Should pollution ever be the price of prosperity?
Have a look around – what do you see? There’s a haze in the sky, some dusty rubbish clogs a drain, trees are curling and dropping their leaves again, a constant hum fills the air. It rises and falls with the flow of traffic. A sea bird is yanking at a piece of discarded fishing line that’s wrapped around its neck. A beetle hitches a ride on a plastic drink bottle that drifts down the creek.
What a mess!
It’s all ours.
We are the only creatures in the history of our planet that create rubbish that is not readily returned to our environment. In fact, it degrades our environment for everything that lives there including us.
It’s called pollution.
Pollution is everywhere. It’s human-made and it’s all the rubbish that we dump into our environment. We put it into our air, our water and our land. It includes noise, light and visual pollution.
We have some challenges.
There has always been the myth that our planet is so big that no matter how much we pollute it nature will take care of things. The facts are rather different.
The responsibility for pollution rests with us all. As individuals we are responsible. The multinational corporations who pollute every day are responsible. Our governments who allows these corporations to set up their polluting factories, smelters and power stations with the promise of cheap water and cheap power are responsible. We are all responsible.
There are three main types of pollution: air pollution, water pollution and land pollution.
It’s almost impossible to see, it moves on the wind and can travel great distances. It knows no borders and respects no countries. It settles on the land, crops, neighbourhoods and water, causing problems for our environment and us. Some types of air pollution get more attention than others. And so they should.
Carbon dioxide and methane are two seriously nasty pollutants that are directly attributing to global warming and climate change.
Our water is also in a bit of strife. Activities that we do on land can affect the quality of our water. Our waste often gets washed into our waterways and coasts without any treatment. This waste might be the big bits that you can see like plastic bags, dead animals and ciggie butts. But it’s also the tiny, microscopic nasties that we can’t see. They build up and pollute our water to such an extent that waterways become unlivable for native plants, fish and animals. Not only is water scarce we somehow reckon it’s a good idea to pollute the clean stuff we have.
As for our land, well the story doesn’t improve much. More than 30% of Australia’s agricultural land is considered ‘severely degraded.’ Rising salinity (due to over irrigation and loss of native vegetation) currently costs Australia around $3.5 billion a year in lost agricultural production every year. The direct costs of salinity are expected to rise each year.
The bad news is that just about everything we do can cause pollution. The good news is that in most cases, there are relatively easy ways to reduce or even stop the pollution.
We send more and more rubbish ‘away’ to landfill every year. There is no away. Everything ends up somewhere and we are all responsible.