The challenges of our natural environment Essay

Abstract

Pollution is one of the issues affecting the environment today. Whether pollution is on land, water or air, several measures need to be taken to reduce or at least stop it from occurring. This is a research paper on the causes and the solutions to air, water, and land pollution.

1. Introduction

            Today, it is evident that the environment is getting damaged at a very fast rate. We, the humans, are the major contributors to environmental degradation. Despite the fact that every person is aware of it, very few people are actually doing anything to protect our environment. The aim of this research paper is therefore to prove that the preservation of our natural environment can only be done through ecological education, developing alternative energy sources, and addressing environmental issues.

2. Air pollution

Air pollution is defined as the presence in the outdoor atmosphere of one or more contaminants (pollutants) in quantities and duration that can injure human, plant or animal life or property, or which unreasonably interferes with the enjoyment of life or the conduct of business. The list of air pollutants can be sub divided into pollutants that are gases or particles. The presence of noxious substances in the outside air, coming from factories, domestic fuel combustion and vehicle exhausts continues to be a major concern. In terms of overall mobility and mortality, probably nothing can surpass the damage which has been caused historically by exposure to the by-products of coal burning.

2.1 Causes of air pollution

                           In Los Angels, automotive exhaust is the major contributor to air pollution, and in Pittsburgh and other parts of the Midwest it is emissions from steel plants and other factory smokestacks. Major contributors to air pollution are emissions form motor vehicles, smoke from the burning of coal and oil in power plants, and smoke and other smokestack emissions from numerous types of factories and industrial plants. The actual degree of pollution people experience in a particular area is the result of the level of pollutants emitted nearby (and sometimes also from far away), the chemical reaction and interactions of the pollutants once they enter the atmosphere, and weather patterns.

2.1.1 Green house effect and global warming

                           Emissions from green house gases are said to be the major causes of global warming. Several kinds of gases are responsible for the atmosphere’s green house effect. These green house gases absorb heat energy that would otherwise be lost into space. Of greatest concern is carbon dioxide. Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are increasing, most likely as a result of burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gases. These fuels are burnt in heating systems, in industrial processes and in vehicle engines. Fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide as a waste gas, which then enters the atmosphere. Scientists have noted that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by at least 25 percent in the past 150 years. Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, seem to be adding carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a faster rate than photosynthesis can remove it. Worse still, people are cutting down rainforests and polluting the forests and the oceans; so many photosynthesizing organisms are being destroyed that would otherwise help remove carbon dioxide. Many scientists believe that human activities are causing carbon dioxide levels into the air to rise. This in turn contributes to global warming. Other greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide, and CTCs (Chlorofluorocarbons). The levels of some of these are also increasing. (Whitman 2005)

                            Although scientists can not be exactly sure what will happen if global warming continues, most believe there will be major changes, some of which are already being seen. However, it is definite that if global warming is taking place, then the most likely cause is the effect of air pollution on the greenhouse effect. Scientists are worried because air pollution may be strengthening the green house effect and so causing global warming. Some of the most dramatic and far reaching changes could include a rise in sea level, food shortages, drought, increase in diseases, and the extinction of many organisms. (Kuha 2009)

2.2 Solutions to air pollution

                           Early environmentalists focused on technological solutions to combat environmental degradation and called for the government to force business and industries to “clean up.” The solution included limiting power plant emissions, requiring industrial waste byproducts to be removed from water waste before discharging the water into rivers, and setting deadlines for automobile manufacturers to produce cars with less polluting engines. Some of these technological solutions were very successful. (Marzotto 2000)  Environmentalists also called for more ecologically sensitive lifestyles for everyone and promoted the idea that people must take “greater “personal responsibility for the impact of daily living on the wider natural world.” The adoption of these new lifestyles will change the American way of thinking, working and creating.

