Perhaps one of the most controversial and impactful issues that plague many countries of the world today is the problem of environmental pollution. It is a stealthy unseen killer that’s literally strangling Mother Earth affecting of over 100 million people annually. Our air, water and soil are slowly but surely being degraded. Noise levels are getting stronger and light is growing dimmer. We’re truly living in an age with an uncertain future.
Air pollution is a deadly killer far worse than AIDS and malaria. Noxious gases and fumes from transport vehicles and industries cause as many deaths as smoking. In the United Kingdom alone, both moving and stationary emitters pump a steady stream of 46% carbon dioxide, 42% nitrogen oxides and 26% related gases into the atmosphere every year. Compounding the problem are the dust, carbon dioxide and formaldehyde gases found in homes, buildings and even in the gym.
Children in particular are the most vulnerable victims of air pollution which is now linked to attention disorders. This happens when mothers become exposed to hydrocarbons (PAHs) from burnt fossil fuel. Unborn children in the womb who become victims of pollutants mainly from car exhaust fumes are most likely to develop the disorders. This is a very grim prospect for the young and unborn children of the world.
Did you know that pollution decimates 100,000 marine mammals and a million birds a year? And it gets worse! It has been estimated that over 40% of children in the world today suffer from diseases and more than three million of them die from environmental causes. Still the U.S. alone is gobbling up 25% of coal, 26% of oil and 27% of natural gas causing still more air pollution.
So much for the air we breathe. What about water that sustains the lives of everything that lives on earth? Well it has been treated with nonchalant carelessness. About 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollutants are dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River. Almost 40% of America’s lakes are too polluted to fish in and for marine life to thrive.
In 1975 the sea was a dumping ground to 14 billion pounds of garbage and while efforts are being made to stop the habit, the longevity of garbage already dumped will linger for many years to come. For instance, scientists have determined that after being dumped cigarette butts and plastics can exist in the sea for hundreds of years before they totally decompose.
Many of us can still remember the low levels of noise of yesteryear. These days, our sensitive ears are constantly bombarded by noise from planes, cars, trains, buses, honking horns, loudspeakers and industry. More deadly are sonar signals that can kill and beach whales at the same time. And what do we do with this issue? Wearing ear mufflers may be a solution because they are sure to continue well into the future!
Unfortunately our soil suffers from pollutants such as acid rain, poisonous substances, fertilizers and insecticides among others. Acid rain ranks second in severity to air pollution. It completely destroys the ecological balance of lakes, wetlands, streams and a variety of other aquatic areas and while it does so we do very little to mitigate its affects.
In order to fuel the ever increasing number of automobiles, underground fuel tanks are dug. With decay or damage, these eventually spring leaks allowing highly poisonous substances to percolate into the soil. These hydrocarbon substances destroy soil composition and stratification but we pay scant attention to their damaging effects.
In their haste to make profits and feed an ever growing world population at the same time, farmers liberally apply fertilizers to the world’s soils. It has worked but with diminishing returns while at the same time, serious issues lurk in this miracle making mixture of soil and fertilizer—water contamination.
This brings with it a host of sicknesses too many to count including the Baby Blue Syndrome. But even while these health problems are known to be caused by fertilizers, the application of fertilizers continues. This directly implies that farmers and the authorities have turned a blind eye on this potentially calamitous situation.
The meat industry which also feeds millions in the U.S. alone from its vast animal agriculture industry of cows, chickens, sheep and pigs also fall prey to the impacts of pesticides. Here, very serious issues of pesticide contamination of meat, eggs, pork and dairy products are often detected. Meat for instance is contaminated with bacteria and hormones yet authorities refuse to take adequate measures to address the issue.
The glitter and bright lights of our cities and our own house lights at night release a constant deluge of uncontrolled brilliance upon our eyes and those of wildlife species. Having light instead of darkness during the night hampers nature’s normal cycles causing stress to wildlife and also health issues in humans. People continue to suffer from eye strain and disability glare that may develop into loss of vision and yet we continue with the same harmful practices year after year.
I’m truly concerned about the apparent lackadaisical attitude that many have adopted regarding the effects of environmental pollution and positive action must be put in place to prevent our ocean from becoming a garbage dump.
I’m saddened by the millions of children that die each year from these preventable causes; that many people get sick after eating contaminated food; that our rivers and streams are polluted; that aquatic and marine life may be destined to go the way of the dodo. I do care that hundreds of thousands of mammals and a million birds die each year from pollution; I care about all these issues and I want other people to know and also care about them. Please help in spreading this message far and wide, so that we may make the changes necessary to protect and preserve our world.
Author: Richard Smith
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Ian Burt