We only have one planet to live on currently, which is why pollution is such a big problem. Pollution comes in many forms, some more obvious than others, but no matter what form it comes in, we should think about how we can reduce it. What types of pollution are there? Why do we need to reduce pollution, and what can we do to change our ways before it’s too late?
Types of Pollution
First, what kinds of pollution do we need to worry about? Pollution falls into five categories:
Air: The things we put into the atmosphere, from car exhaust to industrial waste, cause air pollution. Even the carbon dioxide that we exhale is considered air pollution, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop breathing. Cars, factories and other industrial causes are the most significant problems.
Water: Chemicals that get dumped into the water supply or run into the water from the surrounding environment lead to water pollution. With so little of the water on our planet to drink — only about three percent of the planet’s water supply is drinkable, and two percent of it is locked up in glaciers — this could quickly cause a crisis.
Soil: Soil pollution is very similar to water pollution, only instead of contaminating the water supply with waste or chemicals, this type of pollution impacts the ground beneath our feet and the land where we plant our crops.
Light: Humans are naturally afraid of the dark, so we light up every dark corner we can find by setting up electric lights. Light pollution is detrimental for humans and animals, not to mention it makes it impossible to see the stars at night.
Noise: Noise pollution, as its name suggests, is caused by noise-generating items such as cars, factories, airplanes and other things that make a lot of sounds. Too much noise pollution can damage the human ear and interfere with animal migration.
With all these different types of pollution to worry about, why do we need to feel so concerned?
1. It’s Bad for Our Health
It seems a bit self-centered to start with human concerns, but pollution has a direct effect on human health. Air, soil and water pollution cause roughly 40 percent of global deaths pollution. Air pollution contributes to respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, even in people who have never smoked a day in their life. Polluted water can carry diseases — and more than 1.2 billion people don’t even have clean water to drink or use to wash. Contaminated soil can transmit toxins and chemicals directly into our food.
Pollution has a negative impact on our health — even if you don’t come into contact with it during your daily life.
2. It’s Bad for Animals
Humans aren’t the only creatures on this planet that are negatively affected by pollution. Water pollution upsets ecosystems on both land and sea, either by directly killing plants and animals or encouraging the growth of toxic algae — such as the Red Tide outbreak that is currently ravaging Florida’s coastline.
Bees keep most of the fruits and vegetables that we eat alive — thanks to pollination — but they’re dying out because of the harsh chemicals we use on our crops. Without them, the primary pollinators, these plants are unable to produce the tasty fruits and vegetables that we love to eat.
Even light and noise pollution are dangerous to animals. Turtle hatchlings rely on the light of the moon on the water to direct them to the ocean after they emerge from their eggs — beachfront properties with electric lights often lead to them moving in the wrong direction, and getting eaten by predators. Noise pollution interferes with animals such as whales that use sound to communicate.
We often take these ecosystems for granted, primarily when the results of the pollution do not directly impact us. However, the world can’t function without the ecosystems that keep the world running.
3. These Resources Aren’t Infinite
Many of the resources that we take for granted, such as water, aren’t infinite. As mentioned, even though our planet is 71 percent water, only three percent of it is drinkable. The other 97 percent of the water on our planet is salt water, which is undrinkable without being treated.
We need to stop treating our planet’s resources as though they are infinite. They will run out if we continue to use them the way that we are. Without food that is safe to eat, water that is safe to drink and air that is safe to breathe, continuing to pollute the planet could lead to the end of the human race.
How to Reduce Pollution
What can we do to reduce pollution? It starts with going green on the individual level. Reducing your household waste lessens the amount of waste in the landfills around the world. Switching to an electric or hybrid car reduces the amount of CO2 that you release into the atmosphere with your daily commute. Even using reusable shopping bags or cloth towels instead of paper can help reduce pollution — not only are you using fewer disposable items, but you are also reducing your carbon footprint by not contributing to the waste produced in the creation of these disposable things.
This is the only planet we have so it’s up to us to take care of it. Pollution doesn’t just affect the world — it affects those of us who live on it.