Category Archives: Environment

8 Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution/Pollutants in Homes

People’s exposure to indoor air pollutants is believed to be substantial because they spend about 90% of their time indoors. Studies have proven that the indoor air in houses is frequently more contaminated than the ambient air that originally gets into houses from outside. The same might apply to your house.

Indoor air contamination has existed for as long as people have lived in enclosed areas: in caves, when cave dwellers breathed smoke from heating and cooking and heating fires; in buildings, structures, and enclosed environments of the Industrial Revolution when products of combustion and a variety of chemicals were being used; and during modern times when the most complex environmental and indoor air pollution problems are having a field day as a result of human activities.

The quantity of air going in and out of a home, building, or structure can contribute to the concentration and degree of pollution in it. The indoor air quality in your home, office, or property is affected by the cumulative effects of air pollutants in the surrounding ambient air plus the pollutants generated inside your home, office, or property due to moisture, dampness, flooding, rodents, insects, air fresheners, chemicals used for cleaning, waste materials, cigarette smoke, and other types of pollutants from furnaces, space heaters, fireplaces, stoves, space heaters, dehumidification systems, etc., and the cumulative impact of poor housekeeping, amongst other sources.

In the short- and long-run, indoor air pollutants could affect the nose, eye, and irritate the throat, and cause fatigue, headaches, nausea, dizziness, asthma, cancer, lung inflammation or pneumonitis, damage to various organs, and various types of sensitivities to chemical and biological substances.

Ambient air may consist of pollutants from outside the house; regardless, additional pollutants are generated within houses through the following most prominent sources of indoor air pollution or pollutants:

1. Asbestos materials

Asbestos may be found in homes: ceiling boards, roofing, siding shingles, and insulation. During removal, cutting, and sanding of asbestos products, its fibers and particles have the potential to become airborne and a health hazard; deterioration of asbestos products could also contribute to more health issues. If inhaled, asbestos can increase the risk of disease. The little asbestos fibers that are inhaled most frequently can accumulate in the lungs and cause abdominal cancers, chest cancers, and lung diseases.

2. Biological contaminants

Biological contaminants can be present in the home; they include: mildew, mold, bacteria, viruses, pollen, cat saliva, house dust mites, animal dander, cockroach droppings, rats, mice urine and droppings, and droppings of domestic animals.

Viruses and bacteria can cause disease(s) after they are unintentionally inhaled, ingested, or get in contact with the skin: biological contaminants can have a profound effect on asthma and cause allergic reactions such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and allergic rhinitis.

A high rate of asthma can be associated with allergens that affect humans, including pet dander, dust mites, insect, dust, and rodent contaminant proteins which can be found in saliva, urine, dander, roach body parts, roach faeces, and mildew and mold which may release disease-causing toxins.

3. Combustion

The working heaters, wood and gas stoves, furnaces, unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, chimneys, fireplaces, and environmental tobacco smoke present in houses discharge respirable particles and gases such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde; these gases may cause nose, eye, and throat irritation, and dizziness, fatigue, headaches, bronchitis, respiratory infections, confusion, persistent coughs, irregular heartbeats, and lung cancer.

4. New Carpets

When a new carpet is installed in a home, it may discharge chemicals into indoor air and pollute it. Even the cleaning of old or older carpets can also discharge chemicals into indoor air. Discharge of chemicals can aggravate any existing disease symptoms or cause new symptoms to arise, especially in people who have existing lung diseases, asthma, and allergic reactions.

5. Environmental tobacco smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke, also known as secondhand smoke, is a combination of the smoke released from cigarette pipe, burning cigarette or cigar, and the smoke that is exhaled by smokers. Environmental tobacco smoke comprises of not less than 4,000 different substances, including not less than 50 that can cause cancer.

When secondhand smoke is inhaled in large quantities, it can increase the risk of nose, eye, and throat irritation; lower respiratory tract infections, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, middle ear infections, and increase in cardiovascular system diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer, and even death.

6. New houses

Whenever houses and the products within them are new, especially if there is high indoor temperature or humidity in the houses, a higher discharge of formaldehyde occurs much more than when the products get older. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause nausea, burning eyes and throat, watery eyes, and difficulty in breathing.

New items that contribute mostly to indoor air pollution in new homes include the pressed wood products used to create furniture, particle board and fibreboard, cabinets, panelling, subflooring, shelving, plywood, and any other substances that consist of resins with urea formaldehyde.

7. Household products

Various types of household products usually consist of some quantity of chemicals that are discharged into indoor air when used, stored, or disposed of. The products might include solvents, paints, stored fuels, candles, cleaning materials, varnishes, aerosol sprays, disinfectants, air fresheners, hobby materials, dry-cleaned clothing, etc.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released from many substances that are used indoors: cleaning supplies, pesticides, disinfectant residues, glues and adhesives, paints, waxes, cosmetics, air fresheners, printers, new furniture, new carpets, new walls, new shelving, new floors, etc. VOCs can enter into homes from outside, the ground, and water from any contamination around homes.

It has been reported that approximately 80% of human exposure to disinfectant residues and pesticides occurs indoors due to chemicals discharged to eliminate and control insects, fungi, rodents, viruses, and bacteria. In addition to indoor pollution is the entry of outside soil or dust that is contaminated by agricultural chemicals and pesticides applied in the field.

Depending on the chemical released by a household product, there may be no effect, or there may be a dangerous effect. Typical symptoms of health problems due to chemicals include visual problems, respiratory irritation, coma, loss of coordination, nausea, headaches, eye irritation, dizziness, unconsciousness/coma, light-headedness, and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system, and even death. Long-term problems may include cancer and genetic effects.

8. Uranium in the ground

The natural decay of uranium in the ground, soil, and rocks can cause the emission of radon (an odorless, colorless, tasteless, and invisible radioactive gas) which can enter the home through crevices and cracks in the foundations, floors, walls, and construction joints. Depending on the degree of uranium decay, concentrations of radon can build up and even find their way into the water supply of the home. When ingested, radon can cause lung cancer. Cigarette smoking can even aggravate the effects of radon gas which is believed to cause thousands of deaths yearly due to lung cancer.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: 25 Interesting Facts

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases that warm the Earth’s surface, and they withhold heat in the atmosphere; as a result, they don’t allow heat to flow back into space.

Globally, the major GHGs emitted by human activities include carbon dioxide which is 76% of the total global emissions; methane which is 16% of the total global emissions; nitrous oxide which is 6% of the total global emissions; and fluorinated gases which are 2% of the total global emissions.

Carbon dioxide is produced during the combustion of solid waste, oil, coal, natural gas, wood products, and trees, and through certain types of chemical reactions; for example, during cement production.

Methane is emitted during the decomposition of cattle and organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills, and during the processing, mining, and transportation of oil, coal, and natural gas.

Nitrous oxide is produced when industrial and agricultural activities are taking place, and when fossil fuels and solid waste are being burned.

Fluorinated gases originate from industrial processes, either as a by-product or concluding or final product.

The following are 25 interesting facts on greenhouse gases that are intriguing and could definitely add to your knowledge base:

1. The greenhouse effect is brought about or intensified by surface pollution gases that rise into the troposphere (which is the lowest atmospheric layer: from 4 to 11 miles high) and can heat the Earth’s surface.

2. Each greenhouse gas affects climate change; however, this depends on their concentration and how long they stay in the atmosphere, and the level of their effectiveness in producing global warming.

3. Some GHGs can persist in the air or atmosphere for many years.

4. The countries that emit the largest quantities of methane are Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, USA, and Australia, which all account for about 50% of the total anthropogenic methane emissions worldwide.

5. Landfills are the largest source of methane emissions in the USA.

6. Electricity production, distribution, and transmission account for around 84% of the GHG emissions in the USA; most of the GHGs are carbon dioxide, while less than 1% of the emissions are sulfur hexafluoride which is used in distribution equipment and electricity transmission.

7. The storage of manure produces nitrous oxide and methane and accounts for around 15% of the entire GHG emissions from agriculture in the USA.

8. The burning of fossil fuels in motor vehicles for transportation accounts for about 28% of all GHG emissions.

9. Industries generate about 14% of GHG emissions, mainly through the combustion of fossil fuels.

10. Different agricultural producers account for around 8% of the GHGs that are generated mainly from agricultural soils, livestock, and rice production.

11. Soil management accounts for around 50% of nitrous oxide emissions.

12. About 33% of the methane produced by agriculture is from the digestive processes of livestock.

13. Commercial and residential sources account for around 11% of GHG emissions.

14. Commercial and residential building endeavors account for around 39% of the carbon dioxide generated from fuel sources.

15. All the fluorinated gases that originate from refrigeration and air conditioning systems, and household products escape into the air.

16. The global warming potential of methane is 25 times more than that of carbon dioxide.

17. Approximately 70% of electricity is generated from the combustion of natural gas and coal; both produce carbon dioxide in significant quantities.

18. Presently, methane contributes not less than one-third of the global warming caused by humans.

19. Compared to other GHGs, fluorinated gases are released in small quantities; but they have a very powerful effect on global warming.

20. Chlorofluorocarbons (which are potent GHGs and deplete the atmosphere’s ozone layer) had been replaced with hydrofluorocarbons (which are equally strong GHGs) to correct an environmental problem; unfortunately, although this replacement corrects one environmental problem, it still causes another.

21. Sulfur hexafluoride is another potent GHG mainly used to insulate electrical equipment; leakage of the gas and emissions during equipment maintenance aggravate global warming trends where insulating electrical equipment are being used.

22. The GHGs trapped in the ocean are discharged slowly into the atmosphere over time when water heats more slowly than the atmosphere.

23. Ozone depletion still has a considerable effect on the temperature balance of the earth, even though ozone depletion is not a major cause of climate change.

24. Atmospheric ozone heats the stratosphere by absorbing solar ultraviolet radiation; in addition, it absorbs infrared radiation from the earth’s surface and traps heat in the troposphere.

25. Even after a substantial reduction in GHGs, the full effect of emissions will still be sensed for many years into the future, due to lag time.

Reference

Best Practices for Environmental Health: Environmental Pollution, Protection, Quality and Sustainability by Herman Koren

15 Main Sources of Toxic Air Pollutants Around the World

Toxic air pollutants are the type of pollutants that are surmised of causing cardiovascular diseases, asthma, respiratory diseases, cancer, reproductive effects, irritation in vital parts of the body, birth defects, damage to the health and immune system, and other dangerous health and environmental effects all around the world. (Click here to get information on ten major types of toxic or hazardous air pollutants.)

The main sources of toxic air pollutants around the world include, but may not be limited to:

1. Small chemical plants

Each small chemical plant around the world produces a variety of airborne solid, and liquid waste, along with toxic chemicals and pollutants that escape into the air in one way or another, increase the eventual cost of products (from the plants), and threaten human health and the environment.

2. Substantial accidental and intentional chemical discharges

This includes both accidental/unintentional and intentional leaks and spills which are sources of toxic air pollutants in various facilities around the world.

The EPA has drafted and established regulations under the Clean Air Act to employ risk management programs in preventing accidental chemical discharges; if they occur, then special techniques can be used to clean up the chemicals.

3. Aerospace manufacturing and repair/rework industries

This source of toxic air pollutants/pollution exists around the world in the form of industries that produce and/or repair aerospace vehicles and vehicle parts from space vehicles, helicopters, airplanes, and missiles.

Aerospace manufacturing industries produce toxic air pollutants such as chromium and methylene chloride which are discharged during paint stripping, priming, grinding, cleaning, and application.

4. Leaking of VOCs in small quantities from different areas

One of the greatest sources of toxic air pollutant emissions around the world is the leaking of VOCs from tanks, equipment, tanks, and their parts which may include pumps, compressors, valves, connectors, open-ended lines, sampling connections, and pressure-relief devices.

Leaking of VOCs, itself, in small quantities would not pose a significant problem; however, when small quantities from different areas around the world are added together, the result becomes a major problem.

It is believed that between 90% and 95% of VOC leakage around the world is due to gasket or seal failure as a result of wear and improper maintenance of connectors and valves.

5. Major point sources

These are special processes or stationary facilities or special processes that yield either at least 10 tons (per year) of a single contaminant or at least 25 tons (per year) of a mixture of toxic or hazardous air pollutants.

Major point sources of toxic air pollutants/pollution around the world include the fertilizer industry, the chemical industry, petroleum refineries, cement kilns, commercial, institutional, and industrial boilers, power plants, iron and steel manufacturing plants, solid waste incinerators, pulp and paper mills, and toxic waste storage, transfer, treatment, and disposal facilities.

6. Drycleaners

Drycleaners are used in many places around the world, and they are the largest sources of perchloroethylene emissions in the USA. They constitute a potential health hazard because their locations are usually close to large numbers of people and may cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, and cancer in some people.

