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Welcome to the Environment Portal
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""Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall, New Zealand.
The "natural environment comprises all naturally occurring surroundings and conditions in which living things grow and interact on "Earth. These include complete "landscape units that function as natural "systems without major "human intervention, as well as "plants, "animals, "rocks, and "natural phenomena occurring within their boundaries. They also include non-local or universal natural "resources that lack clear-cut boundaries, such as "air, "water and "climate.

The concept of the natural environment can be distinguished by components:

As "human population numbers increase and as humans continue to "evolve, human activity modifies the natural environment at a rapidly increasing rate, producing what is referred to as the "built environment. The potential of the natural environment to sustain these "anthropogenic changes while continuing to function as an "ecosystem is an issue of major worldwide concern. Key environmental areas of interest include "climate change, "water supply and "waste water, "air pollution, "waste management and "hazardous waste, and "land use issues such as "deforestation, "desertification, and "urban sprawl.

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""Thermal (top) and vegetation (bottom) locations around New York City via infrared satellite imagery. A comparison of the images shows that where vegetation is dense, temperatures are cooler.
An "urban heat island (UHI) is a "metropolitan area which is significantly warmer than its surrounding "rural areas. The temperature difference usually is larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak. Seasonally, UHI is seen during both summer and winter. The main cause of the urban heat island is modification of the land surface by urban development which uses materials which effectively retain heat. Waste heat generated by energy usage is a secondary contributor. As a population centre grows, it tends to expand its area, and increase in its average temperature.

Monthly "rainfall is greater downwind of cities, partially due to the UHI. Increases in heat within urban centres increases the length of "growing seasons, and decreases the occurrence of weak "tornadoes. The UHI decreases "air quality by increasing the production of pollutants such as "ozone, and decreases water quality as warmer waters flow into area streams, which stresses their ecosystems. Despite concerns raised about its possible contribution to global warming, comparisons between urban and rural areas show that the urban heat island effects have little influence on global mean temperature trends.

UHIs have the potential to directly influence the health and welfare of urban residents. As UHIs are characterized by increased temperature, they can potentially increase the magnitude and duration of heat waves within cities. Research has found that the mortality rate during a heat wave increases exponentially with the maximum temperature, an effect that is exacerbated by the UHI. The nighttime effect of UHIs can be particularly harmful during a heat wave, as it deprives urban residents of the cool relief found in rural areas during the night

Not all cities have a distinct UHI. Mitigation of the urban heat island effect can be accomplished through the use of "green roofs and the use of lighter-coloured surfaces in urban areas, which reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat.

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Current events

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""Buckminster Fuller
"Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983) was an "American "visionary, "designer, "architect, "poet, "author, and "inventor.

Throughout his life, Fuller was concerned with the question "Does "humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth, and if so, how?" Considering himself an average individual without special monetary means or academic degree, he chose to devote his life to this question, trying to find out what an individual like him could do to improve humanity's condition that large organizations, governments, or private enterprises inherently could not do.

Fuller published more than 30 books, inventing and popularizing terms such as ""Spaceship Earth", "ephemeralization, and "synergetic. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, the best known of which is the "geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as "fullerenes were later named by scientists for their resemblance to geodesic spheres.

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Credit: "National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

An "oil spill is the unintentional release of "liquid "petroleum "hydrocarbon into the "environment as a result of human activity. The term often refers to "marine oil spills, where oil is released into the "ocean or "coastal waters. Oil can refer to many different materials, including "crude oil, refined petroleum products (such as "gasoline or "diesel fuel) or by-products, ships' bunkers, oily refuse or oil mixed in "waste. Spills take months or even years to clean up.

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The Brundtland Commission, formally the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), known by the name of its Chair "Gro Harlem Brundtland, was convened by the "United Nations in 1983. The commission was created to address growing concern "about the accelerating deterioration of the "human environment and "natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for "economic and "social development." In establishing the commission, the UN General Assembly recognized that environmental problems were global in nature and determined that it was in the common interest of all nations to establish policies for "sustainable development.

The Report of the Brundtland Commission, "Our Common Future, was published in 1987. It was welcomed by the General Assembly in its resolution 42/187. The report deals with "sustainable development and the change of politics needed for achieving that. The definition of this term in the report is quite well known and often cited:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
  • the concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."

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Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

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