Environmental pollution has existed for centuries but only started to be significant following the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Pollution occurs when the natural environment cannot destroy an element without creating harm or damage to itself.
The elements involved are not produced by nature, and the destroying process can vary from a few days to thousands of years (that is, for instance, the case for radioactive pollutants).
In other words, pollution takes place when nature does not know how to decompose an element that has been brought to it in an unnatural way.
Pollution must be taken seriously, as it has a negative effect on natural elements that are an absolute need for life to exist on earth, such as water and air. Indeed, without it, or if they were present in different quantities, animals – including humans – and plants could not survive. We can identify several types of pollution on Earth: air pollution, water pollution and soil pollution.
Environmental pollution is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented.
~ Barry Commoner
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Causes of Environmental Pollution
Let us first take a look at the causes of environmental pollution:
Industries have been polluting our environment, especially since the beginning of the industrial revolution, as mentioned above, notably due to the increasing use of fossil fuels. In the 19th century and for a significant part of the 20th century, coal has been used to make machines work faster, replacing human force.
Though pollution by industries mainly causes air pollution, soil and water contamination can also occur. This is particularly the case for power-generating industries, such as plants producing electricity (May they be a dam, a nuclear reactor or some other type of plant).
Also, the transportation of this energy can be harmful to the environment. We can take as an example of the transportation of petrol through pipelines; if there is a leak in the pipeline, the soil will automatically be polluted.
At the same time, if the tanker transporting petrol from its production plant to the place where it will be consumed leaks or sinks, the water will get contaminated.
Ever since men abandoned animal power to travel, pollution of the environment has become higher and higher. Its levels have only been increasing until now. Similarly to industries, pollution caused by transport can mainly be attributed to fossil fuels.
Indeed, humans came across a long way from horse carriages to cars, trains (which, before electricity, used to be propelled by coal), and airplanes. As traffic is increasing every day, pollution follows that evolution.
3. Agricultural Activities
Agriculture is mainly responsible for the contamination of water and soil. This is caused by the increased use of pesticides, as well as by the intensive character of its production. Almost all pesticides are made from chemical substances and are meant to keep diseases and threatening animals away from the crops.
However, by keeping these forms of life away, the harm is almost always made to the surrounding environment as well.
Furthermore, as agriculture gets more and more intensive to feed the increasing world population, more environments and ecosystems are destroyed to make space for the crops. Some of them, like rapeseed –used to make oil – demand a lot of space for a relatively small output.
4. Trading Activities
Trading activities include the production and exchange of goods and services. As regards goods, pollution can be caused by packaging (which often involves the use of plastic, which is made from fossil fuels) or transport, mainly.
Finally, residential areas provide their fair share of pollution as well. First, to be able to build homes, the natural environment has to be destroyed in one way or another.
Wildlife and plants are driven away and replaced by human constructions. As it requires the work of industries, construction itself is also a source of contamination of the environment.
Following that, when people settle in, they will produce waste every day, including a part that cannot be processed by the environment without any harm yet.
Effects of Environmental Pollution
Now that we have identified the main causes of environmental pollution, let us study the negative effects it has:
1. Effects on Humans
The effects of environmental pollution on humans are mainly physical, but can also turn into neuro-affections in the long term. The best-known troubles to us are respiratory, in the form of allergies, asthma, irritation of the eyes and nasal passages, or other forms of respiratory infections. Notably, these well-spread affections can be observed when air pollution is high in cities, when the weather gets hot, for instance.
On top of that, environmental pollution has been proven to be a major factor in the development of cancer. This can happen, for example, when we eat reminiscences of pollutants used in the production of processed foods or pesticides from the crops. Other rarer diseases include hepatitis, typhoid affections, diarrhea, and hormonal disruptions.
2. Effects on Animals
Environmental pollution mainly affects animals by causing harm to their living environment, making it toxic for them to live in. Acid rains can change the composition of rivers and seas, making them toxic for fishes; an essential quantity of ozone in the lower parts of the atmosphere can cause lung problems to all animals.
Nitrogen and phosphates in water will cause the overgrowth of toxic algae, preventing other forms of life to follow their normal course.
Eventually, soil pollution will cause harm and, sometimes, even the destruction of microorganisms, which can have the dramatic effect of killing the first layers of the primary food chain.
3. Effects on Plants
As for animals, plants, and especially trees, can be destroyed by acid rains (and this will also have a negative impact on animals as well, as their natural environment will be modified), ozone in the lower atmosphere block the plant respiration, and harmful pollutants can be absorbed from the water or soil.