7. Medical and infectious waste incinerators

These incinerators constitute the main source of toxic air pollutants around the world. The toxic air pollutants generated after incineration of solid waste (from veterinary clinics, nursing homes, hospitals, pharmaceutical research laboratories, and other surgical and medical facilities) include lead, mercury, dioxins, cadmium, etc.

8. Auto body and repair shops

Auto body shops and garages around the world engage in activities such as painting, welding, and paint stripping, and also replace and/or repair different components of vehicles.

Degreasers are commonly used in auto body and repair shops and other small and large industrial processes. Operations can generate a lot of dust, a variety of particulates, and also be the source of toxic or hazardous air pollutants such as chromium, lead, cadmium, VOCs, etc.

Auto body and repair shops also produce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide which can increase the concentration of ground-level ozone.

9. Lawnmowers and garden tools/equipment

Lawnmowers and gardeners spill a considerable amount of fuel when filling their tools, equipment, or machines. Spilling becomes a pollutant hazard in air, water, and on land.

In the United States alone, lawnmowers and garden tools/equipment contribute about 5% of air pollutants. This amount increases in urban and suburban areas. One may consider how much it could be around the world.

Lawnmowers and garden tools/equipment may emit VOCs, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

10. Printing & publishing activities

Printing and publishing activities around the world include printers and facilities that produce packaging materials and paper products. VOCs are discharged from the cleaning of inks, wetting agents, and solvents, and larger printing & publishing plants can be a source of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The toxic air pollutants discharged during printing & publishing activities include hexane, xylene, toluene, and methanol.

11. Gasoline distribution facilities and gas stations

This source of toxic air pollutants comprises of leakages from bulk terminals, rail cars, equipment, tank trucks, pipelines, storage areas, transferring areas, etc.

All over the world, there are countless underground gasoline storage tanks beneath the surface of gas stations. A considerable number of them are rusty, old, poorly maintained, or damaged, and most of them potentially contaminate land and surface water sources, and also cause air and land pollution.

Toluene, benzene, and eight other toxic air pollutants are usually present in the gasoline vapor that is emitted from gas distribution facilities and gas stations.

12. Off-site waste operations

In many parts of the world, off-site waste facilities are used to treat, store, and dispose of hazardous wastes which come from various industries and facilities, including solvent recycling facilities, industrial wastewater treatment facilities, used oil recovery facilities, etc. A legion of air toxics can be discharged from containers, tanks, process vents, equipment, and surface impoundments.

13. Shipyards

Ship manufacturing, maintenance, and repair is a major industry and source of toxic air pollutants around the world. Activities such as painting, stripping of old paint, and cleaning generate pollutants which contaminate air, water, and land.

Painting increases the quantity of particulate matter in the air and discharges a variety of VOCs. The toxic air pollutants released at shipyards from cleaning and painting operations include xylene, chlorinated compounds, toluene, solvents, etc. 

14. Surface coating & painting of materials

Surface coating and painting both protect and preserve the surfaces of wood, metals, plastics, and products for decoration. Glue and adhesives are typically used in many surface coating and painting operations, and solvents are used to clean surfaces and prepare them by removing unwanted material. The processes of cleaning, coating, and painting can produce toxic air pollutants and VOCs.

15. Wood furniture manufacturing

This source of toxic air pollutants includes all types of plants and cabinet shops that produce various kinds of residential and industrial furniture. The toxic air pollutants discharged during wood furniture manufacturing operations or processes (cleaning, gluing, and finishing) include xylene, formaldehyde, toluene, and methanol. These pollutants can cause irritation in the eye, nose, throat, and skin, and damage the kidneys, liver, and heart.

7 Common Air Pollutants that Affect Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Human health can be influenced or affected by the quality of indoor air pollutants that may be present in a building or home. Various international agencies continue to update or refine and strictly regulate quantitative air quality standards and guidelines to ensure proper indoor air quality management.

The existence of common indoor air pollutants—such as CO (carbon monoxide), CO2 (carbon dioxide), NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), O3 (ozone), PM (particulate matter), SO2 (sulfur dioxide), and VOCs (volatile organic compounds)—poses a serious threat to human health, especially over the past two to three decades.

Many studies prove that indoor air pollutants are two to four times more concentrated than outdoor air pollutants: the WHO specifically reported that 4.2 million people died in 2016 because of poor air quality.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is one of the world’s most precious items, even if it appears neglected. Because of the possibility of having higher concentrations of pollutants inside buildings, IAQ just can’t be ignored.

Apart from causing symptoms, the various kinds of building-associated illnesses that are tied to poor indoor air quality can also lead to tremendous and substantial economic loss. The USA’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) once linked $140 billion annual direct medical expenditure to problems resulting from IAQ.

The most common air pollutants that affect indoor air quality (IAQ)

The most common air pollutants that affect IAQ include:

  • Ozone (O3)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • Particulate matter (PM)
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Ozone (O3 or ground-level ozone), as an air pollutant, originates from chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the presence or midst of sunlight.

Ozone pollution can be worse in both cold and hot environments. Sources of ozone pollution are emissions of gasoline vapors, electric utilities, chemical solvents, etc., and can cause airway narrowing and lung inflammation in people exposed to ozone pollutants.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless toxic gas that is released from sources like gas-type water heaters, leaky furnaces and chimneys, furnace backdraft, unvented fuel and gas-type space heaters, tobacco smoke, fireplaces, wood stoves, gas-powered equipment, etc.

Carbon monoxide can cause chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, reduced brain function, impaired coordination and vision, and flu-like symptoms.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colorless and odorless anthropogenic air pollutant whose major source in buildings or indoors is the occupant’s or occupants’ individual respiration or respiratory system.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a colorless gas that has a pungent smell and originates from the combustion of oil, coal, and gas that contains sulfur. Combustion is the leading source of indoor sulfur dioxide concentration. Short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can cause varying degrees of toxic symptoms, airway inflammation, and respiratory illnesses.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a highly reactive gas which is associated with development of ozone and PM2.5 (particulate matter, including microscopic matter that is suspended in water or air and is less than or equal to 2.5 microns [symbol = µm] in diameter).

Nitrogen dioxide mainly gets into the atmosphere from the combustion or burning of fuel and, like sulfur dioxide, can also cause airway inflammation and respiratory symptoms.

Particulate matter (PM) consists of both solid and liquid particles in dust, soil, soot, and air, including organic chemicals, acids, and metals. Particle pollution is categorized based n the following sizes (diameters in micron [symbol = µm]):

  • PM10 (2.5 µm to 10 µm)
  • PM2.5 (less than 2.5 µm)
  • PM1.0 (less than 1.0 µm).

PM10 is any particulate matter, including any microscopic matter that is suspended in water or air and has a diameter between 2.5 µm and 10 µm. PM2.5 has a diameter that is less than 2.5 µm, and PM1.0 has a diameter that is less than 1.0 µm.

PM10 affects the oral and nasal cavities, the upper trachea, the larynx, and the pharynx. PM2.5 and PM1.0 can cause pulmonary infection, alterations in heart rate variability, coagulation, cardiac autonomic function, and generate endothelial and vascular dysfunction.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) constitute various types of hazardous organic chemicals that are involved in atmospheric photochemical reactions which are regarded as one of the major contributors to symptoms of sick building syndrome (SBS).

The major sources of indoor VOC include pesticides, aerosol sprays, furnishings, high-emission building materials, dry knitted products, laser printers, and office equipment like copiers.

The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a list of hazardous air pollutants and included a total of 187 VOCs. Ethylene, methylene chloride, toluene, benzene, tetrachloroethylene, xylene, formaldehyde, and 1,3-butadiene are the most common indoor VOCs that are major contributors to irritants, human carcinogens, and toxicants.

The total volume of indoor volatile organic compounds (VOCs) concentrations is expressed as “TVOCs” which, in other words, represents the total volume of available/present indoor VOC concentrations.

Acute exposure to indoor TVOCs can cause headaches, nausea, cancer, damage to the liver, central system and kidney, irritation to the throat, eye, and nose, loss of coordination, and respiratory diseases.

Note

It’s important to note that, in addition to the common air pollutants mentioned above, indoor temperature and relative humidity also affect indoor air quality (IAQ).

Fang et al. (1998) noted that when pollution levels are constant, IAQ would drop with any increase in temperature and relative humidity. Berglund and Cain (1989) concluded that the effect of temperature on IAQ was stronger than humidity.

10 Major Types of Hazardous or Toxic Air Pollutants

Hazardous air pollutants, also called “toxic air pollutants”, are the type of pollutants that are known to cause asthma, birth defects, reproductive effects, respiratory diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, damage to the health and immune system, irritation in vital parts of the body, and other dangerous health and environmental effects.

Most hazardous or toxic air pollutants originate from the following anthropogenic sources: stationary sources such as gas stations, chemical plants, power plants, hazardous waste incinerators, factories, steel mills, and refineries; mobile sources such as buses, cars, and trucks; cleaning and dissolving agents/solvents, and building materials; oil leaks and spills, etc.

Hazardous air pollutants or contaminants could accumulate in the body, and they mix up more frequently than remain as individual substances after they are discharged. When pollutants mix, it complicates the problems of diagnosis and prevention of short-term and long-term illnesses.

These are the major hazardous air pollutants:

1. Benzene

Benzene is a chemical that is widely used in industries for manufacturing detergents, shoes, medicines, dies, explosives, etc. It is mostly discharged from gasoline fugitive emissions and gasoline motor vehicle exhaust, and also from stationary industry sources, but to a much lesser extent.

Tobacco smoke, cooking and heating systems, and various products used in homes may contain or release benzene which could increase the risk of cancer and cause drowsiness, nausea, tremors, depression of the central nervous system, intoxication, and even unconsciousness.

2. Diesel fuel and emissions

Diesel fuel and emissions cause a reported 80% of the total estimated cancer risk due to all types of hazardous air pollutants. Diesel exhaust is a complex mixture of vapors, gases, nickel, benzene, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and fine particles that contain arsenic, etc. People who consistently inhale diesel fumes often experience lung cancer; diesel fuel and emissions increase cardiovascular and respiratory diseases which can cause death.

3. 1,3-Butadiene

1,3-Butadiene is a hazardous air pollutant that is discharged when diesel fuels and gasoline undergo incomplete combustion. It is used in the production of synthetic materials, can be found in tobacco smoke, and may be emitted from petroleum refineries, combustion of wood and agricultural products, wearing of vehicle tires, and burning forest. It irritates the eyes and mucous membranes and can cause headaches, fatigue, blurred vision, and dizziness.

4. Acrolein

Acrolein is emitted in industrial plants whenever it is being manufactured as an intermediate for other chemicals. Like 1,3-Butadiene, acrolein is also found in gasoline and diesel exhaust, tobacco smoke, wood products, forest fire smoke, paper mills, and other non-metallic mineral products. It causes irritation of the throat, nose, eyes, respiratory tract, and pulmonary edema.

5. Carbon tetrachloride

Although the wide use of carbon tetrachloride has been discontinued, because it has an estimated lifetime (remaining present in the atmosphere) of 50 years, its presence can still be discovered or felt upon testing. It irritates the respiratory tract, can poison various cell components, and affects the central nervous system.

6. Coke oven emissions

Coke is used to extract iron/metals from ores, create calcium carbide during manufacture of electrodes and graphite, and helps to convert coal into coke. Coke oven emissions contain benzene, which may cause severe dermatitis, cancer, conjunctivitis, and lesions of the digestive and respiratory systems.

7. Formaldehyde

Although formaldehyde is used to produce useful products such as embalming fluid, textiles, plywood, dies, and particle board, it is hazardous to the skin and respiratory system of animals. As an extremely toxic substance, it can cause cancer.

8. Chromium

Chromium is very important because, when used to coat metal parts and tools, it protects them corrosion and wear. But, hexavalent chromium, which is discharged during anodizing and electroplating operations/processes, causes cancer and complexities during pregnancy and childbirth.

9. Polycyclic organic matter

Polycyclic organic matter is produced when vegetable materials and fossil fuels undergo combustion; its compounds can be found in petroleum refineries, coal tar, motor vehicles exhaust, cigarette smoke, asphalt roads, paper mills, hazardous waste sites, smoke from wood burned in homes, and fly ash from electric power plants that use coal. Polycyclic organic matter can cause health problems in the skin, gastrointestinal tract, eyes, etc.

10. Mercury

Mercury is discharged into the atmosphere, remains active for a long time period, and can easily travel over great distances. It bio-accumulates in the food chain and oxidizes to produce a reactive gaseous form which enables it to increase its rate of deposition in various ecosystems. The downside is that mercury can increase the risk of lung cancer and affect reproduction.

