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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
Pollution levels of our planet are on a daily increase. As our population grows, so does the amount resources that we use. People are consuming more and more resources and consumption has many byproducts. Some of these resources are scarce or either in current abundance, but this is largely not being considered. Byproducts of consumption can have harmful or poisonous effects on the planet and the presence of these effects is known as pollution. As our environment becomes contaminated with poisonous chemicals, it becomes polluted and thus harmful to live in. Recent statistics from the World Health Organisation have attributed pollution to causing one in six premature deaths worldwide. It’s no wonder that big league non-profit organizations around the world are making conscious efforts to reduce the levels of pollution in societies on a global level.
The contamination of water bodies worldwide, (e.g. aquifers, groundwater, rivers, lakes and oceans) is causing widespread harm. Water pollution has direct effects on animals and human societies and numerous indirect effects too. In many less economically developed countries there are high levels of water that is completely unsafe to drink but unfortunately, people there have no choice but to drink it. This becomes a massive breach of human rights, the number one human right being the right to have access to clean water. You may think that the water cycle allows a continuous flow of water to reach societies all over the world, but if sources are contaminated, this will pose enormous problems. People could even go to war over a lack of clean water in the future.
Pollutants that wash away from farming practices and industrial waste are making their way into streams, or are being dumped into streams themselves. This can lead to the growth and spread of disease creating microorganisms. There are a number of microorganisms that are found in contaminated waters which cause human health problems, but also problems with local wildlife and the natural ecosystem. Man-made chemicals can lead to oxygen depletion in the water so that plants and animals can’t survive in the waters. A classic example is the pollution of water via pesticides that runoff from farmland – these harmful chemicals cause algae to grow rapidly on the surface of the water so that sunlight cannot penetrate into waterways. As sunlight isn’t present, plants cannot grow and create oxygen.
As we consume more and more, this can lead to an increase of waste, a lot of which unfortunately makes its ways into water sources and our oceans. There need to be tougher regulations around the globe to ensure that people responsible for dumping waste in this way are punished by the law. In order to stop polluting our water around the globe, sewage treatment plants also need to be well designed and installed all over. The agricultural industry should change the way that they farm to include fewer pesticides and people should refrain from dumping waste improperly.
Environmental noise, or noise pollution, is defined as noise that has a harmful impact on human or animal activity. You may think that noise is something that isn’t too much of a problem because we can’t smell it, see it or touch it, but large levels of outdoor noise can actually lead to cardiovascular problems, hearing loss and increased heart disease. For animals, noise can interfere with reproduction and migration patterns and can increase the risk of death for various species. The survival of many species is directly threatened as animals cannot hear mating calls and so cannot reproduce effectively.
These days noise is present almost everywhere, especially in urban areas, but this doesn’t mean that species need to suffer from it. Noise has a detrimental effect on both human and animal behaviour, but there are many ways that we can rid the world of both the noise or its effects. Governments can push for greater regulation on buildings and architecture to ensure that buildings are provided with the best insulation and materials to reduce noise, especially in public transport systems such as railways. Planting more trees will also lead to a reduction in noise levels, especially around highways and transport links – these trees can also bring numerous indirect benefits to the environment and improve air quality.
As the chemical structure of our air changes, it becomes unsafe to breathe. According to the World Health Organization, in 2012, seven million deaths were caused worldwide as a result of polluted air. Poor quality air and harmful substances within it can cause diseases, allergies and damage to other organisms and crops. Air pollutants can either take the form of particulates and biological molecules from man-made sources and natural sources. Suspended particles, commonly from fossil fuel combustion, can also get into people’s lungs and airways causing physical damage.
In today’s society, the problem is that we are responsible for a rapid soar in air pollutants around the world, mainly because we are burning numerous fossil fuels. Our increasing consumption also leads to the release of dangerous gases such as sulfur dioxide and our meat industry is contributing to exponential increases in methane. Such gases can cause acid rain that ruins the environment as the gases in the air are dissolved in water vapour and rain down. This acid rain can destroy our forests and lakes, as well as having harmful effects on ecosystems.
The biggest threat to our global environment is global warming, which is a direct result of air pollution. Otherwise known as the greenhouse effect, greenhouse gases are created largely from our consumption of fossil fuels. These gases cause solar radiation to be absorbed in our atmosphere, heating our planet rapidly and leading to unsustainable ecosystem damage as well as more extreme natural disasters. Many of the same gases that lead to global warming can also cause the destruction of our ozone layer, causing more radiation to penetrate through the atmosphere and produce harmful effects.
It’s important that we recognise the quality of our air and global warming as key threats to our survival. Thankfully, many around the world are trying to collaborate to tackle these issues. The Kyoto Protocol and The Paris Agreement are just two of the major organizations working to bring about worldwide cooperation to stop air pollution. Governments around the world should look for other renewable sources of energy and electricity creation. A number of alternatives exist such as wind and solar power – I incentives need to be made for nations to use these. Sometimes it feels futile to go against major corporations that are leading to such vast amounts of fossil fuel combustion, but more activism is needed. Companies need to realise the effects they’re having.
The contamination of soil has lead to a concern because of its damage to our ecosystem. There are also a number of health risks that come from direct contact with poor soil and the vapours released from it, which can cause numerous diseases and respiratory problems for humans and other animals. A large part of the problem is the dumping of petrochemical waste, pesticides and heavy metals in landfill sites, much of which is because of our increased industrialization. Humans are also needlessly and thoughtlessly dumping of waste where it can cause enormous effect, for instance in soils surrounded by rich wildlife. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to reduce soil pollution, such as soil excavation and proper disposal at sites away from human contact. Soils can also be aerated and cleaned up so that minerals do not leach into groundwater and harmful gases do not escape. Making people aware of recycling and introducing more biodegradable products are also key solutions to the problem.
Our growing population and the increasing need to consume things are likely to lead to increased levels of pollution for years to come. Economic progress and social mobility are big contributors to increased consumption rates and are difficult to address. As people are getting richer and richer around the world, living standards are increasing. As people are becoming more well off they are consuming more and more, leading to a greater potential for harmful byproducts and waste. It’s difficult to change human behaviour, after all, why shouldn’t we have the things we want? However, more efforts need to be made to address the consequences of our consumption on the health of the planet. People need to be educated all over the world to know about the effects of their actions on the environment. Incentives need to be created to reduce pollutions in factories and regulations need to be tightened so that corporations can’t get away with polluting the planet as much as they’d like to. It’s not going to be easy, but there are good solutions to pollution problems that can be introduced, so there are definitely reasons to feel optimistic about pollution levels in the future.