Environmental pollution is that thing that everyone is aware of, but nothing seems to get done about it in order to better life on Earth. Pollution is that thing that no one really understands. Now why is that? Is the spectrum of pollutants too large? Is it nearly impossible to rid the world of its contaminants? Are we just not aware of what we will be leaving behind? Whatever the excuse, the disregard and incorrect care for our planet has lead to the pollution of our beaches and oceans, damaging wildlife, and killing animals, and must be fixed now.
Types of Pollutants Pollution and pollutants have been around, harming our Earth, since the creation of coal, which has created a need to divide these pollutants and areas of pollution into groups, subgroups, and so on. With that said, pollution can be divided into two groups, point and nonpoint, then the other subgroups follow. Point, for example, deals with releasing directly from specific sources; drain pipes or ditches. These drain pipes and ditches are typically connected to factories, power plants, sewage treatment facilities, or oil wells. On the other hand, nonpoint sources are spread out and disseminated, releasing from farm fields, feedlots, lawns, gardens, golf courses, construction sites, logging areas, roads, streets, and parking lots. Whereas point pollution sources have a specific area where they emerge, nonpoint sources do not.
Due to the irregularity of nonpoint sources, officials have a tough time monitoring and sustaining the pollutants that are released through runoff. Pollutants come in all shapes and sizes, but their beginning is all the same, coal.Causes of Environmental Pollution Pollution occurs when an element, not produced by nature, cannot naturally be destroyed without harming the planet. This process of attempting to destroy a contaminant can take up to thousands of years. Environmental pollution, such as air, water, and soil pollution, can be caused by any number of things. One example would be the industries, who have been responsible for contaminating our environment since the Industrial Revolution, in the 19th century.
As stated in the paragraph above, factories have increased the uses of fossil fuels, burning them into our air, and “soil and water contamination can also occur. This is particularly the case for power-generating industries, such as plants producing electricity” (Causes and Effects of Environmental Pollution, 2016). Transportation is another major cause due to the increasing levels of fossil fuels polluting our air. Transportation of not only people, but fossil fuels and petroleum causes harm to the Earth.
The pipes through which fuels may be transported often break, or leak these contaminants into our soil, thus polluting the Earth’s soil. The issue with transporting people involves the increased use of fossil fuels as well. Vehicles, airplanes, trains, and buses we use to get from point A to point B are dependent on the use of these fossil fuels, such as gasoline and petroleum. The demand for fuel is constantly increasing because humans are always on the move.
Even from the beginning of time, people were always moving, “Humans went from horse carriages to cars, trains (which, before electricity, used to be propelled by coal), and airplanes. As the traffic is increasing every day, pollution follows that evolution” (Causes and Effects of Environmental Pollution, 2016). As inhabitants of this great planet we call Earth, we must leave this place as we found it. We must create conventional vehicles, improving efficiency and lessening the amount of fossil fuels released into our air, soil, and water.The Pollutant Chain Pollutants and contaminants live a long life, continuing on from our homes or restaurants to landfills or oceans, continuing a chain that affects all parts of our Earth. Not one part of our Earth is safe from pollution. Even in some of the deepest trenches and waterways, such as the Mariana trench in the Western Pacific, and the Kermadec trench, nearly untouched by the human race, pollution has been found.
The oceans are so closely interconnected that once waste hits the ocean, there is no limit to where the waste may end up. Through research on marine pollution, scientists have found that the two major pollutants are polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. These PCBs and PBDEs are a result of manufacturing electrical equipment, and have found its way into marine life. These chemicals resist degradation, “remaining intact for long periods of time, often binding to other particles in the water that can then carry them throughout the ocean. They also have a tendency to “bioaccumulate,” meaning they can build up in marine organisms” (Harvey, 2017). Now you may ask how these chemicals and pollutants reach up to 10,000 meters into the ocean.
Well, as for the Mariana trench, the pollutants originate from a swirling mass of garbage in the ocean. Then, the chemicals will cling to garbage and bodies of dead marine life which will then sink to the bottom of the ocean. After that, the strong currents of the ocean will push, pull, and transport them across the ocean, into the deepest, darkest trenches. Another harmful chemical is one nearly every person uses, styrofoam.
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), or styrofoam, is used in restaurants and makes its way from to go counters to homes, then landfills and later beaches. “EPS is the second-most-found beach debris in Southern California” (Anderson, 2017). One main chemical in styrofoam is styrene, which is a highly carcinogenic chemical. “According to the EPA, regular exposure to styrene in humans can affect the central nervous system, with symptoms such as headaches, weakness, depression and CNS dysfunction” (Anderson, 2017). Continuing on, styrofoam is unable to be recycled due to the coating in food, typically because it comes from restaurants, therefore it is thrown away.
After it is thrown away it ends up in landfills, which it is then likely the styrofoam will blow away and into our oceans or beaches because of the light weight. Our option here, is to increase recycling and limit the use of single-use plastics, like styrofoam. Reducing the amount of plastic and non degradable materials will help us maintain a clean Earth, which will then reduce health effects from this pollution.