21 Major Specific Types of Air Pollution Sources

All pollutants are generated from a variety of sources—some general, others specific—and can be influenced or affected by weather and local topographical conditions. The 21 major-specific types of air pollution sources in this article are as follows:

1. Agricultural activities

The agricultural activities that are air pollution sources and cause air pollution problems, include but are not limited to: animal feeding operations; production and decomposition of animal manure; improper fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide application; soil erosion, use of agricultural equipment, and handling of bulk materials.

2. Evaporative sources

Evaporative air pollution sources include all volatile liquids that are not confined in a container/tank and are able to evaporate or discharge vapors into the air. Evaporative sources can be found in many areas and may include aerosol sprays, paints, pesticides, solvents, pesticides, hair sprays, gasoline, etc.

3. Activities in the aluminium industry

The primary aluminium industry produces aluminium metal and molten aluminium from ore, for use in creating a variety of products. Substantial amounts of electricity are used in the production processes and air pollution problems are created from the fuels that are being consumed.

The secondary aluminium industry recovers aluminium cans, scraps, and foundry returns; however, it releases toxics during production processes which usually involve melting, shredding, and removal of coating on materials. The toxics include organic compounds, metals, chlorine, hydrogen chloride, chlorinated benzenes, fluorine compounds, dioxins, and furans.

4. Fires and wildfires

Smoke from fires and wildfires (burning grasses, trees, bushes, and houses) consists of gases, fine particles, and contaminants such as greenhouse gases, the six criteria pollutants, and hazardous air pollutants (furans, PAHs, dioxins, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, heavy metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic, etc.).

5. Cement kilns and cement production

The production of Portland cement takes up substantial amounts of electricity and contributes substantially to local air pollution whenever cement is being produced by grinding and heating a mixture of materials such as marl, limestone, clay, iron ore, fly ash, slag from blast furnaces used in rotary kilns which are powered by energy sources such as gas, coal, oil, coke, etc.

6. Activities in the chemical industry

The chemical manufacturing activities that are major air pollution sources and contaminate the air, water, and land, include: purification of raw materials; chemical reactions that occur when raw materials are being converted into other products; finishing operations, including the purification of products; handling, storing, transporting, and cleaning of equipment; disposal of unusable waste; manufacturing of artificial fibers, resin, basic chemicals, synthetic rubber, pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, paint, adhesives, coating, and soap, along with other cleaning compounds.

7. Controlled burns

Although controlled burns are used in forestry and agriculture to efficiently remove undesirable materials, factors such as weather conditions and the time of the day (when a burn is occurring), contribute to increasing air pollution problems. Controlled burns can cause forest fires if required conditions can no longer be controlled appropriately.

8. Erosion

Erosion (the removal and dispersion of rock and soil fragments by water, rain, flooding, wind, snowmelt, gravity, and organisms) can be caused by nature or humans (through construction, agriculture, etc.) and lead to tree removal and drought, thereby creating, propagating, and increasing pollution in many instances.

9. External combustion sources

External combustion sources are major air pollution sources that are formed from fossil fuel (coal, natural gas, oil, residual oil, and distillate oil as their major source of fuel); they include: process heaters or heating systems; coal-fired power plants; electric power plants that use steam; industrial and commercial solid waste incinerators; commercial, industrial, and institutional boilers; and combustion systems for domestic and commercial uses.

10. Hazardous waste

Waste from used oil, drain and oven cleaners, antifreeze (liquids that lower the freezing point in cooling systems), preservatives, batteries, pesticides, solvents used in home improvement, paints, and building materials could consist of hazardous waste which is any type of waste that is toxic, reactive, corrosive, or ignitable, and can even create more air pollution than the original products they originate from.

11. Internal combustion engines

The internal combustion engines of motor or movable vehicles use fossil fuels as a means of transportation and account for approximately 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Internal combustion engines are a major part of cars, buses, motorcycles, dirt bikes, heavy-duty vehicles, light-duty vehicles, recreational vehicles, commercial aircraft, semi-trailers, minivans, SUVs, construction and agricultural equipment, a variety of boats and ships, lawn and garden equipment, snowmobiles, etc. All the mobile sources listed above are major specific air pollution sources that pollute the air through combustion of fuel and fuel evaporation.

12. Activities in the iron and steel manufacturing industry

Iron and steel production consists of various processes and activities that generate criteria air pollutants and numerous other types of pollutants. The processes in the industry include: handling and treatment of raw materials, waste materials, and intermediate materials; iron preparation and sulfur removal; steel production; sintering (recovering of raw materials from waste materials); iron production from original ore; steel pickling (using acid solution to remove oxides); production of semi-finished products; and preparation of finished products.

13. Activities in the natural gas and crude oil extraction industry

Petroleum and natural gas production from oil wells, along with activities such as drilling, processing, storage, transmission or transportation and distribution, consists of processes that release emissions and pollute the atmosphere.

14. Building construction and land development

Land development and building construction activities produce significant amounts of air pollution over short periods of time within and around an area; the activities include: excavation and hauling of materials; site preparation; paving of surfaces; erection or construction of new structures and buildings; demolition of old or existing structures and buildings and structures; tarring of roofs; waterproofing of materials; and painting of structures and buildings.

15. Natural sources

Natural sources of air pollution vary in terms of the type, intensity, and quantity of pollutants they consist of, individually, and they include: the digestive processes in cattle, marine life, and other animals; forest fires caused by any self-generated or induced combustion that produces nitrogen oxides, smoke, ash, carbon dioxide, and other air pollutants; lightning that converts atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen oxides; dust from areas that have little or no vegetation; geysers that produce arsenic, hydrogen sulfide, other types of heavy metals, etc.; sea salt which releases NaCl and other particles into the atmosphere from the action of wind over salt water; trees and plants which release VOCs into the atmosphere; radioactive materials which discharge radon gas from the Earth’s crust; soil microbial action which forms and discharges nitrogen oxides; volcanoes which produce ash, smoke, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and other air pollutants; wetlands which, through microbial action, produce and release significant amounts of methane into the air.

16. Petroleum refining: refineries

Refineries process crude oil to produce lubricants, diesel fuel, automobile gasoline, and other petroleum-based products. Air toxics are emitted during production, storage, transportation, separation, and upgrading; leaks occur from pumps, valves, compressors, flanges, and other equipment used in natural gas and oil production. Toxic air pollutants are discharged from petroleum storage tanks, process vents, equipment leaks, wastewater collection, and treatment systems in refinery facilities.

17. Public sewage treatment plants/works

Wastewater from industrial, commercial, and residential sources is treated in sewage treatment plants, and usually, the following are released: methylene chloride, VOCs, chloroform, xylene, toluene, ethylbenzene, tetrachloroethylene, and naphthalene.

18. Paper and pulp and mills

When using chemicals and mechanical grinding to convert wood and non-wood sources of fiber into pulp, process gases are emitted along with other types of emissions that are discharged during the heating of materials and energy-producing processes.

19. Solid waste landfills

The waste in solid waste landfills contains microorganisms which, along with chemical reactions, contribute to discharge of landfill gas including ammonia, sulfides, methane, and carbon dioxide into the ambient air.

20. Solid waste incinerators

Solid waste incinerators are used to reduce the quantity of waste generated from municipal, commercial, institutional, and industrial areas. A number of pollutants are discharged during incineration; they include: lead, dioxin, sulfur dioxide, cadmium, mercury, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and particulate matter.

21. Spills and runoff from stored chemicals and storage tanks

Spills could occur and chemicals or substances could leak into the ground, contaminate it, and cause long-term air pollution after people mishandle certain products, and storage tanks corrode, leak, don’t undergo proper maintenance, and are overfilled with substances that end up being a waste and polluting the air.

The chemicals that seep into the ground become part of water runoff and surface bodies of water. A single leakage or spill can seep into the ground and groundwater and cause air and environmental pollution for many years.

Best Environmental Practices for the Main Sources of Air Pollution

Before we state each of the main sources of air pollution and list the respective best environmental practices for managing each of them, it is important to point out that prevention has to be pursued at all costs and with as much effort as possible, instead of allowing things to get out of hand and to such a point that we would have to employ best environmental practices to get things a bit or totally under control.

What is pollution prevention?

Pollution prevention is any practical method used to prevent or reduce the production or creation of wastes and eventually cut down air pollutants, solid wastes, hazardous wastes, and water pollutants.

Pollution prevention increases efficiency and enhances environmental protection; in addition, it helps reduce the toxicity and quantity of pollutants when:

  • spills and leakages are prevented from occurring.
  • reusable material is substituted for single-use material, where practicable.
  • less hazardous materials are substituted for more hazardous materials.
  • pollutants from leakages are captured, recycled, and treated before discharge into water or air.
  • solvents are cleaned and reused.
  • raw materials are efficiently utilized in a timely manner in order to avoid and reduce waste.
  • people and society are taught, properly trained, or directed on how to effectively tackle pollution.
  • materials are periodically inspected, serviced, or maintained, and unusable raw materials are rejected or returned.

The main sources of air pollution and the best environmental practices appropriate for each are as follows:

1. General pollutant sources of air pollution

The six criteria pollutants, hazardous air pollutants, and greenhouse gases originate from stationary sources, area sources, and mobile sources which are all different types of sources of air pollution.

Best environmental practices would be needed to manage the sources of air pollution and their respective pollutants which may mix or interact with each other and form completely new or complex pollutants that can be highly toxic at low concentrations and linger around for long periods of time.

The pollutants categorized under general pollutant sources may include the six criteria air pollutants, greenhouse gases, acid rain sources, and hazardous air pollutants.

Best environmental practices for general pollutant sources of air pollution

The best environmental practices for general pollutant sources—which are the same as the best environmental practices for all sources of air pollution—include the following:

  • Cleaning up all spills as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
  • Conducting surveillance on any part of the environment to determine where pollutants are being released into the air, the number and quantity of pollutants being released, and the exact times of their release.
  • Cleaning all HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems on rooftops and replacing all essential filters if they are incorporated to help prevent the growth and spread of Legionella organisms which cause Legionnaires disease.
  • Regularly replacing carbon absorbent materials and filters.
  • Searching for leaks using leak detectors, especially around vents, valves, sampling points, trainers, gaskets, ductwork, lint bags, seals, condensing coils, exhaust dampers, and pipe fittings.
  • Reusing and recycling substances, wherever or whenever possible.
  • Substituting less hazardous materials and chemicals for more hazardous materials and chemicals, whenever possible or appropriate.
  • Ensuring that general housekeeping, all operating equipment, sampling equipment, control devices, and storage vessels operate the right way and are maintained in a well-timed manner.
  • Keeping written records of all maintenance works carried out on facilities and equipment, and highlighting notable problems and the solutions that have been used to solve them.
  • Training employees to do their jobs properly, test their proficiency, continuously build their knowledge or education, and upgrade their skills on a periodic basis.

2. Stationary sources of air pollution

Stationary sources are point sources of air pollution, and some of the important information about them also applies to many aspects such as electric power plants, chemical plants, wastewater treatment plants, and a variety of industries.

Other examples of stationary sources of air pollution include areas or locations for mining of raw materials, storage points of raw materials, positions where fuel is stored for heating at industrial sites, etc.

Best environmental practices for stationary sources of air pollution

  • Ensuring that industrial operations are more efficient. Higher efficiency also generates greater profits.
  • Removing the sources of problems caused by the air pollution that is generated by industrial processes.
  • Altering industrial operations in order to reduce the number and quantity of air pollutants.
  • Ensuring that the industrial boilers that use fossil fuels are properly maintained and all leaks are eliminated and pipes are thoroughly insulated.
  • Adjusting various parts of equipment such as boiler doors and burners in order to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides they discharge.
  • Controlling and properly handling gaseous emissions and employing the use of equipment such as absorbers, bio-filters, thermal oxidizers, boilers and process heaters, flares, catalytic reactors, flares, carbon absorbers, and condensers.
  • Using generated heat and power to distil much of the energy available in fuel.
  • Producing electric motors that are more efficient in various industrial applications: utilizing modern flat belts instead of V belts, and properly adjusting the components of motors—or replacing them with energy-efficient motors.
  • Using less-polluting materials in place of more-polluting materials.
  • Preventing pollutants from being carried downwind to other areas that may be easily affected by them, and using smokestacks that have appropriate sizes to dilute small quantities of pollutants.
  • Pre-treating raw materials before using them to reduce the concentrations of potential pollutants released during industrial processes.
  • Using fabric filters, cyclones, wet and dry electrostatic precipitators, venture scrubbers, and settling chambers to collect and control particulate matter.

3. Mobile sources of air pollution

Mobile sources of air pollution are categorized into on-road sources and off-road sources which discharge pollutants into the atmosphere after fuel evaporation and fuel combustion take place and produce hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter along with greenhouse gases and air toxics.

