Pollution isn’t just about carbon emissions and plastics! Oil, chemical, mining, nuclear and many other industries are still causing untold, sometimes irreparable damage. Although climate change and plastic pollution dominate the headlines, there are other things to think about too! We should all take time to reflect on the other environmental disasters that are threatening our planet and eco-systems. In reality, many of the pollution problems we face are intertwined, but here are a few to think about.
Industrial and chemical waste
At present, too many countries are dumping waste chemicals into the environment, be it at sea or in landfill. Ultimately these chemicals are leaching into the ecosystems, including into our own food chain.
Radioactive material is continuously accumulating and there are still question marks about its long term storage and ultimate disposal. Furthermore, as nuclear power plants are decommissioned in the coming years vast amounts of additional radioactive material will have to be managed. Serious costs and decisions are involved in doing this safely.
Our atmosphere is polluted by huge amounts of poisonous gases and particulates, from vehicles, factories, consumption and waste disposal all around the world.
Mining and minerals
Mining for fuel, metals and minerals is hugely damaging to the environment. Massive amounts of waste material are produced and invariably dumped. Processing minerals to produce the materials – especially metals – that we use is also energy intensive and highly polluting.
Ozone layer depletion
Ozone depletion is caused by the release of certain chemicals into the atmosphere. Ozone depletion results in more UVB radiation reaching the Earth’s surface which is linked to skin cancer and eye disease, plus it affects plant life and has been linked to a reduction of plankton in marine environments. We have made progress in addressing this issue since the 1980s but there is still a lot to do.
Ocean acidification is the term used to describe the continued lowering of the pH levels of the Earth’s oceans as a result of carbon dioxide emissions. This increase in acidification can have dire effect on calcifying species, such as shellfish, which cause issues throughout the food chain – including our own food chain.
Our growing population and increasing consumerism has led to a massive and still-increasing waste disposal problem. Currently we need to properly manage and dispose of billions of tons of the stuff each year. Much of this waste ends up in landfill sites or burnt, causing serious pollution. Waste needs to be reduced and technologies need to be developed to manage it.
Let’s not lose sight of these issues, and all do our bit to try and reduce them