Okay, you have heard terms such as “global warming,” “greenhouse gas,” “ozone layer,” eco-friendly,” “sustainability” and “green” thrown around as the latest buzzwords in environmental awareness for years. But do you wonder what it all means? Let’s take a few steps back and look at why we really need to become more sustainable and the impact our lack of sustainability is having.
The Negative Impacts of Irresponsibility As we have all heard, the innovations that often make being a member of the human race so much fun have, sadly, also started to erode certain aspects of our planet. Greenhouse gases, for example, are a natural phenomena, necessary to keep our Earth warm. In fact, were we to lose all our greenhouse gases the planet would likely become as much as 60 degrees Fahrenheit colder. However, these gases, which include things such as carbon dioxide and ozone, are being created in overabundance by humans, particularly as we burn fossil fuels. As these gases increase, the well known phenomenon of global warming makes its way into casual conversations.
In addition to creating an overabundance of greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution, many human activities also release chemicals that have been causing holes to form in our ozone layer, a sub-layer of the atmosphere that protects us from ultraviolet light. Coming down to ground level, human pollutants damage various parts of our ecosystem, including trees and oceans.
Trees and other plants can do a great job of helping to filter pollutants from the air and actually reduce air pollution. Trees produce oxygen for people and animals to breathe; a single acre of trees can produce enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe freely each day. In addition, trees help to absorb dangerous carbon dioxide. Tree roots and the soil around them can help to filter out various pollutants including dust, smoke and ash, keeping them from entering our respiratory systems.
Sadly, this act of cleaning our air actually harms many trees and plants. Pollution can damage leaves and branch growth, even impairing the process of photosynthesis that plants use to make their own food. Trees that are subject to heavy pollution are known to be more susceptible to diseases and insect infestation.
Similarly, pollution damages the Earth’s oceans and water ways. As chemicals leach into the water through our soil, acid rain, storm water run-off and industrial waste, the composition of the water changes. Water can sometimes become too acid to support life. Or, it can lose adequate oxygen levels, allow the build-up of dangerous bacteria and organism, and of course contain hazardous materials from toxins to dangerous solid objects. When the water becomes dangerous this develops into a problem for aquatic plants and animals within the water, land animals that drink the water, humans that drink the water and more.
Damage can be Sneaky Sometimes, we do not even realize that we are damaging our environment. Let’s look at flooding as one example. First, humans sometimes create an environment that is simply not sustainable, such as trying to hold back large bodies of water with man-made structures. Almost inevitably nature will win out, and the result is massive devastation, such as what we saw in New Orleans a few years back. Additionally, climate changes themselves, which many believe have been brought on by pollution, are causing huge tsunamis and massive flooding. Furthermore, when these floods do occur they cause devastation not just in the damage and death that the high waters cause, but also in that the waters pick up ground pollution (such as oil and break dust from roadways) and carry it along, depositing it in gardens and fields or taking it back to the ocean.
The Impact of Going Green It is imperative that every human on Earth start to act quickly to stop the pollution of our environment. By taking steps to go green, we can each have a hand in helping our forests, rivers, oceans and Earth as a whole to recover from the damage we have done. Of course, by saving our earth, water and atmosphere, we also save our own future.