The Environment is our basic life support system and is composed of living beings, physical surroundings, and climatic conditions. It is derived from a French word, “Environner”, that means “to surround”. The term environment includes all biotic and abiotic entities around us. Biotic refers to the world of living organisms, whereas Abiotic refers to the world of non-living elements. The Environment provides us the basic elements – air, water, food, and land which are essential for life to flourish on the Earth.
Our Environment comprises of three components – natural components (air, water, land & living things), human components (individual, family, community) and human-made components (roads, monuments, industries), and is a combination of natural and human-made phenomena. The Natural Environment could be further classified into four different domains- lithosphere, Hydrosphere, Biosphere, and Atmosphere. These are also called the domains of the environment. The top layer of the Earth or the solid crust is called the lithosphere. It is covered by a thin layer of soil and is formed of rocks and minerals. It supports life on Earth and provides forests, grasslands for grazing, has various landforms – plains, valleys, mountains, and also makes available land for agriculture and human settlements. The hydrosphere is referred to as the domain of water. It includes different types of water bodies – lakes, rivers, seas, oceans, etc., along with various sources of water. The thin layer of air surrounding the Earth is the atmosphere, it consists of water vapor, gases, and dust particles.
The upper layer of the atmosphere has the ozone layer. It protects life on Earth from the ultraviolet (UV) radiation of the Sun. The Earth’s gravitational force holds the atmosphere around it, this is an essential process for life to thrive on the planet. The biosphere is also called the living world, the plant and the animal kingdom together constitute the biosphere. The interaction between land, water, and air takes place in this narrow zone of the Earth to support life.
Humans form an integral part of the environment. They interact with the environment and modify it as per their needs and requirements, thus forming the human-made environment. With time, as humans evolved, their interaction with the environment also revolutionized, resulting in global environmental impact. Early humans used to adapt to the natural surroundings, however, contemporarily, as the human needs grew and became varied, the pressure on the environment also spiked and more emphasis was given on judiciously using our environmental resources for meeting the needs of both present and future generations, to safeguard biodiversity and to protect life on Earth.
Our Environmental resources are finite, living in harmony, and maintaining a perfect balance between the natural and human environment is of utmost importance and is the only way forward to a sustainable future.