                           Environmentalists assert that every day actions should be less harmful to the environment should have such actions as recycling waste and driving less often. This shift in emphasis from technological to behavioral solutions became a key policy belief of the quality of advocacy coalitions. Other air pollution solutions are focused on technology, switching fuel, and dispersal. Switching from coal to oil and natural gas produces less pollution. However, burning these fuels still produces air pollutants; sulphur and natural gas, less relative gain in air quality come from additional switching from coal. A second mechanism used to combat air pollution is dispersal. Taller smokestacks sent emissions higher in the air to be dispersed over a wider area. Air –pollution industries can move and release their air pollution away from the main urban population areas. Dispersal of smoke, new technologies, cleaner fuels, alternative manufacturing techniques, more efficient use of materials, and recycling waste products can be applied to stationary air pollution sources relatively easily. (Voorspools 2007)

3. Water pollution

                           Water pollution, like other environmental concerns, has been the focus of widespread public interest for a lone time. Water pollution is the addition by humans of something to the water that alters its chemical composition, temperature, or microbial composition to such chemical composition to such an extent that harm occurs to resident organisms or to human. Water pollution causes are classified as either point source of pollution or non-point sources of pollution.

3.1 Point sources of pollution

                           These are sources associated with man-made discharges of pipelines and canals. Thy can also be called “end of pipe” sources of pollution. They are identifiable discrete discharges from municipal and industrial waste water collection and treatment systems. They could be broadly subdivided into two categories, based on their composition and origin:

a)      Municipal wastewater

The characteristic qualities parameters have been well studied defined and are relatively easy to measure and control. However, their values vary in certain limits, depending on the geographical and climate conditions, level of economic development, mixture of influent sources (industrial/domestic), and size of community served.

b)      Industrial waste water

The quality characteristics are extremely diverse and require individual assessment for each specific case. We would differentiate between “manufacturing” waste water generated during the production process and “service water”, generated by canteens, ablution blocks, and other activities, complementary to the industrial process. The service industrial waste water usually has the characteristics of municipal waste water. Dealing with industrial wastewater as a source of pollution requires understanding of the production process and, in most cases, segregation of different types of wastewater flows. (Hranova 2005)

3.2 Non-point sources of pollution

                           They are associated mainly with land drainage and surface runoff which enters a water body by dispersed and poorly defined ways. For this reason, the term “diffuse pollution” is commonly used as well. Atmospheric waste loads are chemicals and particular matter, which settle from the atmosphere or are scavenged by precipitation. They could be classified as possible diffuse sources of pollution if they reach water bodies. Municipal waste water applied to land may become a non-point source of pollution in runoff, if not handled properly. Usually, you can differentiate between diffuse pollution from agricultural sources and diffuse pollution in urban areas. Agricultural sources are associated mainly with run off and leach-ate from agricultural lands and animal operations, and is generated by excess application of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, as well as, increased salinity of return flows. Diffuse pollution in urban areas associated mainly with polluted urban runoff (drainage), contaminated with materials washed up from streets, roads, roofs, open spaces, etc. (Abel, 1996)

3.3 Causes of water pollution

                           One of the causes of water pollution is oil spills. Water pollution causes a shortage if drinking water to both animals and human beings. Besides this, it also affects the businesses that are located along coastal regions that specialize on sea foods. Example of a major oil spillage is the Exxon Valdez oil spill at the Alaska coast. Water pollution through oil spillages can also occur when oil that pours on the land surface is washed off to rivers. Such oil may be as a result of oil spills from manufacturing industries, of from cars among others. All these collect together and continually feed the water bodies, causing water pollution in the long-run. According to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, approximately 100,000 tanks of gasoline leak chemicals to the ground water. Pollution of underground water is common in Santa Monica, where the water supplied to the city from wells often contains high levels of MTBE. (Gupta 2008)

                           In the developing countries, at least 90% of the waste water is discharged to the rivers without being treated. Under treated sewage, or even raw sewage disposed of to the rivers can contains disease pathogens and can lead to disease out breaks. Statistics show that approximate 850 gallons of raw sewage are disposed off to the rivers, mainly through leakages as a result of poorly constructed sewer systems. Sediments are also a cause of water pollution, where exposed soil in farms is washed off to the rivers by rain water, causing pollution. Water pollution through soil can also be cause by exposed soil due to deforestation. Chemicals from Fertilizers and pesticides applied to farms, and also from pharmaceuticals also cause soil erosion. (Julie1998)

3.4 Solutions to water pollution

                           The first step to reducing water pollution through oil spillages would be to prevent any oil spillages from flowing into the water bodies. The government should also take the initiative of ensuring that oil transported through the sea reaches its destination within the shortest time period. This would be helpful in reducing oil that spills in the sea during transportation. Repairing any broken sewers is another way to reduce water pollution, as there are times when the sewer leaks to the drinking water, resulting to disease outbreaks. To avoid pollution through soil, the government should encourage planting of trees, and discourage deforestation. Trees and other forest cover hold the soil particles together, preventing it from being washed away into the rivers together with rain water. Factories should also look for alternative ways to dispose off their wastewater, instead of disposing it into the rivers. Chemical treatment of polluted water should also be encouraged. (Cynthia 2008)

4. Land pollution

                           Land is an important resource, and we would not exist without it. However, there are things that need to be done in order to preserve it, including protecting it from pollution.

