on each other to survive. Also, a food chain almost always begins with an animal eating a plant, and surely this proves the importance of the word "green" when speaking of environment.
In conclusion, there are a number of physiological, abiotic and biotic conditions that combine together to form an environment of an area, and it is this combination that leads to the adaptation and survival of plant and animal species in various regions of the world. That being said, a green environment is all around us.
Nature has created so many critical balances across the globe that the abundance or the deficit of any of these elements can prove hazardous to this self-sufficient system. It is therefore important to keep this intertwined bond of life, intact, natural and green.
Flickr photos by Alan Vernon & azrainman
1. The Hamlyn Children's Encyclopedia. The world we live in. Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd. 1972.