Solution to Air Pollution and Environmental Degradation
In his book, The Ocean of Life, Callum Roberts states, ‘Our failure to notice creeping environmental degradation has compromised more than our quality of life.’ This is one of many warnings that have been relayed throughout the news, movies, and even children’s books, such as Doctor Seuss’s The Lorax. These cautionary tales warn us to respect our planet and come together to find solutions. Unfortunately, our ever-growing population, constant consumption of non-renewable resources, poor waste management practices, and over-use of non-biodegradable materials such as plastic are leading to a significantly less habitable planet. We are already seeing the effects of our negligence, whether it be the amount of oil and other fossil fuels consumed each year, severe air pollution in over-populated cities, the decrease in fish and marine mammals, or our trash-ridden oceans. All of these things affect the intricate web that is our ecosystem. Worst of all is the effect that they have on our oceans.
The Increasing Population and Overuse of Resources
As shown in Figure 1.3 in Environment the Science Behind the Stories, our population has climbed from 1 billion to over 7 billion in just about 220 years. That is an incredibly short period of time compared to the 300,000 years that homo sapiens have inhabited the earth (Smithsonian National Museum). It’s no wonder we’ve had trouble using our resources in moderation. As our population grows, the amount of resources we need to operate daily does too. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States alone consumed 7.28 billion barrels of petroleum products and increased coal production by 58% in 2017. Since heavily populated areas such as cities and megalopolises require more petroleum products and other fossil fuels than others, this has led to a rise in pollution and health risks as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that nine out of ten people in the world breathe polluted air, and around 7 million deaths occur as a result. This confirms that the overuse of fossil fuels is a serious 21st-century issue, but how can we fix it? The EIA states that in 2017, 63% of the United States’ electricity was generated from fossil fuels, and only 17% came from renewable energy sources. If we were able to reverse those numbers by converting to wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy, we could decrease the amount of pollution we pump out and build a more sustainable society.
How it works
Wildlife Decline and Its Consequences
Humans aren’t the only ones affected by over-consumption and pollution. Animal populations have been declining for years, especially fish and mega-fauna populations. A World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report states that ‘fish, marine mammal, bird, and reptile populations are 49% lower than they were in 1970.’ A combination of over-fishing (caused by the rising population and demand for food), pollution, and the destruction of coral have caused this decrease. It has only taken 50 years to get here. If we continue at the rate we’re moving, there could be severe consequences. In areas where fish is a staple food, people have had to move further and fish deeper. This is a vicious cycle because the fish never have the chance to repopulate. If any coral is destroyed in the process, fish lose their homes and their food. Sharks and turtles, in turn, lose their food, and the cycle continues. Even tourists who touch the animals and or take a piece of coral home with them can harm an animal or destroy a home. What can we do to save these animals and their habitats? Thankfully, their populations can regenerate over time. Just like we need time to rest during a cold to regain our health, our animal populations need time to regain theirs as well. Artificial reefs can be built, and policies can be put in place to prevent overfishing and hunting. In conclusion, if we focus on consuming responsibly sourced fish in moderation and preserving habitats, we can lower the impact we have on our animals.
Addressing the Plastic Pollution Issue
Finally, we must also find a solution to our plastic pollution problem. In an article published by National Geographic, Laura Parker explains that 288 million tons of plastic were produced around the world in 2012. Because plastics break down very slowly or don’t break down at all, they are incredibly hard to dispose of. About eight million tons pour into the ocean every year. This has led to a sort of never-ending build-up that is going to take a lot of work to get rid of. It also puts marine life at risk of consuming it or becoming trapped in it. If the plastic breaks down into microplastic, we can end up consuming it via our drinking water. Reversing the damage done to our oceans and rivers will be a very long and involved process since most of the issues we are currently facing correlate with water pollution. If we start to produce more biodegradable or dissolvable products-especially food packaging and water bottles- we can reduce the amount of plastic that makes its way into the ocean every year. This is especially important because plastic makes up most of the trash in the ocean. Organizations such as Project Aware are also making an effort to remove debris from the ocean. It is essential that we find a solution soon because water is our life source.
‘Currently, we are drawing down Earth’s natural capital-and. We cannot get away with it for long (Withgott 2018). If we hope to remedy the environmental challenges we are currently facing, we must start by educating the public, All while backing those lessons with well-researched facts, real-world examples, and a wide range of ways that people can get involved. In a world ruled by technology and social media, it is also essential that information be accessible to younger generations via social sites and applications. The more people understand the problems, the easier they become to fix them. If we use water in moderation, there is more to go around. With the help of scientists and civilians, our environmental ‘Bank account’ (Withgott 2018) will begin to replenish itself.
- Roberts, C. (2012). The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea. Viking.
- Dr. Seuss. (1971). The Lorax. Random House.
- Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2018). “Environment: The Science Behind the Stories.”