The mobile sources of air pollution that are regulated by the environmental protection agency (EPA) include: buses, cars, heavy-duty vehicles, commercial aircraft, recreational vehicles, minivans, semi-trailers, light-duty vehicles, SUVs, motorcycles, diesel-powered engines on locomotives, agricultural and construction equipment, lawn and garden equipment, propane and gasoline industrial equipment, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, a variety of boats and ships, etc.

Best environmental practices for mobile sources of air pollution

  • Using redeveloped gasoline to cut down emissions of toluene, benzene, and other toxic pollutants.
  • Ensuring that people who sell engines and vehicles prove they comply with any environmental laws that govern limits on emissions from fuel combustion.
  • Establishing standards for certain types of air pollutants emitted by mobile sources of air pollution, and combustible products such as on-road diesel fuel, off-road diesel fuel, and gasoline which are used to power mobile sources.
  • Ensuring that manufacturers design and implement efficient vapor recovery systems, combustion systems, and use computer technology to observe the performance of catalytic converters, engines, and use filters to efficiently remove pollutants from exhausts.
  • Establishing and enforcing limits for emissions from the tailpipe located at the rear end of cars.

4. Acid rain sources of air pollution

The wet forms of acid deposition/deposit such as acid rain, acid fog, acid snow, and acid mist, and the dry forms of acid deposition are all produced up in the atmosphere and fall down to the earth.

The wet and dry forms of acid deposition can change the chemistry of the soil and bodies of water, destroy or change alter ecosystems, cause health problems, create misty or foggy skies, damage property and goods, and affect the natural functioning of agricultural crops.

Acid precipitation is formed when nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide are discharged into the atmosphere and react with water vapor and other chemicals to form acids.

Best environmental practices for acid rain sources of air pollution

  • Carrying out adequate and appropriate maintenance on all motor vehicles and the diverse range of motorized tools and equipment.
  • Cutting down the quantity of emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from automobiles and power plants.
  • Reducing thermostat usage during winter and economizing its usage during the summer. This helps to reduce fuel consumption and save money as well.
  • Purchasing and using only energy-efficient appliances and discarding those that aren’t energy-efficient.
  • Reducing the quantity of wasted electricity by switching off televisions, lights, computers, and appliances that aren’t being used or won’t be used for a certain time period.

Best Environmental Practices for the 6 Criteria Air Pollutants

Six of the most common air pollutants are popularly regarded as “the criteria air pollutants” or “the six criteria air pollutants”. By definition, the criteria air pollutants are air pollutants that are:

  • widely distributed across regions or countries and massively pollute the air in many cities around the world
  • regulated by environmental protection or regulatory bodies to control health and environmental effects or impacts of pollutants
  • useful indexes or indicators of the overall air quality.

Nations that are concerned about the atmosphere and environment have a set of standards in place for the following (six) criteria air pollutants—when they are in outdoor (or ambient) air:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Ozone (ground-level)
  • Lead
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Particulate matter or “particles”, and
  • Sulfur dioxide

The six air pollutants listed above are identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “criteria air pollutants” because the EPA itself regulates and uses them to formulate useful science-based guidelines and best environmental practices (BEPs).

The term “best environmental practice(s)” (BEP[s]) refers to the current most suitable professional environmental control or protection strategy/practical procedure that attracts the best or most effective results.

Because criteria air pollutants originate from various types of sources, the discussions concerning them put more emphasis on the criteria air pollutants themselves, instead of their sources. As a result, the best environmental practices for each criteria air pollutant are more general.

Research and experience have shown that the best environmental practices or procedures bring optimal results that can serve as standards appropriate for widespread adoption and application.

The BEPs, techniques, actions, or measures enable people and organizations to reduce the impact of waste generation on the environment which is under the direct control and influence of humans.

The following are the six criteria air pollutants and their respective best environmental practices:

1. Carbon Monoxide

Naturally, carbon monoxide is produced from the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels in homes, vehicular traffic, chemical plants, refineries, coke oven plants, power plants that use coal and gas, farming equipment, heavy equipment, etc.

People can knowingly or unknowingly become exposed to combustion or pollutants generated from the sources stated in the previous paragraph. Carbon monoxide can exasperate heart disease and cause headaches and chest pain and even result in death.

The best environmental practices for carbon monoxide are as follows:

  • Publicizing or calling attention to areas or regions that have or produce high concentrations of carbon monoxide, and encouraging people to live away from such areas.
  • Ensuring that gasoline power engines and tools are not operated in confined spaces.
  • Using motor vehicle inspection programs to assess whether or not fuel combustion is done thoroughly.
  • Employing motor vehicle inspection programs to achieve proper and maximum fuel combustion.
  • Halting the use of cold and rapid starts of motor vehicles in order to cut down carbon monoxide levels.
  • Innovating, initiating, adopting, and establishing programs to examine the level of efficiency of people in charge of fire-fighting and other types of emergency response, and providing efficient medical care when necessary.
  • Innovating, initiating, adopting, and establishing programs to supervise how wood-burning heaters and fireplaces are used and maintained while ensuring that fuel combustion is done properly.
  • Reducing the quantity of inhaled carbon monoxide by enforcing “no smoking” rules in public buildings or places that provide a more general or specific service.
  • Substituting less hazardous chemicals, products, or compounds for more hazardous ones.
  • Formulating or inventing programs that can use fuel more efficiently to reduce carbon monoxide, other pollutants, and pollution.
  • Utilizing continuous emission monitoring systems to record, report, and disseminate information about carbon monoxide emissions from stationary sources.

2. Ozone (ground-level)

Ozone is produced whenever a chemical reaction occurs in the atmosphere between a volatile organic compound (VOC) and nitrogen oxides and in the presence of sunlight.

Volatile organic compounds may be generated from fuel combustion, petroleum refineries, chemical manufacturing plants, cars that burn gasoline, and during use and storage of hydrocarbons, petroleum, and solvents, as well as landfills.

Children are at risk during summer when ozone levels in open/unconfined air are at their highest. Ozone can destroy agricultural crops, some types of plastic, rubber, and forests, especially in depressed/low-lying areas such as valleys or streets that exist between tall buildings. These types of topography could help pave a way for high concentrations of ground-level ozone.

The best environmental practices for ozone are as follows:

  • Using cleaner gasoline, adopting the use of low-emission cars and trucks, and increasing the efficiency of gasoline in order to increase the mileage covered per gallon of gasoline burned.
  • Reducing the amount of nitrogen oxide discharged from industrial combustion sources and power plants.
  • Using nuclear, solar, hydroelectric, and wind power—whenever or wherever possible—in place of fossil fuels.
  • Reclaiming or recovering vapor at service stations during refuelling of automobiles.
  • Reducing dependence on/use of automobiles by employing mass transit and carpooling, and making less use of automobiles for little trips or distances.
  • Using low-evaporation VOC solvents and paints instead of high-evaporation VOC solvents and paints.
  • Employing special gas cans to prevent spillage during refuelling of lawn equipment.
  • Inspecting emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and sulfur oxides from automobiles on a yearly basis.

3. Lead

The most common sources of lead include industrial processes, mobile sources of pollution (buses, locomotives, trucks, passenger cars, construction equipment, etc.), resource recovery areas, battery manufacturing, waste incineration, piston-engine aircraft operation, and the deterioration of lead-based paint (indoors and outdoors).

Exposure (inhalation and ingestion) to lead in both indoor and outdoor environments can damage a children’s nervous system and the renal and cardiovascular systems in adults.

The best environmental practices for lead are as follows:

  • Employing bag-house filters during secondary lead production to get rid of debris from emissions that contain lead.
  • Using electrostatic filters, fabric filters, or wet scrubbers during the primary lead production process in order to remove dust that contains lead.
  • Efficiently controlling smelting operations and transportation of fugitive lead dust to and from a smelter.

4. Nitrogen oxides

Nitrogen oxides are mainly generated from fuel combustion, particularly in industrial boilers, electric utilities, and every kind of wood-burning appliance and fireplace.

Nitrogen oxides can lower one’s immunity or resistance to respiratory infections, induce irritation and damage in the lungs, and increase acute respiratory sickness in children; in addition, it can undergo reactions in the atmosphere to form acid rain and ozone.

The best environmental practices for nitrogen oxides are as follows:

  • Utilizing low nitrogen burners which can maintain high-efficiency combustion and recirculate combustion gases through flue pipes.
  • Recirculating the exhaust gases in automotive vehicles in order to reduce nitrogen oxides.
  • Modifying combustion systems to minimize peak temperatures and combustion time (i.e., time for complete fuel combustion) at peak temperatures in industrial processes.
  • Using catalytic converters to convert hydrocarbons into water and carbon dioxide, reduce nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and oxygen, and also convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide.
  • Employing energy conservation techniques in buildings in order to economize or use less fuel and save energy.
  • Properly maintaining automotive vehicles to ensure that gas compression ratios, spark timing, and air-fuel ratios are suitable.
  • Utilizing continuous emission monitoring systems to record, report, and disseminate information about nitrogen oxides emissions from stationary sources.

5. Particulate matter

Both the fine and respirable (breathable) types of particulate matter can increase lung damage and respiratory problems/diseases and may cause cancer, reduced visibility, surface soiling, and premature death.

Particulate matter causes various kinds of illnesses, especially in children, elderly people, and people who have asthma, lung diseases, and heart diseases.

The best environmental practices for particulate matter are as follows:

  • Applying water or chemical dust suppressants to dry bare soil and unpaved roads, especially in places that have high traffic and many ongoing construction activities.
  • Choosing and using cleaner fuels—for example, natural gas—which discharge little to no particulate matter—for example, natural gas.
  • Utilizing low-ash fossil fuels for burning or combustion.
  • Cleaning coal before burning it, in order to reduce ash.
  • Employing more effective technologies in industrial processes.
  • Using gasification products of coal as fuel, instead of using coal.
  • Using scrubbers, filters, electrostatic precipitators, and dust collectors to remove particulate matter (such as dust particles) from gas streams.
  • Applying appropriate dust collection systems to air emitted from industrial processes/production in order to reduce the quantity of dust generated in the cement industry.
  • Using a wet suppression system or dust collection system along with the principles of ventilation to reduce dust in coal processing.
  • Consistently utilizing appropriate pollution control tools and equipment.
  • Cutting down fuel combustion by upgrading various technologies tied to fuel products.
  • Using continuous emission monitoring systems to record, report, and disseminate information about particulate matter emissions from stationary sources.

6. Sulfur Dioxide

Ninety percent of all sulfur dioxide emissions originate from the activities of paper mills, iron and steel mills, power plants, fertilizer manufacturers, petroleum refineries, and copper smelters: sulfur dioxide is usually produced from and during fuel combustion in oil- or coal-burning industries, diesel engines, refineries, and electrical utilities.

But it comes with a problem: sulfur dioxide increases respiratory problems, exacerbates asthma, and reacts in air to produce acid rain which is also produced when nitrogen oxides combine with water.

The best environmental practices for sulfur dioxide are as follows:

  • Scouring sulfur dioxide from exhaust gases before discharging the gases into the atmosphere.
  • Using only low-sulfur coal as fuel.
  • Prewashing coal before using it as fuel.
  • Using natural gas in place of high sulfur coal.
  • Applying reactive lime in the removal of sulfur or sulfates.
  • Modifying industrial processes when possible in order to get rid of sulfur and sulfur compounds.
  • Using continuous emission monitoring systems to record, report, and disseminate information about sulfur dioxide emissions from stationary sources.

Best Practices for Managing Air Pollution Sources

They say “prevention is better than cure”. Definitely, it’s better and safer to prevent a problem, than allow it to grow and waste your time and effort which may end up not attracting any cure.

Before stating the best practices for managing air pollution, it is important to note that prevention should be pursued at all cost and with as much effort as one can exert.

Once the atmosphere/air is polluted beyond permissible limits, attention has to focus on reducing or managing pollutant or air pollution sources. However, pollution prevention in the environment (air, land, and water) should be the first goal.

What is pollution prevention?

Pollution prevention is any practical method used to prevent or reduce the production or creation of wastes and eventually cut down air pollutants, solid wastes, hazardous wastes, and water pollutants.

Pollution prevention increases efficiency and enhances environmental protection; in addition, it helps reduce the toxicity and quantity of pollutants when:

  • less hazardous materials are substituted for more hazardous materials.
  • reusable material is substituted for single-use material, where practicable.
  • spills and leakages are prevented from occurring.
  • pollutants from leakages are captured, recycled, and treated before discharge into water or air.
  • raw materials are efficiently utilized in a timely manner in order to avoid and reduce waste.
  • solvents are cleaned and reused.
  • materials are periodically inspected, serviced, or maintained, and unusable raw materials are rejected or returned.
  • people and society are taught, properly trained, or directed on how to effectively tackle pollution.