4. Effects on the Ecosystem
In short, environmental pollution, almost exclusively created by human activities, has a negative effect on the ecosystem, destroying crucial layers of it and causing an even more negative effect on the upper layers.
20+ Wonderful Solutions to Environmental Pollution
1. Environmental planning should be considered as a base stone for developmental planning. Hence, before starting any project, a study to evaluate the environmental impacts has to be conducted.
2. Shifting to eco-friendly transportation such as electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles and promoting shared mobility (i.e., carpooling, and public transports) could reduce air pollution significantly.
The world is working on reducing the emission of hazardous gases from vehicles causing air pollution constantly in a variety of ways such as car emission control, electric and hybrid vehicles and public transportation systems, and in the future, we can manage to reduce emissions profoundly.
3. Basic solutions for air pollution must involve moving away from fossil fuels, replacing them with sustainable renewables like solar, geothermal, and wind and producing clean energy. The world is phasing out coal.
4. Now, as solar radiation is at a climatic peak, solar power is a fantastic solution. We can reap power from the sun using solar panel systems and provide energy from home systems to large scale systems powering entire communities and cities.
Wind power is also coming into play. Solar power and wind turbine power are both powerful forces against radioactive power and fossil fuel power.
5. Industry plays a vital role in the progress of societies. At the same time, it exhausts the natural raw resources and produces pollution. This has created an environmental imbalance.
To assess the potential environmental impact of an industrial plant, EIA needs to be carried out, and the industrial plants that do not have EIA should be warned.
6. Green building can help solve environmental problems to an extent. From planning to demolition, the objective of green building is to create environmentally responsible and resource-efficient structures to reduce their carbon footprint.
7. Storage facilities for solid wastes should be built in the city. The necessary actions need be taken to integrate the solid waste storage facility that is very close to the city, and to nature.
8. The wastewater recycling project should be exercised, and a recycling center should be built to reduce water pollution.
9. Environmentally friendly products should be made cheaper to encourage people to use them, and people should know the long term advantage of using these products nationwide.
10. Protecting soil, air and water quality should be a fundamental goal of national environmental policy. The national land use and conservation policies need to be developed to reduce the misuse of productive agricultural land, and the uncontrolled and disorganized urbanization.
11. For prevention of the visual pollution, enough green areas and parks should be built, the municipality should collect the wastes in an organized way, and the use of commercial boards and other billboards should be regulated and controlled.
12. To prevent noise pollution, the open markets, bazaars, recreation and amusement facilities, schools and parks inside the city should be surrounded by trees and other plants. The industrial areas and plants should also be surrounded by green areas.
13. We also need to work on electromagnetic radiation (ER) reduction. Realizing the blatant potential for huge ER emissions directly in brains and eyes of users, major manufacturers of computers and electronic devices have started to implement hardware protocols to reduce risks and minimize ER production significantly. While producing the newer devices, they are aiming to knock this problem out, and, fortunately, this is working.
14. Nowadays radiation is a serious issue and the ecological cost of radioactive power plants has become more evident than before. Nuclear testing and radioactive leakage from power plants have contaminated oceanic life to such a level that it will take hundreds of years to return to normal. But more radiation solutions are in progress with the advancement of various ecologically friendly power technologies every day.
15. While sanctioning urban land-use, the landscape architects should be engaged by the municipality. The planning authorities should include ecological factors in planning to provide a healthy and clean environment.
16. The number and quality of the green areas and parks should be increased for fresh and healthy air.
17. The mass media, including print and electronic media and the internet, is the main source of information about environmental issues. These should, therefore, be used more intensively to facilitate the transmission of environmental information and promote more positive environmental attitudes.
18. As the environment has been advancing rapidly, environmental education has a very strategic and important role in preparing people to solve global environmental problems. Environmental issues should be included in the national education syllables to have well-educated and concerned people about environmental issues. The integration of environmental education in present classes and programs is necessary, helpful, and mandatory.
19. The top-level politicians, executives, administrators and all the other entrepreneurs should also be educated about the environment. One of the basic properties of environmental education is the need for a close relationship between the inter-discipline and inter-professions.
20. Local administrations should be concerned about educating the local people by providing the means (e.g., books, brochures, seminars.) to make them understand the importance of environmental problems.
21. Finally, in order to produce effective solutions for environmental problems, a national approach towards the problems is crucial.
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