The Earth Is Choking

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Environmental pollution is the discharge of material or energy into water, soil or air which affects the quality of life or has a detrimental effect on the ecosystem.
Pollution can affect the environment in either the long term or the short term - this is respectively known as chronic or acute pollution.
Pollution can be direct in its impact - such as an oil spill - which has immediate and identifiable impact on the environment, or the damage can be secondary which is small disturbances in the ecosystem which are only evident after long periods of time.
The industrialization of society has had a dramatic effect on the environment.
The population has exploded, motor vehicles are prevalent and the huge increase in demand for goods and services has been coupled with an increase in waste and by-products.
In the past industry has been responsible for discharging untreated waste into waterways, sending particulates and gasses into the atmosphere and contributing to a string of major environmental disasters either directly or indirectly.
With increased public awareness there has been growing pressure on governments and industry to curb their throw away attitude and work on solving our pollution problems.
More effective anti-pollution measures are emerging and legislation is working towards making the human race as a community accountable for our treatment of the environment.
There are many different types of pollution which affect our environment.
Water pollution is the introduction of chemical, physical or biological material into our waterways - ocean or fresh.
This material affects the quality of the water and also the organisms living in or using the water.
Water pollution can be as simple as pumping raw sewerage into waterways or as complex as dissolved toxic metals - all have an adverse effect on our waterways.
A rapid population increase has led to an increase in water pollution - our sewerage treatment plants simply cannot keep up with the urbanization of our planet.
This has led to raw and partially treated sewerage being pumped into our waterways and pollution the environment.
Pollution such as this, the addition of suspended solids, oil and high quantities of nutrients is known as conventional pollution.
Conventional pollution causes many water pollution issues.
The biological food chain is affected because suspended solids block the energy from the sun.
This in turn will affect the conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen.
It will also increase the amount of silt in areas where silt can collect such as navigation channels and rivers.
When there is an excessive amount of suspended solids in water it can also render the water source unusable for water supply or irrigation.
When there is an excess of nutrients in a waterway caused by water pollution it can contribute to premature aging of the waterway (particularly areas such as lakes, ponds and creeks) and it will also rapidly increase the aquatic vegetation.
Algal blooms are a common side effect of too many nutrients in a waterway - the primary cause being suspended solids.
When there is an algal bloom the delicate eco system of the waterway is affected, often detrimentally to the native species residing in the waterway.
When metal particulates are dissolved and released into our waterways they are known as non-conventional pollutants.
Another form of non-conventional pollutants is organic carbon compounds.
These tend to be a by-product of industry and the requirements of our booming population.
An oil spill is an example of a non-conventional water pollutant - and there are more than 13,000 spills which occur in an average year in the United States alone.
These vary in the degree of their effect on the environment, but they all cause some degree of damage.
Chemical compounds are another pollutant which are routinely released into our waterways and the full consequences of our actions are as yet unknown.
There is no way to fully test the effect of these chemicals on the environment and some of the more offensive chemicals which have been released by industry may have subtle long reaching environmental effects for many years to come.
There are waterways which have been rendered completely sterile; mining, agriculture and a myriad of other industries are spoiling our waterways to varying degrees.
Land pollution is the damage we do to the earth's surface -dumping, exploitation and increasing urban waste.
There are many side effects of land pollution, one of the most common and detrimental being soil erosion.
Poor agricultural practices and industry such as strip mining have resulted in the degradation of the layer of top soil which is suitable for crop growth being lost.
Sediment in local waterways increases and the condition of the Earth's top soil becomes more perilous with increased erosion and less area to put to agriculture.
General waste is increasing - this is the rubbish households, businesses and industry send away to be disposed through landfill and other waste disposal methods.
The manner in which this waste is disposed of is typically through burning or burying - which further ads to the pollutants of our Earth.
The amount of this solid waste is increasing, and the methods we use to get rid of this waste are not evolving.
There is an alarming amount of solid waste which will not break down, plastics and chemicals which are damaging to not only the physical environment but also the fauna which also lives on Earth.
Burying rubbish can lead to waterways being affected as well as contaminating the earth around the landfill site which can occasionally have industrial waste mixed in with general municipal waste.