Best practices for managing air pollution sources

The following best practices can be used to manage air pollution sources, regardless of whether they are mobile sources, area sources, criteria pollutants, greenhouse gas sources, or major point sources of criteria pollutants and/or toxic air pollutants:

(1) Conducting surveillance on any part of the environment to determine where pollutants are being released into the air, the quantity of pollutants being released, and the exact times of their release.

(2) Searching or checking for leaks using leak detectors, especially around vents, valves, sampling points, trainers, gaskets, ductwork, lint bags, seals, condensing coils, exhaust dampers, and pipe fittings.

(3) Cleaning up all spills, as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

(4) Cleaning of all HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems on rooftops and replacing all essential filters if they have been incorporated to help prevent growth and spread of Legionella organisms which cause Legionnaires disease.

(5) Replacing carbon absorbent materials and filters, regularly.

(6) Substituting less hazardous materials and chemicals for more hazardous materials and chemicals, when possible or appropriate.

(7) Reusing and recycling substances, where or when possible.

(8) Ensuring that general housekeeping, all operating equipment, sampling equipment, control devices, and storage vessels operate the right way and are maintained in a well-timed manner.

(9) Training employees to do their jobs properly, test their proficiency, continuously build their knowledge or education, and upgrade their skills on a periodic basis.

(10) Keeping written records of all maintenance works carried out on facilities and equipment, and highlighting notable problems and the solutions that were used to solve them.

Components of Air pollution

Ambient (outdoor) air pollution consists of a complicated mix of particulate matter (a.k.a. particle pollution), liquids, and gases.

The pollutants that immensely pollute air in many of the world’s cities include the six “criteria” air pollutants (1. particulate matter, 2. ozone [ground level ozone], 3. carbon monoxide, 4. nitrogen oxides, 5. lead, and 6. sulfur dioxide), toxic (hazardous) air pollutants, and greenhouse gas emissions which affect the health of living (human, animals, and plants) and non-living (the environment) things, including the stratospheric ozone layer and various ecosystems.

In particular, the six criteria pollutants listed in the preceding paragraph have been identified by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as “criteria” pollutants because the EPA, itself, regulates them by formulating useful science-based guidelines for setting allowable levels of air pollutants or pollution.

All pollutants are generated from a variety of sources—some general, others specific—and can be influenced or affected by weather and local topographical conditions. The components of air pollution, especially the type in heavily polluted urban air, consist of the following:

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter can be defined as any small discrete mass of solid or liquid matter that remains dispersed in liquid or gas emissions. Particulate matter is usually regarded as an atmospheric pollutant.

Different types of particulate matter come from different sources and vary in composition and size, and may consist of a large number of chemicals. The variety of particulate matter can cause major visibility problems and be detrimental to the health and growth of agricultural products, depending on the quantities of the particulate matter, and weather conditions.

Liquids

The liquid components of air pollution come from a variety of chemicals and water and may evaporate into the atmosphere or air in different shapes and sizes of droplets.

The droplets, which have been unknowingly taken deep into the human lungs and body, can cling to particulate matter, reduce visibility, and partake in the formation of acid rain.

Gases

The gas component of air pollution (air pollution constituents) come from a variety of different sources and consists of gases such as ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, lead, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and various metals that can exist in gaseous form, etc.

Other air pollutants

  • Total petroleum hydrocarbons
  • Fuel oils and kerosene
  • Asbestos
  • Carbon disulfide
  • Benzene
  • Synthetic vitreous fibers
  • Creosote
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Acrolein

Health and Environmental Effects of Air Pollution

Air pollution might have been known for ages, but concerns about its effects on the health of living things and the environment were first voiced by the citizens of ancient Rome and Athens.

In modern times, different governments, leaders, organizations, and stakeholders across the world have been voicing concerns about air quality, especially urban air quality, which became worse during the Industrial Revolution.

Mosley (2014) stated that an “age of smoke” has been ushered because of excessive production of coal and widespread discharge of air pollutants from factories in Britain, Germany, the USA, and other countries whose urban areas have witnessed increasing numbers of pollution sources, chimneys, and industrial processes which cause air pollution and air pollution effects on human health, animal health, and the environment.

Health effects of air pollution

Epidemiological and clinical studies and evidence have helped a great deal in assessing the health effects of criteria air pollutants and non-criteria air pollutants (which are similar to air toxics, hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), or toxic air pollutants (TAPs) on human beings.

Air pollution can cause new health conditions or worsen existing health conditions such as: cancer, asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, birth defects, eye diseases, cardiovascular disease, genetic mutations, impaired immune systems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), etc. The particles present in air, when absorbed by the body, may reduce lung function and increase incidences of respiratory illness.

Various air pollutants often test or challenge the strength and immunity of important body systems (brain, liver, heart, kidneys, lungs, skin, nerves) on short- and long-term bases. Living things and their components are always surrounded by environmental exposures including the type of air pollution and concentration/absence of air pollution or pollutants during the day and night.

Severe air pollution leads to increased cases of hospitalization and deaths due to cardiovascular disease linked to air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, ozone, tobacco smoke (which is a major contributor to indoor air pollution), and particulate matter, especially fine particles.

Heart disease and strokes are examples that show the relationship between ambient air pollution and its own hurtful health effects on humans over short- and long-term air pollution (exposure to air pollutants), especially the by-products of automobile combustion.

Environmental effects of air pollution

The Industrial Revolution has emitted and an incalculable amount of hazardous air pollutants, toxic air pollutants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and greenhouse gases into the air.

The environmental effects of the air pollution include—but may not be limited to: ozone depletion which damages crops and reduces crop yields; eutrophication (caused by nutrient deposits found in air pollutants) which causes the growth of algae, fish kills, and destroys plant and animal diversity; acid precipitation which damages bodies of water, soils, and eventually trees; and global warming.

Of serious concern is acid precipitation. It is produced when the sulfur that is discharged into the air, combines with oxygen to form sulfur oxide which, in the presence of hydrogen peroxide or ozone, turns into sulfur trioxide. Sulfur trioxide dissolves in water to produce sulphuric acid.

Acid precipitation can also occur when atmospheric nitrogen is heated to the type of temperatures possessed by steam boilers, and it combines with oxygen to form both nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide which dissolves in water to form nitrous and nitric acids.

Air pollution creates haze (light scattered by air particles) in the environment and often affects people’s visibility which is very important in their lives.

Brief History of Global Environmental Sustainability

Although different environments in the past and distant past were not affected by the severe types of environmental problems affecting our present-day world, they would have still attracted the attention of people who had a desire to protect or sustain the environment.

Outside of Athens, the Greeks developed the first refuse dumps around the year 500 B.C. Because the Greeks understood how solid waste and human waste could spread diseases in the environment, they invented sewers, toilets, and placed waste yards or refuse dumps outside the city.

Within the boundaries of other ancient cities such as Rome, poor disposal of human waste increased the already-existing displeasing level of air pollution due to burning of solid waste, wood, and odors from garbage and runoff from household and industrial sewage.

Pollution of rivers is nothing new. To prevent the river Thames from being polluted, King Edward III of England passed a law in 1357 prohibiting pollution of the river. Nine years later (1366) in Paris, slaughterers were forced to discard animal waste outside the city.

And after about a further two decades more, in 1388, laws were passed in England to forbid/disallow disposal of garbage and refuse into trenches, rivers, and bodies of water.

By responding to numerous outbreaks of diseases and environmental problems, and creating laws to protect the environment, the foundations of environmental sustainability were further strengthened and many improvements were being increasingly made in the centuries that followed.

Even now (in modern times), governments, organizations, and people from across the world still show consistent concern for the environment and environmental sustainability. The need to sustain the environment exists globally, and the United Nations has been a major vehicle driving and promoting environmental sustainability.

In preparation for the Stockholm Conference (The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment), which was held in 1972 in Stockholm (Sweden), a meeting was held in 1971: the developed nations expressed more concern about environmental consequences of global development, while the less developed nations, on the other hand, expressed more concern about economic development.

Sustainable development ensued as a compromise between two major conflicting choices: environmental concerns and economic concerns. The Stockholm Conference led to the birth of the United Nations Environmental Programme with a mandate to handle issues tied to both sound development practices and environmental practices.

The International Environmental Education Programme took off in 1975 and was followed by the World Conservation Strategy in 1980.

Then in 1983, the Secretary-General of the United Nations asked the Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, to constitute and lead a special independent World Commission on Environment and Development.

The purpose was to enhance global cooperation on environmental and developmental matters, review and suggest how to handle critical global environmental and developmental problems, and raise different citizens’, governments’, businesses’, and industries’ understanding of and commitment to environmental sustainability and sustainable development.

After many meetings took place, the independent World Commission on Environment and Development produced a report which led to the establishment of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, and Agenda 21 instituted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and was accepted by more than 178 governments.

Agenda 21 report was created with different sections that targeted different aspects of environmental sustainability. Section I of Agenda 21 report contained discourses on eating/consumption patterns, poverty, demographic dynamics, sustainable development in developing countries, how to encourage sustainable human settlements, how to protect and promote human health, how to protect and integrate the environment into development decisions, and how to take care of needs while developing land and resources.

Section II re-examined the methods of protecting air, water, land, vulnerable or destroyed ecosystems, and sustainable agriculture, and discussed environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals, illegal international trading  of hazardous wastes, toxic and dangerous products, solid wastes, and radioactive wastes.

Section III discussed the role of different native peoples, women, children, youths, workers, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, businesses, industries, and the scientific and technological community in sustainable development.

While Section IV discussed implementation of Agenda 21 which is the design pattern or blueprint for environmental sustainability and sustainable development in the 21st century.

Since global climate change started becoming an issue, all countries saw an immediate need to take necessary actions to tackle the major environmental problems affecting the world as a community.

The original “Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer” was signed by 197 countries on September 16, 1987, and became effective on January 1, 1989. Its provisions seek to protect the stratosphere ozone layer which is important and contributes to the sustenance of biodiversity and life on Earth.

Based on new scientific information at the time, adjustments were effected on March 7, 1991, September 23, 1993, August 5, 1996, June 4, 1998, July 28, 2000, and May 14, 2008.

Meanwhile, in December 1997, more than 150 countries established the Kyoto Protocol to sustain and protect the atmosphere and the climate, and support research on climate change.

To propel actions that can increase the availability of clean air, clean energy, and safe water, and protect people and the environment from diseases and injuries, various nations, NGOs, financial institutions, UN agencies, and groups from around the world convened at the World Summit on Sustainable Development between August 26 and September 4, 2002, and discussed major issues of biodiversity, water, agriculture, energy, and health.

Once again, the countries of the world convened at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development between June 20 and 22, 2012, and reaffirmed their commitment to take necessary actions to achieve a sustainable future for present and future generations.

The most important concerns discussed were about how to eradicate hunger, poverty, and diseases, and develop natural resources in ways that are environmentally friendly.

The conference re-emphasized that people were the focal point of sustainable development, while governments, industries, businesses, and organizations were partners, and decisions on sustainable development should be based on scientific research.

History of Environmental Sustainability & Environmental Laws in the USA

From the very beginnings of the USA as a country, concerned individuals, leaders, and the government had made and still continue making efforts to prevent environmental degradation and land, air, and water pollution. The country’s efforts over a few centuries have laid a strong foundation for present-day environmental sustainability practices that have been taking an increasingly firm grip on the world.

As far back as 1634, when the term “environmental sustainability” was still light years away from seeing the light of day, regulations on public sanitation were enacted in Massachusetts. To prevent water pollution, the city of Boston decreed that people ought not to leave garbage or fish near the bridge or mutual landing between two brooks.

About 3,500 sanitary/medical practitioners lived and worked in the colonies that existed in the USA back in the day. Some of the duties they often performed, included the following:

  • Supply of pure water and prevention of polluting substances from contaminated water
  • Enforcement of practices aimed at keeping the environment clean
  • Control of inconveniences from filth and trades that had the potential to harm physical or mental health
  • Drainage of swamps, low-lying wetland that had grassy vegetation, and stagnant small lakes or bodies of water
  • Disposal of wastes, trash, excrement, etc.

As the United States continued to enlarge its size westward in the nineteenth century (1800s), people freely used natural resources; on the other hand, they indiscriminately discharged all types of pollutants on the land and into the water and air.

But between the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century (1900s), people started realizing the need to use natural resources more sustainably and conserve them for future generations.

This mindset helped create the Conservation Movement (also known as Nature Conservation) which was an environmental, social, and political reform movement whose goal was to preserve natural features and resources (such as animal species, plant species, and their habitat) in ways that would leave the environment in a more sustainable or better condition for the benefit of future generations.

President Teddy Roosevelt stood out and became an exemplary American leader who knew that the country’s development depended a lot on preserving natural resources and taking good care of the environment.

