In thinking about the planet, we have to be aware of what influence humans have on the natural environment. While humans are animals, we are distinct from other animals in that we have, through various beneficial steps of evolution, become very abundant in number. We live in giant cities and societies all over the planet, going about our daily lives and paying little attention to the nature from which we came. It would be accurate to say that most people are out-of-touch with nature nowadays and that this is part of the root of the problem. The problem with pollution is that it is a by-product of normal modern life, and to fight it, we must be aware of it first. Here are the major kinds of environmental pollution, where they come from, what harm they do, and what we can do to decrease it.
1. Land Pollution
Land pollution can be one of the most obvious. It occurs when trash is thrown away in a haphazard manner and ends up in places where it shouldn’t be. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash a day. This number may seem shocking unless you keep track of what you throw into the trash. A large percent of this trash comes simply from the packaging containing things that we buy and food that we eat. About 54% of this trash ends up in landfills – giant places containing pits devoted to the gathering of disposed household trash. About another 34% is recycled or composted by those who are a little more aware and try to diminish personal trash. The rest may be disposed of improperly, and end up in natural places. Another form of land pollution comes from industrial waste, where it leaves factories, mines, and refineries, and ends up in the land. Much of it is non-hazardous like medical waste or construction material. However, a portion of it can be hazardous in the form of chemical sludge, which can be extremely harmful to the environment and also to human health. The best way to decrease land pollution is to consume and buy less (only what we need) so that there is less packaging put out into the world. More regulations are needed to ensure that factories follow sound environmental practices.
2. Water Pollution
Water pollution is a major and less visible form of damage to the environment. Since we spend most of our time on land, we rarely think about what is going on with the water. However, our lives depend on clean water, and so it would be very smart to pay attention to the health of our aquatic ecosystems. Water can become polluted by solid waste such as trash, or by liquid waste such as chemical sludge or toxins. Water can also become polluted by factories or sewage treatment centers that send byproducts into the water, promoting the growth of harmful bacteria or algae. The effects of water pollution can be major, doing significant damage to the natural ecosystem by killing natural fish and plants, leaving the water inhabitable as well as unsafe for humans to drink.
3. Air Pollution
Air pollution can be one of the most secretive ways that pollutants affect us and the environment. We may be breathing air that is harming us in major way without even being aware of it. Big cities like New York and Los Angeles have major problems with polluted air, mostly coming from the burning of fossil fuels by large numbers of car drivers. Clean air has a very defined chemical composition; 99% of it is nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, and inert gases. When this balance is changed in big ways, we know that there is some big source of environmental pollution going into the air. Factories are big sources of this. Depending on what they are manufacturing, they release large amounts of chemical gases into the air. The effects of air pollution are serious. Harmful gases like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and others can harm not only those breathing it, but can cause effects such as acid rain which can fall on distant places and kill entire forests.