This situation is definitely not ideal, however unfortunately not unheard of.
There has been an increased awareness by government of the damage landfill causes, and there has been a tightening of associated legislation to monitor and protect our environment.
Careful management has assisted but not prevented the problems associated with open dumping and alternatives must be found as space is becoming an issue.
Recycling is one answer which has been implemented by many nations, and happily the number of recycling participants is growing.
While recycling has proven to be a practical solution to many residential and industrial wastes, the issue which often occurs is that recyclable goods are mixed with the unrecyclable - causing the process to become difficult and expensive.
Education has proven to be key in this issue - schools have been long-time supporters and educators and the benefits of our future generations having awareness and practical strategies towards recycling are demonstrable.
Our current battle is to find new and better ways to recycle, and also to find new markets to use these recycled materials once they have been developed.
Burning our solid wastes has long been a method used by our society.
Incinerators must reach very high temperatures to burn the waste, and the by product - heat- is used to generate electricity.
Incineration comes with its own set of problems, the resulting ash is often high in heavy metals and the high temperatures burning the waste can cause the toxic pollutants and gasses to emerge which must in turn be caught by the incinerator exhausts.
These are all issues which must be addressed when considering incineration as a solution to reducing our solid wastes.
Noise pollution is a relatively recent phenomenon; composed of quite literally the noise we make as an industrial society.
Measured in a unit known as the decibel, noise pollution varies in its frequency and intensity.
Generally we associate noise with industry - heavy machinery, aircraft, traffic and city living.
Even the average home is becoming a noisier place to live with increasing exposure to media and electronic devices.
The most noticeable effect of noise pollution is the damage to hearing - both permanent and temporary- that we experience.
Incidence of hearing damage is on the rise.
It is also believed that there are psychological effects associated with noise pollution, although these are considerably more difficult to measure such as increased irritability, lower productivity, migraines, fatigue and even increased allergic responses.
Air pollution is the increase of substances in the atmosphere which have a detrimental effect on living matter.
There are many sources of air pollution, two of the greatest offenders are power and heat generation.
Our love of the motor vehicle and other industrial processes has also contributed to the pollution of the very air that we breathe.
The six major types of pollutants are carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, particulates, sulphur dioxide, and photochemical oxidants.
Smog is one of the most visible types of air pollution.
Typically found in cities, smog is a mix of smoke and fog which is caused by water condensing on smoke particles.
The effect of smog on the human race is extraordinary.
In 1952 there were a series of infamous London fogs - it is believed that approximately 4,000 people died as a direct result of this smog.
As the burning of coal in industry has reduced, the incidence of smog has not decreased, but rather increased in conjunction with the growth of our petroleum economy.
The type of smog has changed; predominantly we are now affected by photochemical smog.
Photochemical smog is caused by sunlight irradiating hydrocarbons and a series of chemical reactions.
The by-product of motor vehicles operating on our roads - unburned gasoline, carbon dioxide and particulate matter all contribute significantly to our current smog crisis.
Smog reduces visibility and irritates the respiratory system.
Smog affects not only humans and animals; it can also have a detrimental effect on crops and agriculture.
Smog affects our historic architecture and works of art.
It causes distress to those suffering coronary or respiratory ailments - up to and including death.
Air pollution is often significantly affected by the landscape.
Those cities which are located in valleys are more significantly affected - the landscape effectively captures the pollution into a 'bowl' and there is nowhere for the pollution to escape concentrating it above the city.
Pollution of the air which has high concentration of sulphur and nitrogen can have devastating impacts on areas which are not located anywhere near the original source of pollution - this is known as acid rain and can have debilitating effects on buildings, vegetation and waterways.
There are many arguments regarding the effect of pollution on the earth, the measurements we use to monitor the changes and damage and the manner in which we should tackle this global phenomenon.
Contamination of our environment is an ongoing issue, and one which is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.
The best we can do is to monitor the Earth, educate ourselves and look for new and safer ways to resolve our increasing residential and industrial waste.
The Earth is our home - we need to respect and care for it.
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