Sensing that the country would be depleted of natural resources, especially trees, and that pollution would threaten human life, especially in big cities, Roosevelt sought after the protection of water and the promotion of effective and sustainable land development. Civic associations, The Sierra Club, and individuals such as John Muir agreed with Roosevelt’s initiatives and efforts.

Because of the dangerous environmental and living conditions that existed in cities and which people were exposed to, anti-pollution programs were established and made a considerable impact from around the end of the Civil War (in 1865) to 1915.

The governments that were in power during that period, took some actions that are still being practiced in present-day environmental sustainability programs: they protected water sources, constructed sewerage/sewer systems, cleaned the streets, gathered and got rid of solid waste, set up parks, and started regulating air pollutants.

Care for the environment continued receiving increasing attention to a point that environmental laws were being passed in the form of “Acts”. The “Rivers and Harbours Appropriation Act” was passed in 1899; it prohibits “the discharge of refuse matter of any kind into the navigable waters, or tributaries thereof, of the United States without permit”.

Congress passed another environmental law, the “Pure Food and Drug Act” in 1905, to protect consumers or people from adulterated or contaminated and harmful food and drug products. Subsequent amendments—such as the “Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act” of 1936—regulated the pesticides used in the environment and—the “Food Quality Protection Act” of 1996—guaranteed that standards for the pesticides applied to foods, were instituted and enforced.

The “Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act” (FIFRA) Act was passed in 1947 to control the use or application of pesticides and ensure that, whenever they are applied, they won’t pose unreasonable risk to human health and the environment. The FIFRA was amended in 1972 and further amended in 1988 and 1996.

The “Atomic Energy Act” (AEA) was passed in 1954 to regulate the production and use of nuclear energy, nuclear power plants, and nuclear weapons facilities, and protect the health and safety of the public and environment.

Senator Gaylord Nelson created “Earth Day” on April 22, 1970, and about 20 million people throughout the USA showed their support for Earth Day and environmental protection after constantly seeing people living side by side with environmental pollutants. The first Earth Day in 1970 expressed people’s desire to see the general public take much better care of the environment and their own health and lives.

United States Congress passed the “National Environmental Policy Act” in 1969 to establish a broad structure and national policy for protecting the environment and preparing an environmental impact statement whenever the environment would have to be affected by certain actions or changes.

Programs were brought together from 15 different agencies and departments in order to create the “Environmental Protection Agency” (EPA) in 1970. And many additional environmental laws were passed in the form of Acts in order to protect people and the environment, at both federal and state levels.

To ensure sustainability was also applied to the coasts, an environmental law named “Coastal Zone Management Act” was passed in 1972 to permit the federal government and states to protect United States coastal areas from actions and overdevelopment activities that are regarded as “environmentally destructive”.

The “Marine Mammal Protection Act” was passed in 1972 to protect marine animals (such as sea lions, seals, dolphins, whales, manatees, seals, etc,) from becoming endangered. The “Endangered Species Act” was passed in 1973 to protect habitats that are havens for species of wildlife, fish, and plants that are becoming endangered in the United States. The “Fisheries Conservation and Management Act” was passed in 1976 to keep fish stock in a healthy state and prevent people from over-harvesting fish in the future.

The “Safe Drinking Water Act” was passed in 1974—and amended in 1986 and 1996—to establish drinking water standards and protect groundwater or underground environments that are saturated with water. And the “Federal Land Policy and Management Act” was passed in 1976 to protect federal lands that have ecological value.

The “Resource Conservation and Recovery Act” was passed in 1976 to establish standards for managing and properly disposing hazardous waste and preventing the creation of toxic waste dump sites in the environment. The “Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act” was passed in 1977 to ensure coal mining is regulated so it doesn’t degrade or destroy the environment and human and animal life.

The “Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act” was passed in 1980—and later underwent subsequent amendments—to ensure that sites contaminated by toxic wastes are cleaned up, even if the toxic wastes were placed there many years prior to the creation of such sites.

The “Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act” was passed in 1986 to ensure that industries or companies that produce toxic chemicals, inform communities or residential areas about the toxic chemicals they discharge on land and into the water and air.

The “Oil Pollution Act” was passed in 1990 to ensure that the organizations or people who pollute the environment through oil spills/spillage, take responsibility for any damage they cause to the environment or any natural resources.

Conclusion

Since each environmental law was passed or created by United States Congress, a lot of actions, scientific research, studies, environmental sustainability best practices, and programs have been pioneered throughout the country in order to promote sustainability and ensure that the environment is protected, and injuries and illnesses are prevented or abated.

Environmental Sustainability—Definitions & Brief Insight

Generally speaking, “sustainability” can be defined as the characteristic or attribute of being sustainable. Sustainability can also be defined as the ability of an object, thing, or individual to be sustained or maintained without becoming degraded, deteriorated, or weak.

The term “environmental sustainability” can be defined as long-term sustenance or maintenance of the environment by interacting with and treating it in ways that can conserve, protect, or avoid depletion/degradation of its components which include all the renewable and non-renewable natural resources and ecosystems that support the wellbeing of all life-forms, now and in the future.

Human, animal, and environmental wellbeing are closely linked with how well the environment and its constituents are treated, and how well the environment is maintained or sustained in a healthy state. One of the aims of practicing environmental sustainability is to ensure that today’s world and its population are utilizing resources to a great extent without putting the needs of future generations in jeopardy.

According to WHO (World Health Organization), about 24% of deaths around the world are caused by avoidable environmental factors—note the word “avoidable”. As the world has been experiencing the long-term negative effects of increasing energy use and industrial growth, its inhabitants have to act or behave in sustainable ways that can halt/help avoid or prevent further damage to the environment.

The practice of environmental sustainability demands that appropriate and adequate methods are implemented and skills are employed in creating and sustaining or maintaining environmental conditions that can make it possible for living and non-living things to exist in harmony with nature, while at the same time halting or eliminating harmful actions and substances that may affect the natural environment and cause sicknesses and injuries.

The practice of environmental sustainability considers and integrates all levels of environmental, social, and economic factors in ways that can help create and implement programs aimed at educating the masses about the environment, improving air quality, destroying things that contaminate the environment, developing a green environment, and efficiently using technologies to preserve all life-forms, land, air, water, ecosystems, minerals, and forests.

If properly implemented, environmental sustainability practices can reduce or halt hunger and poverty, create economic stability and growth, conserve natural resources much better, and help to achieve other conditions that can improve the quality of the environment for present and future generations.

Environmental sustainability can be implemented on a global scale through teamwork and the combined effort of different populations, businesses, industries, and governments at local, state, national, and international levels. The groups of individuals or governments that wish to achieve environmental sustainability, need to develop a clear-cut vision—based on any existing situation—with long-term or short-term aims and objectives, and implement programs using the best field-tested practices which need to be backed up by necessary budgets.

Techniques & Strategies for Environmental Conservation

Due to the causes of environmental problems, the global environment which provides us with basic necessities of life is degenerating year in and year out; water scarcity and environmental pollution are greatly hampering mankind’s progress.

Decades of drastic changes in land use and the extravagant and unreasonable exploitation of natural resources have led to rapid degradation of the natural environment in many parts of the world.

Each person is part of the international community and needs to help create a society that would protect the natural environment or restore it to its natural or original state and ensure there will be continuous harmony between human activities and natural ecosystems.

18 Best Ways to Save the Environment Much More

The techniques, methods, or practices used to conserve the environment are many and varied. Some of them are expensive while others are inexpensive and require people to apply and become familiar with them; others are temporary, while others are permanent; still yet, others are widely useful, while others are limited to specific conditions.

The following techniques and strategies can be used to maintain or preserve the natural environment:

1. Tree planting, supply of more vegetative cover, and sustainable forest/vegetation management

More trees, grasses, plants, dense vegetative cover, and sustainable forest management are needed in critical places of the natural environment around many parts of the world.

Appropriate plantings and management should be effected on steep slopes, odd corners, or other problematic areas that provide food, stable water supplies, habitation for wildlife, and help to control soil erosion, conserve soil fertility, absorb and accumulate greenhouse gases, and mitigate natural disasters such as landslides and floods.

2. Crop rotation, narrow row spacing, and strip cropping

Crop rotation is an important and necessary environmental conservation technique because it uses series of different crops to protect soil against erosion, considerably reduce erosion, and also provide more income. Crops that are strictly grown for the purpose of protecting soil are known as cover crops.

The practice of narrow row spacing is equally an important and effective environmental conservation technique because it enables row crops to provide better soil cover much earlier and improve both crop yield and soil erosion control.

In addition to crop rotation and narrow row spacing, there are various forms of strip cropping that can reduce wind erosion, water erosion, and environmental pollution.

3. Contour tillage & no-tillage systems, and mechanical methods

The practice of certain types of tillage systems—which are usually inexpensive and don’t require investments unless equipment is required—are effective environmental conservation techniques because they hold more crop residues on soil surfaces and considerably reduce erosion.

For instance, by employing contour tillage, erosion is often reduced to half of what it would be if straight-line tillage is employed in place of contour tillage. The no-tillage system is even more effective and rapidly expanding because modern herbicides are making it unnecessary to use tillage (till the soil).

Mechanical methods could be either metallic structures, wooden structures, and concrete structures which exist in forms such as dams, terraces, chutes, drainages, channels, or any object that can limit erosion and environmental degradation by controlling water flow, holding soil, and preventing surface water pollution.

4. Less intensive land use

Inappropriate use of land constitutes a major problem: most lands are only suitable for some purposes, while others are unsuitable, and vice-versa. One of the best ways to conserve land/soil and the air and water environments around it is to use each land/soil within its capabilities and prevent intensive land use when it can degrade the environment.

Some lands are suitable for intensive cropping, especially if they have deep and fertile soil that has favorable texture and structure. On the other hand, other lands are only suitable for wildlife and other non-disruptive purposes because they are stony, shallow, steep, or too steep, and limited in ways that make them only suitable for specific purposes.

Therefore, it’s advisable to be prudent when using a particular land, while acknowledging fully well that some land uses conserve the environment, while others can degrade it.

5. Sustainable uses of natural resources

Cooperation or ties need to be established or strengthened between various governments, NGOs, and international organizations in order to promote activities that can reduce over-exploitation and excessive usage of natural resources; sustainable use of natural resources need to be commenced, enhanced, or maintained in different parts of the world, especially developing countries where the majority of inhabitants rely on local natural resources to sustain their lives on a daily basis.

6. Biodiversity conservation by protecting certain areas

In addition to buffer zones and national parks, more protected areas need to be set up to promote environmental education, support and promote the harmonious coexistence of nature and humans, and reduce the risk of species extinction due to overhunting of wildlife, growing or breeding of alien species in new environments, climate change, and other factors.

7. Effective solid waste management

In many parts of the world, the existing sanitation, public health, and pollution control schemes tied to recycling and solid waste management need to be improved in order to reduce the environmental impacts of the solid waste that is being generated increasingly and in large quantities.

8. Effective air, water, and land pollution control

Assessments of pollution situations need to be made, institutions have to be developed, and regulations have to be enforced or re-enforced in order to reduce and prevent cases of air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution due to mercury pollution, chemical substances, oil spillage, and lack of environmental management in urban and rural areas.

Major Challenges Faced by Environmental Conservation

Air, land, and water environments consist of numerous vital natural resources that have been used to produce food and other necessities of life, and sustain the majority of living organisms since the Earth came into existence.

Human activities tied to the use of natural resources, especially during the past few decades, have degraded most air, land, and water environments and caused a ton of environmental problems that have held a firm grip on the world.

The negative impacts of environmental problems have always necessitated the call for effective implementation of environmental conservation practices which are aimed at managing, protecting, and preserving natural environments (land, air, and water) and ecosystems, or restoring degraded natural environments and ecosystems to their natural state.

However, attempts to implement environmental conservation practices usually encounter stiff challenges that have made it difficult to eliminate or remediate environmental problems such as soil erosion, desertification, climate change and severe weather, increased droughts, global warming, increasing ocean acidity, environmental (air, land, and water) pollution, loss of biodiversity, aquifer depletion, etc.

Generally speaking, the efforts that have been made to achieve environmental conservation goals have faced the following major challenges:

1. Ignorance and lack of concern

Many people who work in or interact with the environment have short-term view-points regarding the future uses of the environment, and they are often ignorant, apathetic, and unconcerned or unaware of how some of their activities are degrading the environment.

As a result, air, land, and water environments degrade so gradually and insidiously that the impacts are easily ignored or overlooked until they become big environmental problems long after preventive action should have been taken by implementing environmental conservation practices.

The environmental conservation practices that are required to prevent environmental pollution and degradation are delayed or not employed because of indifference; at times, some landowners or communities that own a particular natural resource (like land or water) claim that they have the right to use it as they see fit.

