WAN’s First In Our Ongoing Environmental Crisis Series: What Is Polluting Our World?
Visit any number of the major cities spanning the globe and it’s one of the first things you will see, a thick dirty cloud encircling the city. It looms large over some of the bigger capitals such as NY, Los Angeles, London and Beijing, and we can only expect it to get worse.
Air pollution consists of any substance introduced into the atmosphere that has a harmful effect on the environment.
But pollution goes beyond just the pollutants in our air, it contaminates our soils, our bodies of water, plants, animals, and almost every facet of our planet, including ourselves and yet we remain its biggest contributing factor.
The long-term exposure to pollution continues to cause untold damage in every environment in which it is prevalent.
In humans alone, we have seen a meteoric increase in chronic respiratory diseases, lung cancer, and many others illnesses. The chemicals we expel on a daily basis from our various activities contaminate our clean water, which serves millions of animals, plants and communities.
Of the air pollutants, one of the biggest greenhouse gas components, Carbon Dioxide, is the culprit most responsible for the global warming that earth has been experiencing.
Cars, planes, trains, trucks, ships, motorcycles all emit carbon dioxide, a major pollutant, along with the burning of fossil fuels such as that of natural gasses, gasoline and diesel.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are currently higher than they have been for hundreds of thousands of years.
Why is it that we don’t seem particularly bothered?
One of the main components of pollution includes greenhouse gases such as that of methane, the main source of methane being that emitted by livestock and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), which have subsequently been banned for their harmful effect on the ozone layer.
North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana are facing huge problems as a result of being the leading suppliers of pork within the United States. Meat consumption in the U.S. and around the world is affecting our atmosphere negatively, if we were to cut our meat consumption in half experts have said that we could drastically reduce global warming on a worldwide scale.
Residents near slaughterhouses have to contend with the vast amount of waste that infects their water, air and soil. Take just pork for instance, with numbers in the millions, the extent of damage could well be catastrophic as numbers can only be expected to increase as the work population continues to grow.
In North Carolina alone, the number of pigs is almost on par with that of the number of human inhabitants, 8.9 million to 9.8 million respectively.
Yet another pollutant wreaking havoc on our climate is sulfur dioxide, a large component of the smog we see covering our cities. Sulfur dioxide is also one of the main components of Acid rain, which we will be exploring further in one of our upcoming articles in the ‘Environmental Crisis’ series.
A natural contributor towards higher than normal sulfur dioxide levels are Volcanic eruptions which used to be the main source of atmospheric sulfur dioxide, that is until humans surpassed them.
Many of the activities and products that make modern life possible are the very same that are polluting our world. Even territories not considered 1st world are experiencing the effects of pollution.
Waste in our rivers and oceans has of late become a more common occurrence as we see climate shifts washing discarded garbage onto our shores and into our ports, as we recently saw in Croatia as well as certain remote areas of the UK and Norway amongst many others.
Waste has caused untold damage to our ocean life and with ocean drilling increasing, industrial activity runoff, waste disposal and oil spills, our oceans are fast, if not already becoming a major dumping ground. Sadly, this can only result in increased ocean putrefaction and a continued cause of water pollution.
Other pollutants are pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, the use of which has escalated 25-fold over the last 50 years as food production demand has increased.
The environmental consequences of this increase have seen indiscriminate pesticide and fertilizer application polluting nearby land and water, and chemicals washing into local water sources, streams, waterways, boreholes and groundwater when it rains.
Pesticides kill target and non-target organisms alike, including those that are beneficial. Fertilizers, although themselves not directly toxic, alter the nutrient state of the soil, freshwater and marine areas which has the potential to result in an explosive growth of algae due to an excess in nutrients, as a result, the water is depleted of dissolved oxygen and fish, as well as other aquatic life which is often killed.
It seems counterintuitive that a species as capable as that of the human race continues to destroy itself by the very growth it seems to wish to encourage.
Can we be that naïve to think that our activities won’t eventually come back to haunt us? How can we be so focused on growth and innovation without identifying and finding some remedy for the activities that are placing undue pressure on our planet?
There is an inherent lack of awareness and conscious movement towards restricting activities that contribute to the pollution of our environment.
We wait for others to do something before doing something ourselves. We denounce responsibility because we have our own lives to live and we think accountability is the job of environmentalists and politicians etc.
Action begins with the individual. Start at home, start with the small things. Stop using products that are harmful and toxic. Stop driving gas-guzzling vehicles and opt for a hybrid or electric option. Stop disposing of hazardous or poisonous waste. Be mindful of the activities that you or your company are involved in.
It was Gandhi that said – ‘Be the change you wish to see.’