4.1 Causes of land pollution

                           Until recently, little attention was paid to the disposal of garbage and solid wastes in landfalls around the country. Now, however, we are beginning to run out of space to dump the stuff we want to get rid of. Each year in the United States, we junk about 8 million cars and trucks: 100 billion cans, bottles, and jars, and more than 200 million tons of garbage. The average American generates more than twice as much garbage as citizens of other industrialized countries. Many old abandoned solid wastes disposal sites are dangerous because they contain hazardous materials that may be corrosive, flammable or contain toxic chemicals. The use of chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers in farms also pollutes the soil. These may seem helpful, but in the long-run, they end up making the soils infertile and therefore unfit for farming.

4.2 Solutions to land pollution

                           In 1980, the Congress passed the Superfund Act, which provides for the clean up of the most dangerous waste sites. However, only after many years, only a small fraction of the most toxic Superfund sites have been cleaned up. As of 2005, there were still 1,205 Superfund sites on the National Priority list that were scheduled for clean up. This is a challenge to the government to ensure that it executes the environmental laws that were set before. Americans should also be taught the importance of reusing and recycling. You would minimize the amount of wastes disposed.

5. ECO-Action of Orlando

                           Eco-Action, based in Orlando that specializes in informing people about earth-friendly lifestyles, what they can do to make environment friendly consumer choices and how they can get involved in environmental conservation. They encourage Americans in Florida and other parts of America to be the solution to environmental degradation, instead of being the problem in conserving then environment. The home grown organization has been involved in all types of projects to ensure ECO-Wellness, to the gopher tortoise rescue to developing programs to clean up dirty environments. One of their common activities is the canoe clean-ups, where they go to different places every week to remove debris that might be of risk to wild life. It has also organized rallies to educate Americans on the importance of keeping the environment clean.

6. Conclusion

                           ECO-Action serves as an example for us. It has sown us what we all need to do to keep out environment clean. However, as seen from the research, the best and sure way to conserve our environment would be to educate the people first, and then encourage them to practice what they have been taught.

References

1)      Abel P. D. (1996) 2nd edition. Water pollution biology. CRC Press; pg 23-25

2)      Cynthia L. Winkworth, Christoph D. Matthaei, and Colin R. Townsend, (2008), Recently Planted Vegetation Strips Reduce Giardia Runoff Reaching Waterways, Agronomy Journal, J. Environ. Qual., Volume 37

3)      ECO-ACTION.net The Green Initiative, (2009) retrieved on 6/1/1009 from http://www.eco-action.net/

4)      Gupta. K. R, Jankowska. M .A, Maiti P., (2008), Global Environment: Problems and Policies Atlantic Publishers & Distributors

5)      Harrison R. M. (2001) 4th edition. Pollution: causes, effects and control. Royal Society of Chemistry, pg 353

6)      Hranova R. (2005) Diffuse Pollution of Water Resources: Principles and Case Studies in the Southern. Taylor & Francis; pgs 1-5

7)      Julie Stauffer, (1998), The Water Crisis: Constructing Solutions to Freshwater Pollution, New York, Earthscan

8)      Kuha Mai,(2009), Language and encology, uncertainty about causes and effects of global warming in U.S before and after Bali, volume 2, Issue no. 4

9)      Marzotto T., Burners V. M., Bonham G. S. The evolution of public policy: cars and the environment; Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000; pgs 55-57

10)  Pathak R. P. (2007) Philosophical and Sociological Perspectives of Education. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, pg 123

11)  Voorspools K. R. and D’haeseleer W D, 2007, Renewable Sustainable Energy Rev.,  Critical evaluation of methods for wind-power appraisal, volume 11

12)  Whitman C. W., Johnson W. M., Tomczyk .J, 5th edition, 2005, Refrigeration ; Air Conditioning Technology, California, Cengage Learning

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