2. Economic obstacles

Generally speaking, the unwillingness of people, governments, or organizations to employ environmental conservation practices is mostly based on economics. Before major decisions are taken to apply environmental conservation practices, economic considerations are made; this usually involves evaluating the total cost that would be required to conserve an air, water, or soil environment.

The costs for conservation are usually on the high end. In many instances, because of insufficient funds—especially in developing or less developed nations that have low standards of living—people, communities, governments, or NGOs find it difficult or impossible to finance and implement environmental conservation practices.

3. Unreadiness to deviate from traditional or cultural practices

Some people or communities have inherited cultural or traditional practices that continue to be practiced in their environments; unsurprisingly, they aren’t ready to relinquish such practices in order to eliminate or reduce their environmental problems.

Take for instance, situations whereby many farmers continue to plough farmlands in ways that completely cover crop residues and make it easier for rain, runoff, and wind to wash away topsoil and nutrients, and thus cause nutrient depletion and soil erosion.

Because some people or communities place a great deal of pride in certain traditions or cultural practice, they aren’t ready to push tradition or culture aside and employ scientific or conservation ethics that can help to retain residue and consequently reduce or prevent soil erosion and water pollution. 

4. Insecurity and uncertainty

Many people in developing countries struggle to make a living while employing long-lived traditional or cultural practices that have degraded the environment in the long run.

Some people usually feel insecure and uncertain about modern conservation practices, and believe that—although science has proven that the practices would benefit the environment in the long run—the practices may end up making people become poorer or financially worse in the short run.

Napier and Sommers (1993) noted that, if the benefits of environmental conservation practices are expected to be delayed or distributed over several years, then the people who are asked to apply them should be guaranteed that they won’t starve to death if the environmental conservation practices fail.

9 Major Causes of Environmental Problems (PDF Download Available)

In general, human activities or interferences with the environment and natural factors or processes are the two broad causes of environmental problems in the world; individually, these two broad causes (human and natural) consist of various types of activities or causes under their respective wings. This article focuses on the major human causes of environmental problems.

(NOTE: The PDF document of this article is available for download at the end of this article.)

Over the ages, nature has been performing quite well in regard to energy utilization, waste and nutrients recycling/reuse, and preservation of biodiversity species by sustaining vital ecosystem services and providing numerous ways for the variety of plant and animal life to continue existing; humans, on the other hand, have been performing quite poorly in the same regard.

As a result, due to mostly human activities, our world has been facing an array of environmental problems that are numerous, serious, and daunting to such an extent that no country in the world is left out in the spatial distribution of environmental problems which are not concentrated in any specific location.

Environmental problems continue to increase and expand as mankind is continuously involved in processes that harness environmental resources for their utilization and welfare. Many enormous environmental problems concerning the environment and biosphere are caused by people contributing little bits or pieces of pollution and problems which, when summed together, degrade the environment.

The environmental problems caused by human activities are inter-connected and inter-related; for example, there are interrelationships between desertification, soil nutrient loss, erosion, biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution (air, water, and land), climate change, and diseases outbreaks. The following are 9 major human causes of environmental problems:

1. Fast and uncontrolled population growth

Although population is an important source of each nation’s development, if it occurs at a fast and uncontrolled rate, it becomes a major cause of environmental problems and environmental degradation, especially when a population’s demand exceeds the limit that their natural resources and support systems are able to supply.

High increases in population lead to increases in demand for water, food, energy, natural resources, and increase in waste generation which, when not properly controlled, causes environmental problems and degradation.

2. Over-exploitation, wasteful and unsustainable use of natural resources

When the opportunity arises, many human beings become affluent by acquiring abundant possessions—more than they could ever need in even ten lifetimes! Thereafter, most of them pollute the environment with their excessiveness; coupled with uncontrolled rises in population, the number of poor and affluent people increases, consequently causing more environmental problems.

Wasteful and unsustainable use of natural resources can be categorized as follows:

  • Overharvesting of forests and overgrazing of grasslands; these activities cause nutrient loss, deforestation, and desert encroachment.
  • Overhunting of wildlife on lands, and overfishing and depletion of fish populations in rivers and oceans; these activities cause loss of biodiversity and extinction of animal species.
  • Overdrawing of water from aquifers and underground water deposits; these activities cause depletion of aquifer and underground water resources.
  • Excessive mining, petroleum exploration, and land reclamation; these activities cause environmental problems such as water pollution, air pollution, and degradation due to mining of raw materials that are used to produce usable and consumable products.

3. Poverty

Poverty and lack of alternatives increases people’s reliance on natural resources; this in turn increases the use and depletion of resources, and degrades the natural assets which people depend on for survival. For instance, timber harvesting, husbandry, uncontrolled poaching and other human activities that stem from poverty, have caused the disintegration and diminishment of habitats and subsequent disappearance of many plant and animal species.

4. Insufficient understanding of how nature works

The causes of some environmental problems can be easily traced to insufficient understanding of how nature works. Insufficient understanding of nature and natural processes creates misunderstanding and results in uncontrolled interaction between humans and the natural world.

Inadequate monitoring of the environment causes and aggravates some environmental problems to such an extent that humans find it difficult to control or eliminate them. For example, pollution, flooding, and erosion are caused mainly by disregarding urban and regional planning laws and regulations, poor urban planning and design, poor design of drainage systems and dams, and dumping of solid wastes in drainages.

5. Weak legislations & poor application of principles that govern environmental management

Due to lack of proper coordination between environmental institutions, and poor supervision over environmental concerns, the style of environmental management in many countries has to modified or perfected in order to effectively tackle the causes of environmental problems and enhance environmental sustainability.

The weakness in many existing environmental management systems lies in the subpar environmental law enforcement capabilities of respective environmental institutions monitored or supervised by local, state, and federal governments.

In some parts of the world, briberies and corruption have made it difficult for many governments to impose adequate or high tax rates on companies that degrade the environment as a result of their activities; furthermore, many governments aren’t doing enough to ensure that the companies that degrade the environment either remediate it or pay for every bit of damage.

6. Excessive agricultural and aquacultural activities

Population growth and the relentless pursuit of affluence have induced drastic increases in agricultural and aquacultural activities and caused: salination and loss of soil fertility to such an extent that some lands no longer support vegetation; pollution of surface water and groundwater by pesticides, nitrates, and animal and plant remains or wastes generated from vegetation and breeding of livestock and aquatic species; soil erosion due to excessive irrigation of farmlands.

7. Migration of people from villages or rural areas to urban areas

Due to lack of opportunities in villages or rural areas, there has been an ever increasing movement of poor and disenfranchised people and families to urban towns or cities, thus leading to rapid and unplanned expansion of mega cities and urban slums, and consequent increase in environmental problems and degradation of urban environments.

The environmental problems that stem from migration can be traced to the wide gap between the demand for and supply of natural resources and infrastructural services such as water supply and sewerage, housing, transportation, energy, recreational amenities, etc.

Migration increases pressure on urban environments, causes depletion of precious natural resources in many urban towns and cities, and contributes to a growing trend that can be noticed in the deterioration of water and air quality, the exponential increase in solid and noxious waste generation, and the growth of slums.

8. Indifference to or lack of concern for the environment and environmental problems

Many people exhibit care-free attitudes towards the environment and environmental problems. Even in parts of the world where legislations exist to protect the environment, some people still pollute the environment with wastes, use chemicals and inorganic fertilizer indiscriminately, and construct buildings haphazardly and without regard to urban and regional planning laws and regulations.

Generally, the environmental issues and problems that are perceived by some people—on one hand—as annoying and dangerous, are perceived by some other people—on the other hand—as irrelevant or just okay; this care-free attitude is not only noticeable in some laymen, but is also noticeable in some educated people, urban planners, and decision makers too.

9. Excess pollution of water, air, and land environments

Streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans are consistently being overloaded with thrash and runoff that consists of chemicals, pesticides, pollutants, and harmful wastes. Lands, on the other hand, have received oil spills and refuse dumps of solid wastes whose tiny particles have been transported into underground water resources by leaks from municipal and industrial water and wastewater systems.

The air or atmosphere has been continuously polluted by noxious emissions and gases such as methane, nitrogen oxides, sulphur hexafluoride, halogenated hydrocarbons, and carbon dioxide which are all being generated from various sources such as motor vehicles, power plants, and combustion activities in industries and factories.

The gases that pollute the atmosphere have been disrupting the Earth’s thermal balance and partially obstructing thermal radiation from going into outer space; thereby, intensifying the greenhouse effect, impacting climate change, and raising global warming levels which can increase heat, insects, droughts, and melt polar ice, icebergs, and glaciers, and subsequently cause floods.

If you are interested in downloading the PDF document of this article, click here.

10 Major Environmental Problems Caused by Mankind’s Unsustainable Ways of Living

Over the course of billions of years, the Earth’s numerous life forms have been depending on energy from the sun and the ecosystem services and natural resources available on Earth.

Generally speaking, nature has been sustaining life on Earth by relying on solar energy, chemical cycling, and biodiversity, and applying the following three principles of sustainability or lessons from nature in order to promote environmental sustainability and prevent or eliminate environmental problems:

  • reliance or dependence on solar energy in order to reduce or eliminate environmental problems caused by artificially created forms of energy and combustion of fossil fuels and.
  • application of nutrient or chemical cycling or waste reuse to ensure there is little or no waste disposal in the environment.
  • allowance for all types of biodiversity (or biological diversity) to exist and provide vital ecosystem services; this can further provide numerous ways for the variety of plant and animal life to adapt to changing and challenging environmental conditions.

Due to the efforts made by nature, living things have had access to water, air, fertile soil, food, energy, and many things that have enabled humans to survive and make many scientific and technological advances.

Yet, there has been mounting evidence from numerous studies that, as humans have been increasing in population and consuming most natural resources, they have also severely degraded natural systems, become addicted to unsustainable ways of living, and caused a ton of environmental problems, especially in recent decades.

18 Best Ways to Save the Environment Much More

As a result of the unsustainable ways of living being practiced in many parts of the world, aquifers and underground water deposits have been overdrawn, grasslands have been overgrazed, forests have been overharvested, rivers and oceans have been overfished, water environments have been overloaded with pollutants and harmful wastes, and the air has been overloaded with noxious emissions and greenhouses gases.

As humans continue to deplete renewable and non-renewable natural resources much faster than nature can replenish them, ingenuity can often discover substitutes for natural resources, but scientific and technological advances cannot often do so.

“Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”—the Summary statement from the 2005 United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which was a 4-year study made by 1,360 experts from 95 countries.

The fact of the matter is that, coupled with the negative impact of some environmentally degrading scientific and technological advances, humans have become addicted to some unsustainable ways of living that have been causing environmental problems in many parts of the world.

10 Major environmental problems caused by mankind’s unsustainable ways of living include, but may not be limited to the following:

1. Soil erosion and degradation due to excessive farming and deforestation which causes loss of soil fertility to such an extent that some lands no longer support vegetation.

2. Desertification (expansion of deserts) and shrinking of renewable forests due to prolonged drought and human activities such as overgrazing of grasslands and deforestation which degrades topsoil, as a result of nutrient loss.

3. Climate change and severe weather, mostly due to atmospheric warming which is a condition whereby the Earth and its atmosphere warm more rapidly because of greenhouse gas emissions from forest fires and excessive burning of oil and coal.

4. Increased droughts and prolonged shortage of rainfall in some parts of the world where rivers are running dry as a result of human contribution to climate change and economies of growing populations are placing increasing demands on limited or decreasing supplies of surface and underground water.

5. Melting of polar ice, icebergs, and glaciers due to global warming; this causes rise of sea levels and increased incidences of floods.

6. Increasing ocean acidity due to increasing carbon dioxide absorption and atmospheric temperatures which stem from man-made activities that affect climate change.

7. Air pollution due to combustion activities in industrial facilities, factories, and railcars, and burning of fossil fuels in power plants and motor vehicles.

8. Water pollution as a result of chemicals being dumped into streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans, and water runoff carrying pesticides and trash into surface water resources where they impede the movement of boats and kill fishes and other forms of life.

9. Loss of biodiversity, degradation of wildlife habitat, extinction of some species due to overhunting, and depletion of fish populations due to overfishing.

10. Aquifer depletion as a result of groundwater being overdrawn from aquifers much faster than the aquifers can be replenished. And aquifer collapse due to the withdrawal of large quantities of groundwater that sometimes make the sand and rock in the aquifers to collapse.

10 Features of Ecocities & Ecovillages that Inspire our World to Be More Sustainable

The environmental problems in urban and large cities should not be hinged solely on urbanization, but on our inability to make cities more sustainable and livable by using urbanization in much better and efficient ways than we have been able to.