Pollution Evolution The evolution of pollution runs deep; first polluting the earth was not on anyone’s mind, then it became a larger issue, spreading, giving us no option but to fight to save our planet. Going back to the beginning of human life on Earth, ancient people began acquiring coal, which led to building small towns and large cities, altering the planet without a clue. Dating back to the Industrial Revolution, the creation of coal and factories, people did not think about the effects it could have on our planet, resulting in a polluted world for those to follow after. As our ancient people began making tools and discovering coal, they left waste behind.
These people were not aware of the consequences that could arise. Continuing on, as small towns transformed into large cities there were a greater number of people in a smaller areas. These large cities deepened the imprint early humans were leaving on our Earth. In these cities, people worked in factories, they made and traded goods, all leaving pollutants behind.
As the Industrial Revolution began, “Waste from factories would be dumped into nearby waterways or fields. Burning fuel to power factory machines created smoke and smog, which polluted the air and made it difficult for people to breathe” (Pollution, 2017), which was detrimental to our environment. The fuel, which was used to keep these factories running, was burned. This burning fuel turned into smoke and fog, which polluted the air, making it hard for others to breathe. Now where did factories get their supplies from? The answer is mines. These mines had wastes as well, and their waste ended up in waterways, contaminating the water and destroying aquatic life. As these factories and cities grew larger, the amount of fossil fuels began to increase.
Fossil fuels are nonrenewable sources created from decaying organic matter, and release high levels of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide. These gases pollute our air, they trap heat in the atmosphere, which brings us closer and closer to climate change. At this day in age, pollution did not exist, but that was because no one knew how the Earth would be affected. Pollution levels increased from the Industrial Revolution to the early 21st century.
One example, at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the air quality worried people across the globe. Smog coated the blue sky, until it was no longer blue. People began having to buy their own monitors in order to collect data on the safety of the air. Then in 2015, nearly nine million people died as a result of pollution, whether it be in the air, soil, or water. Air pollution was the number one contributor to human deaths in 2015; 6.
5 million people. 6.5 million people died because our air is greatly contaminated. If that doesn’t tell you things need to change, then what will? “One in every four early deaths in nations trying to industrialize rapidly — such as India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya — could be connected to filthy air, water, soil or other contamination” (Scutti, 2017). These pollution related deaths mainly occur in low to middle income countries, as listed above.
It affects children, and minorities, the poor, and the vulnerable. Pollution must be brought under control in order to avoid these grey skies and millions of deaths. Now, today, scientists are looking into the long-term consequences to our polluted Earth, stating that change needed to occur 25 years ago. A recent report came out stating that a major issue is global climate change, due to the high levels of pollutants in our atmosphere that are unable to be released into space. Global average temperatures have risen by almost a degree Celsius since the early 1990s, and carbon dioxide emissions have climbed by 62 percent. The increasing of global temperatures is not the only problem.
Access to fresh water is nearing the top of the list as well. “Access to fresh water has declined, as has the amount of forestland…The number of ocean dead zones has increased. The human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent” (Kaplan, 2017). Also, our ozone layer is now depleting. The ozone layer is at its smallest size since 1988.
Scientists have found this to be due to chemicals from refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol cans that prompt reactions in the atmosphere breaking down ozone. Pollution started as nothing, and now it is everything. The life of Earth depends on us reducing the pollution emitted.Improvements to be Made Moving forward, during the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017, 178 members committed to focusing on land based marine pollution. Some areas have committed to improving are protecting coastal ecosystems and eliminating sources of land-based marine pollution. Countries with the absolute worst pollution emanating from rivers have pledged to stop plastic from entering waterways and traveling downstream into the oceans. “Thailand, for example, pledged to implement proper waste disposal and encourage environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic packaging as part of its recent 20-year pollution management strategy.
Indonesia pledged to reduce plastic waste by 70 per cent by 2025, while India highlighted Prime Minister Modi’s “Namami Gange’ scheme, which aims to eradicate waste from the Ganges River” (Plastic Flow, 2017). Each country is implementing their own ways to reduce pollution in their areas. These new alternatives could be a possible long term solution, and should continue around the globe. In order to combat the little amount of freshwater left accessible, many regions have implemented strict laws on dumping waste into waterways. Also, powerful purification and filtration systems have been put in place to ensure clean water.
With regards to air pollution, we can reduce the amount of fossil fuels used and burned into our atmosphere. We can conserve energy, carpool to school or work, use environmentally safe products, avoid excessively using your vehicle, walk when you can, and the list goes on. If leaders of our countries can commit to reducing pollution, we can too. Pollutants and chemicals have helped advance us further into the future, building cities, making goods, transporting us to and from our destinations, but these advances will be useless if our Earth continues to suffer. Our Earth cannot tolerate much more, so we need to take a stand; reduce our use of fossil fuels, prevent plastic and waste from entering the oceans, reduce the use of plastics.
In the past, we have allowed our planet to endure terrible things, but change is calling us, our Earth is calling for help.