Environmental Problems we Face Today

The environmental movement seems to truly be lifting off as everyone is jumping on the "going green" bandwagon. Is it enough to reverse the effects of global warming that our people have wrought on the ecosystem through industrialization? These 5 environmental issues threaten our safety and the animals alongside us. It is no doubt that many efforts have been made to recycle, reduce waste and create energy efficient cars. Can conservation efforts put a halt (or at least slow down) these 5 concerns?

Air Pollution

Combustion, mining, factories, power plants, farming, fires and automobiles - what do these have in common? They all pose threats as potential air pollutants that could endanger our health and ecosystem. Air pollution is not a new problem, with the Dust Storm of Kansas in 1937 and the factory smoke covered Chicago in 1950. Currently Beijing, China is struggling to deal with smog over the entire city. This smog is hazardous and could produce chronic illness in the Beijing inhabitants who leave their homes. While the government is attempting to put green energy programs in place and lower their carbon emissions, is it too late for Beijing to clean up? Could this be the fate of every major city as more cars are on the road and factories continue at alarming rates to keep up with the demand of the consumers? It is a valuable question that our society should be concerned about.

Carbon monoxide, a deadly gas, comprises roughly 65% of the air pollutants, while nitrogen oxides take second at 15%. Carbon monoxide is scentless and with just minutes results in death. Yes, these gases are dispersed throughout the atmosphere and more likely then not people will not drop dead when stepping outside. However, a lot of these gases can cause chronic issues such as lung disease, asthma and heart disease, resulting in an estimated 200, 000 premature deaths per year. The main pollutants include on-road vehicles, fossil fuel combustion and off-road equipment (such as construction). Car sales do not seem to be slowing down, even with the elevated gas prices, it may be time to reconsider that luxury car or mini-van in the garage and opt for a hybrid or electric car. These cars will not only save you money in gas mileage, they will also conserve energy and produce less carbon emissions.

Marine Pollution

The main contributor of ocean pollution begins on land, namely non-point pollution. Septic tanks, sewage sludge, car oil leaks, boats and farm chemicals are all included in this category. These pollutants eventually make their way to the sea. Pesticides and toxins can also get into our drinking supply. Take West Virginia's current situation, A chemical spill has damaged their current municipal water supply, rendering them helpless. While water constitutes three-quarters of the world, only 1% is safe to drink. If what happened to West Virginia were to happen on a global scale, what would be the result?

It's frightening to think that we may run out of water and even more frightening to think that we may be poisoning the water that we do have. Not only this, but some boats and even countries deposit their trash directly into the ocean. Water covers approximately 70% of our globe, it would seem that it is an abundant resource. A few pieces of trash won't cause that much harm in something that large, right? Wrong, this trash makes its way into the food chain of marine life, small marine animals ingest these plastics, sometimes causing fatality. Plastic bags and nets are also cause for concern, as marine animals sometimes get entangled in these man-made products. This trash can clump together, the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a swirling mass of trash in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas. Slowly, humans are destroying the homes of millions of aquatic creatures, some of which we know little to nothing about.

Ocean pollution is not only devastating for the sea creatures, it can also be devastating for humans as well. As we ingest these fish, we can succumb to illness as a result of our pollutants. Everyone is warned about the mercury levels in fish, this is not a mystery or a secret. Not only this, but the plastics can wash up on land, destroying beaches. As we continue to consume, we also continue to dump waste, most of which ends up in the ocean. We must make strides in recycling and reusable plastics while fighting to prevent ocean dumping and further pollution. For more information check out this Water Pollution hub to get further details.

Climate Change

What exactly is climate change? Is this another conspiracy theory? The unfortunate fact is this is happening. Climate change is the rise in temperatures and changes in weather patterns on a global scale as a result of carbon emissions and the combustion of fossil fuels. The evidence is in the warming of the earth. Over the past 100 year the average temperature has risen 1.4°C, a number which may seem small, but is actually significant and telling. If the temperature continues to rise, as is expected over the next 100 years, there could be dangerous effects.

Changes in climate patterns could produce unexpected weather phenomena and natural disaster. Droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, tycoons, heat waves, devastating snow storms and tornadoes are just examples of occurrences which could increase in unexpected places in the next few years. These could threaten the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries. For the most part, this has been a result of the increase in carbon emissions and greenhouses gases on part of humans. These gases act as a blanket, covering the earth and trapping in heat, in a sort of convection process known as the greenhouse effect. As the ice caps melt and sea level rises, the potential of dangerous coastal floods increase.

Similar to other environmental concerns, our actions can reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enabling us to slow down global warming. If we continue on this trajectory weather patterns will change drastically, causing economic failure for many as the industries they once based their livelihoods on shift. For more information on climate change click here.

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