It is no secret that the last decade has been the hottest since the beginning of the measurements and recent estimates indicate that we are expected to cross the threshold of rising temperatures from which it will be difficult to return between 2027 and 2042. This is no longer an invisible future that we bequeath to our children or grandchildren, but a future that is just around the corner that we can envision with our own eyes.
In light of these alarming figures, many governments around the world alongside giant corporations and private companies have decided to take up the gauntlet. In November 2021, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference is expected to convene, at which governments will discuss the contribution and course of action they will take to achieve the “net zero” goal – neutralizing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing the global warming rate. At the same time, hundreds of cities and private companies have already taken on this task without waiting for action from world governments and are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their area.
Not to believe but even now in 2021 despite what we know about the consequences of water source pollution we are witnessing significant and ongoing pollution – streams, lakes, rivers, seas, oceans and groundwater – in all of which damage can be identified.
What is water pollution and what is it caused by? Pollution of water sources is the flow of various substances into them to the point where these substances impair the functioning of the ecosystem. There are several causes of infection:
– Domestic sewage – is a major source of infections and pathogens.
– Toxic waste – flow of hazardous substances (chemical compounds, carcinogens, toxins, etc.) originating from various industries or embolism of pesticides from agricultural fields.
– Thermal pollution – Releasing cooling water from power plants to water reservoirs (sea, lake, river, etc.) creates an increase in water temperature. Higher water temperature creates a decrease in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water and thus harms the population of fish and marine animals which are unable to survive in water with low oxygen levels.
– Petroleum (oil) pollution – The source of the pollution is surface oil runoff from roads and parking lots that pollute the water beams consistently and continuously or as a result of Accidental oil spills.
One of the greatest ecological disasters mankind has ever known is The Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in April 2010 during which 780,000 cubic meters of crude oil were spilled into the bay and the oil slick covered between 6,500 and 1,800,000 square kilometers. As a result of the leak, severe damage was caused to fish, seabird habitats and all marine creatures in the area. Despite the many resources invested in dealing with the aftermath of the leak, even 4 years after the disaster tar balls continued to be discovered on the beaches.
While the BP or Transocean Corporations that operated the rig where the leak occurred can and should be blamed for the disaster and of course their responsibility should not be underestimated, it is important to remember that oil spills or petroleum leaks (such as gasoline or diesel) have occurred in the past and therefore are an unavoidable phenomenon, a disaster waiting to happen at any time. Whether it is a leak in the leading pipeline, a damaged tanker, or a rig where a malfunction occurred – all of which will lead to the same result – massive environmental destruction and damage to the ecosystems in the most severe way.
As long as oil and its derivatives are used for the various needs of mankind its transportation and drilling will continue and thus we will not be able to avoid leaks completely. Only a full transition to renewable energies will lead to the eradication of the phenomenon and as long as this has not happened it is important to learn what ways can be applied to detect and treat leaks before they have managed to cause severe and extensive damage to the marine ecosystems. Here is a taste of some methods that exist today and are in use:
Plastic is a unique material with many benefits – it is cheap, available, lightweight, versatile and resistant, so it is no wonder that its use is common in so many products that we use daily and it is almost impossible to avoid it. At the same time, it is a mixed blessing because once the plastic object is out of use it becomes one of the most environmentally polluting without proper treatment. Some products will only begin their decay in 500, 700 and even 1000 years! This substance remains in the environment, is eaten by animals or constitutes death traps for them. Much of the plastic finds its way into the seas and oceans. In the water, the plastic breaks down into a substance called microplastic, and even today it is found in the oceans in insane amounts. The so-called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was formed in the Pacific Ocean and is estimated to consist of about 1.8 trillion particles and weighs over 87,000 tons! Due to the transparency of the particles a lot of marine creatures confuse the microplastic with plankton and consume it. Indeed, tests performed on fish often find residues of plastic in their stomachs, and this, of course, has a direct health impact on us humans.
As mentioned earlier, plastic has many benefits and we can probably not completely avoid using it, at least not in the foreseeable future. Among other things, the use of plastic can often benefit the environment for example by preserving the quality of food, ensuring its safety and thus reducing food waste. So here’s a peek at some ideas on how to deal with the plastic pollution problem:
Animal extinction is a painful problem of modern times. According to recent data, it is estimated that today about a quarter of all animals and plants are in danger of extinction and although it is true that the earth has already suffered 5 mass extinctions in the past, and it can be said that 99% of all creatures that ever inhabited the earth today have become extinct, but this time it seems that the rate of extinction is tens of times higher than the rate predicted by nature. It seems we are in the age of the sixth mass extinction only this time it is not driven by an asteroid or a natural disaster but by us, humans. The above figure is most worrying because the extinction of a particular species could lead to the collapse of an entire ecological fabric and this has far-reaching implications for us and our lives on this planet.
Species may become extinct due to overfishing or overhunting, pollution, destruction of habitats and the introduction of invasive species. For example, the Amazon rainforest is home to about 3 million different species but for several years now, this habitat has been felled and destroyed for land clearing for the purpose of animal agriculture and for crops to feed them. Another example is the overfishing of our seas and oceans which according to various estimates will lead to fishless oceans by 2048.
Species extinction is part of the natural process that the earth goes through and we will not be able to completely stop it. At the same time we have the power to slow the rate of extinction to the normal level (to a level measured by scientists from the last five mass extinctions that have occurred in the past). This way we will not endanger the survival of all species and most importantly, we will not endanger our own existence on Earth. A small taste of what can be done about it:
A Netflix Documentary
Breaking Boundaries tells the story of the most important scientific discovery of our time – that humanity has pushed Earth beyond the boundaries that have kept Earth stable for 10,000 years, since the dawn of civilization. The 75-minute film takes the audience on a journey of discovery of planetary thresholds we must not exceed, not just for the stability of our planet, but for the future of humanity. It offers up the solutions we can and must put in place now if we are to protect Earth’s life support systems.
Air pollution is emissions of chemicals or biologicals that are not part of its natural composition and their presence harms animals, plants, and humans.
The World Health Organization has defined air pollution as the biggest environmental threat to public health and, according to various estimates, causes 7 million deaths a year.
There are two sources of air pollution: the first is natural activity such as volcanic eruptions, methane emitted by animals, smoke from and more. The second source is man-made and originates in transportation, farm animals, polluting industries, daily human activity such as use of paint, aerosol spray, asphalt, etc. Although we can not control the first source as it is being part of the phenomena of nature, but the second reason is certainly in our hands.
Human activity has a significant part in the emission of pollutants which contributes a lot to morbidity in the public. According to data from the World Health Organization, about 80% of all people living in cities are exposed to pollution levels defined by that organization as dangerous. Hence, the pollution that originates in us should be reduced as much as possible in order to improve the condition of plants, animals and humans alike.
Air – the source of life on Earth for many living things, including us humans. A decrease in its qualities endangers us in the most significant way because unlike our other needs – the need to breathe is not controlled and is constant so in cases where the air is polluted we are immediately exposed to toxins and harm our health without being able to protect ourselves from it. The task seems big but it is possible and here are some examples of what we can do to improve air quality.