Pollution around forever but more of it in modern world
OK, folks, here it comes — something that has been bugging us ever since we started glancing back to a world we grew up in, and what it’s become thanks to a single word: pollution.
The word has been derived from a Latin word meaning “to make dirty.”
Currently, it’s defined as “the unfavorable alteration of our surroundings”, and it might surprise you to know that concern about it goes all the way back to Plato, who raged against environmental issues of his times.
Now we experience it, updated, in many new ways.
There’s noise pollution for example The nosiest neighborhoods at one time resulted from voices: people laughing, talking over the back fence, kids yelling, horses neighing, and not much else. But now?
You’re sound asleep, awakened by an ugly but familiar sound from the street, day or night: the pounding cry of a Harley Davidson pumping into action and roaring by at full throttle.
It’s followed by the thudding of a stream of semis — with an occasional whish of breaks — noisy replacements for the freight trains that once delivered our goods. And all other trucks large and small on their independent routes — noisy in their unique ways.
But, worst of all, there’s the endless trail of automobiles large and small, each with its formidable sound from groans and grinding engines to almost silent grunts — until they screech to a break before hitting the vehicle they’ve been tailgating.
And other noises: the sound of planes, boats, industry or other sources that cause stress-related illnesses and high blood pressure.
What about water pollution? The quality of water disturbs the balance of the ecosystem and causes health hazards — and we don’t have to go to third world countries to find harmful effluents; consider the issue in the Flint area, which has caused a flurry of unpleasant findings in other areas right down to small communities like our own.
Air pollution? It’s difficult to get clean air today, what with greenhouse gasses — combustion systems spewing carbon dioxide relentlessly, vying with chemical and metallurgical industries that release the most. You know what that smelly stuff is doing to the entire globe.
Add related offenders: the users of coal, oil and natural gas from cars, thermal power plants and industrial processes.
Sadly, the indiscriminate cutting of trees and forests (which replaces carbon dioxide with oxygen) is worldwide disturbing the balance of good air over bad.
The rapid increase in population is an important factor, not just of air pollution, but of land pollution — household garbage, for example, with tons of disposable products, especially plastics. Tangential is light pollution, which has encouraged us to flood our homes with luxurious electric additions. A Science and Research Journal estimates that when we replaced candles for illumination we wasted about 2 million barrels of oil each day; lighting is now responsible for one-fourth of all energy consumption worldwide.
And that’s just a brief, slice of the way we have been changing things to suit our fancies. We generate 30 billion foam cups, 220 million tires and 1.8 billion disposable diapers every year. We also use tremendous amounts of energy to run laundry dryers (when ozone drying should be more satisfying).
Nor are we worried about the fact that air pollution contributes to almost 7 percent of all deaths worldwide, nor that one in eight premature deaths annually are linked to air pollution. And it doesn’t seem to bother us that pollution in faraway China can change weather patterns in the United States in just a few days’ time.
A final unpleasant thought: pollution causes different types of diseases. Air pollution causes allergies, asthma, lung cancer and bronchitis. Radioactive pollutants cause respiratory problems, paralysis cancer and more. Excessive noise pollution can lead to deafness, anxiety stress, increase in the rate of heartbeat and more.
Oh, to return to the relatively healthy days when we grew up. Or were they?