Today's Top 5 Environmental Concerns
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?
Beijing, China 2014
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.
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.
Shrinking ice caps
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.
Hank Green discusses the effects of climate change
Global Fuel Consumption
Reliance on Fossil Fuels
What does your sweater, computers, sneakers, telephones, erasers, puzzles, cameras, band aids, aspirin, lipstick, trash bags, alarm clock, wallpaper and clothes hangers all have in common? They are all made from crude oil. This is just a fraction of the items in your everyday life that require this fossil fuels. Other fossil fuels, including coal and and natural gas, are non-renewable resources. Once we run out, that's it. Our lives revolve around fossil fuels, we harness this energy for nearly everything we do. The US is especially a concern, as they import most of their oil.The competition for these resources is only going to grow as the the resources themselves deplete. This will result in alarmingly high prices of fuel - something we've only glimpsed with the economic crisis of 2008 where gas prices rose above $4.00 per gallon. The fact of the matter is, gas prices will continue to rise, reaching $7, $10, maybe even $20 per gallon. Eventually, and quite frighteningly enough, however, we will run out of fossil fuels. We must strive to produce alternate forms of energy - solar, wind, water - even if these prices are drastically higher than that of fossil fuels. Green energy is the future and it is up to us to make that future happen.
What do you think?
Can we stop or slow down global warming?
The effects of overpopulation
Currently, the world population lies around 7 billion people. In 1999, the world population reached 6 billion. That's an increase of a billion people in just 15 years alone. By 2024, the UN estimates a population of 8 billion people. As innovations in medicine results in both a lower infant mortality rate and a longer life span, the population continues to grow at an alarming rate. As population increases many changes must be made to accommodate more people. This alone can result in the following effects:
- Deforestation: This would further propel climate change as greenhouse gases would increase
- Extinction of endangered species: Not only would deforestation contribute to this, humans would be taking over the homes of many animal species.
- Decrease in standard of living: The standard of living may decrease as cities grow and the struggle to provide more housing increases.
- Faster depletion of resources: Resources - such as water, food and fossil fuels - will also have to be expanded to provide for a larger population. The world would run out of these resources in a quicker time span with a larger population.
- Increase in carbon emissions: As more people need more energy, greenhouses gases will continue to rise and global warming will not cease to exist. At the same time, more cars will be on the roads, resulting in more air pollution.
- More trash: The more people the more trash. The question of where to dump trash looms over society. We run out of places to out it. Burning is hazardous to the air quality, as well as land fills. Ocean dumping will only increase as humans must get rid of their waste. This could result in the fatal destruction of marine life and loss of biodiversity.
Unfortunately, this an issue you can't do much about. Eventually the population will have to plateau as we begin to face environmental, economic and social issues as a result of this population boom.