We can use urbanization in much better ways if we apply the concepts used in creating ecocities and ecovillages which employ good ecological designs and make new and existing urban areas more sustainable, naturally self-reliant, and pleasurable places to live in.

An ecocity (also known as a green city) is an environmentally sustainable city that applies the following three principles of sustainability, or lessons from nature, in order to promote environmental sustainability based on development and minimal environmental impact goals:

  • reliance or dependence on solar energy in order to reduce or eliminate environmental impacts of fossil fuels and artificially created forms of energy.
  • application of nutrient or chemical cycling or waste reuse to ensure there is little or no waste disposal in the environment.
  • allowance for all types of biodiversity (or biological diversity) to exist and provide vital ecosystem services; this can further provide numerous ways for the variety of plant and animal life to adapt to changing and challenging environmental conditions.

The vehicles, appliances, and buildings that exist in ecocities are highly energy-efficient and make ecocities to be somewhat energy-independent. Unlike in most cities where industrial sites are either unkept and abandoned, in ecocities, abandoned industrial sites are cleaned up, regenerated, and used for beneficial purposes.

Future ecocities look attractive because they could consist of buildings that would be powered by solar panels, power plants, wind turbines, and roofs; in addition, they could have digesters that would be used to convert kitchen and plant waste into natural gas for cooking and heating.

In addition to ecocities, eco-villages exist, in cities, urbanized areas, or ecocities. The term “ecovillage” was first coined and used by Robert Gilman in 1991. In his paper titled “The Ecovillage Challenge”, he defined ecovillage as “a combination of a human habitat and human activities that does not cause environmental damage and support human health” (Gilman R., 1991).

An ecovillage (a.k.a. ecodistrict) is an environmentally sustainable community or settlement of people that is smaller than a city and applies the goals targeted by the three principles of sustainability mentioned earlier.

Ecocities, ecovillages, and the findings in other projects and research works on biomimicry, provide mankind with sufficient ideas that can be used to improve the ecological design of buildings, based on the three principles of sustainability.

10 Features or characteristics of ecocities and ecovillages

1. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages use solar energy and locally available renewable energy resources; in so doing, they reduce their ecological footprints.

2. Ecocities and ecovillages consist of buildings that produce more energy than they consume, and can be heated and cooled as much as possible by nature or natural processes.

3. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages plant trees and plants in most areas in order to ensure that there is pure air, adequate shade, and soil is protected from erosion.

4. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages use material resources and energy more efficiently; for instance, instead of using money and energy to mow grass, they ensure cattle or sheep graze on grass, thereby saving energy and using grass as a resource.

5. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages reuse, recycle, and compost high percentages of their solid waste. Instead of disposing animal manure in their environment, they ensure that it is used as organic fertilizer on farmlands.

6. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages reduce waste generation and prevent pollution as much as possible. To ensure there is little or no air pollution, waste is properly disposed or efficiently reused, and the inhabitants walk or move around in low-polluting vehicles.

7. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages promote agriculture, aquaculture, and construction of urban gardens and farmers’ markets.

8. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages protect and support the growth of biodiversity, preserve forests and grasslands, and protect and restore natural systems.

9. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages ensure that most of their food is produced from organic farms, community farms, solar greenhouses, and gardens.

10. The inhabitants of ecocities and ecovillages educate their populations about environmental problems and solutions.

Examples of ecocities and ecovillages

  • Curitiba ecocity, Brazil.
  • Dongtan ecocity, China.
  • Masdar ecocity, UAE.
  • Vauban urban ecovillage, Freiburg, Germany.
  • Los Angeles ecovillage, USA.
  • Cloughjordan ecovillage, Ireland.
  • BedZED housing development ecovillage, London, England.

Examples of emerging ecocities or cities that are becoming environmentally sustainable

  • Bogota, Columbia.
  • Helsinki, Finland.
  • Waitakere City, New Zealand.
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
  • Malmo, Sweden.
  • Portland, Oregon, USA.

Biomimicry: Examples & Benefits of Copying Nature

If we can’t be able to use man-made or artificial methods of pollution prevention and waste reduction to reduce waste as much as we possibly can, then we can, at least, be able to apply the principles of biomimicry and mimic nature’s methods of composting, recycling, or exchanging waste, so that we can reduce waste as much as possible.

Biomimicry is the science and art of studying nature’s activities through experimentation or observation, in order to discover natural principles and environmentally beneficial ideas, and apply them in ways that can solve human problems and make the environment better.

Top 9 Sustainability Practices of Nature that You Should Practice

Biomimicry observes certain changes that nature currently makes, and goes back to study how natural systems have responded to such changes in the past or distant past; thereafter, it copies or adjusts the responses to fit into human or man-made systems in order to reduce or eliminate various environmental problems.

To create a more sustainable and low-waste society, one important goal of environmentalists is to apply biomimicry and make industrial manufacturing processes much cleaner and more sustainable by redesigning them to behave like nature and mimic how nature handles waste.

Examples of biomimicry

1. Like nature, which has been carrying out chemical recycling for ages and using wastes produced by some living organisms to serve as nutrients and aid the growth of other living organisms, mankind has been using animal wastes to aid plant growth, and vice-versa. In this way, the earth’s nutrients have been continuously recycled, and waste has been minimal in undisturbed ecosystems. 

2. Similar to what nature does during chemical recycling, some industries or manufacturers have been reusing and recycling most of the waste, chemicals, and minerals they use, instead of burning or discarding them by transporting them elsewhere.

3. On the other hand, if a certain industry won’t be able to mimic nature and reuse or recycle its waste, it could interact with other industries or manufacturers through resource exchange channels, and make their waste materials available for use as raw materials, instead of burning or discarding them in the environment.

Generally, the waste output(s) from one industry can be exchanged for the waste output(s) from another industry, and converted into resources or raw materials, thereby reducing pollution, waste, and the movement of non-renewable energy and mineral through society.

4. The study of termite mounds by scientists has led to the discovery of how to cool buildings naturally, instead of artificially, which has been degrading the quality of the atmosphere and environment, especially when fossil fuels are used.

Benefits of biomimicry

1. Biomimicry can inspire companies to invent new, environmentally uplifting, and less energy-consuming processes and products that can help mankind and gain the affection of the world.

2. Biomimicry can solve human problems and make the natural surroundings/environment better.

3. Biomimicry can make man-made or industrial manufacturing processes to be much neater and more sustainable.

4. Biomimicry can reduce the costs of handling solid wastes, reducing pollution, and abiding by pollution regulations.

5. Biomimicry can reduce pollution, transfer of toxic waste, and the flow of non-renewable minerals and energy through society.

6. Biomimicry can help to prevent industries or manufacturing companies from damaging communities, thereby reducing their chances of getting sued because of how they handle or dispose waste.

7. Biomimicry can reduce companies’ health insurance costs and improve the health and safety of their workers by reducing their exposure to noxious and harmful wastes or materials.

Why Environmental Justice Still Has a Considerable or Long Way to Go

The health risks posed by incinerators, landfills, hazardous waste dumps, and polluting factories located in communities, called for the need to enforce environmental justice which is a concept that embodies the belief that everyone is qualified to be protected from environmental pollution and hazards, regardless of their race, age, gender, income, country of origin, or social status.

Over the past few decades, some individuals organized environmental justice movements to prevent the construction of landfills, incinerators, and other types of polluting structures near or within communities inhabited by people.

In addition to the efforts of the proponents for environmental justice, manufacturers and waste industry officials have opined that actions need to be taken to prevent toxic and hazardous wastes from being dumped in anyone’s or any country’s backyard and environment.

However, not everyone accepts this argument; some people believe that the best way to tackle hazardous and toxic waste is to employ or enforce pollution prevention measures and drastically reduce the quantity of waste produced.

Environmental injustice inspired the rise of environmental justice

Past studies have shown that a considerable number of incinerators, hazardous waste dumps, and landfills in the USA were located in areas mostly occupied by Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.

Studies also showed that the noxious or toxic wastes sites located in areas occupied by whites have been decontaminated or cleaned up much faster than noxious sites located in areas occupied by non-whites, especially Latinos and African Americans.

As a result of oil pollution, drinking water sources and farmlands have been contaminated in the Niger Delta region (in Nigeria) which has experienced decades of oil spills and gas flaring which have transformed it into one of the most polluted regions in the world; most times, nothing is done to clean up any mess from the oil spills.

These types of injustice or discrimination, which occurred and still occur in many parts of the world, led people and grassroots to form environmental justice movements and pressurize businesses, governments,  and environmental organizations to be aware of environmental injustice and use environmental justice to prevent it.

For decades, countries that are highly or more developed have been transporting hazardous waste to nations that are under- or less-developed; but in 1992, an international treaty called “the Basel Convention” came into effect to control the movement and disposal of hazardous waste.

According to the Basel convention international treaty, more-developed countries are banned from transporting hazardous waste to other countries without the latter’s permission. The treaty was amended in 1995 to ban the transfer of hazardous waste from industrialized nations to less-developed nations.

The general interest in environmental justice was proven by the fact that, in 2009, the agreement that created the treaty had been signed by 175 nations and formally approved and implemented by 172 countries. Out of the 175 nations that had signed, only three (Afghanistan, Haiti, and the USA) didn’t ratify or sign for implementation.

But despite the efforts made, environmental justice still has a considerable or long way to go

Although treaties and bans have helped to some extent, experience has shown that they might not be able to prevent or wipe out all illegal transfers of hazardous waste. In the midst of treaties, laws are still broken, and hazardous waste smugglers use bribes, false permits, and tactics to evade laws and label hazardous wastes as recyclable wastes.

In the year 2000, delegates from 122 countries established an international treaty, called “the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)”, in order to regulate 12 widely used organic pollutants (including DDT) that accumulate in humans; by the year 2009, 152 nations signed a stronger version of the treaty; however, the USA still hasn’t ratified the treaty which allows 25 countries to still use DDT to combat malaria.

In the year 2000, the Swedish legislative assembly or parliament enacted a law that demanded industries to perform risk assessments on chemicals and prove that they are safe to use, instead of waiting for the government to find out whether they are safe to use. Most industries strongly oppose this approach in the USA, especially those that produce and use unsafe or life-threatening chemicals.

As we can see, there is no consensus among humankind when it comes to practicing and ensuring that there is environmental justice. Generally, the Earth as a whole is still being polluted without complete restrain.

A treaty that is accepted by some nations is signed by the nations involved in it, but still not implemented by all the nations that signed the treaty. Also, the acts which some nations consider to be unjust are considered by other nations to be fair or just.

Therefore, the current state of environmental justice still has a considerable or long way to go in order to carry everyone along in the same boat. Until all governments, businesses, leaders, organizations, movements, and people have a common opinion or goal for environmental justice, environmental justice itself may continue having a considerable or long way to go.

7 Ways to Reduce Negative Environmental Impacts of Food Production

Over the centuries, mankind has been producing food to eat and survive, but many practices used for food production have been degrading the environment, especially in the modern age, and may severely limit food production in the future.

In order to reduce the negative impacts of industrialized food production on the environment and eliminate practices that encourage such negative impacts, a number of environmental protection schemes have to be re-enforced, enforced, or implemented in some parts of the world where natural resources need to be used more efficiently and sustainably.

Although many farmers around the world know about soil protection strategies, most of them don’t practice the strategies because of their desperate struggle to survive; in fact, they are more interested in earning money than protecting the environment against long-term degradation.

6 Harmful Environmental Impacts of Food Production

The following schemes have to be re-enforced, enforced, or implemented to reduce or eliminate the harmful or negative impacts of food production on the environment:

1. Restoration of soil fertility

Although one of the best ways to preserve or conserve soil fertility is by reducing topsoil erosion through some soil conservation practices, the best way to restore soil fertility is by actually using natural organic fertilizer or manufactured inorganic fertilizer.

Natural organic fertilizer can be obtained from animal (urine and dung) and plant (green manure) remains or materials and decomposition processes, while manufactured inorganic fertilizer can be acquired from minerals that are mined from the Earth’s crust.

2. Reduction of topsoil erosion

Reducing topsoil erosion is one of the best ways to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of food production processes or agricultural practices. Land is a basic natural resource that must be used for production because it contains fertile topsoil which is formed after hundreds of years.

During the process of repeatedly using topsoil to grow and produce crops, a lot of agricultural and man-made activities erode or reduce topsoil and topsoil fertility. Topsoil erosion can be reduced—or, topsoil and topsoil fertility can be conserved—by employing the following practices:

  • Plowing land or planting crops in rows across a piece of land; this practice, which is called contour farming or contour planting, reduces topsoil erosion when each row acts as a dam that slows down water runoff and holds back topsoil, thereby suppressing the presence of any environmental impacts during plant growth and food production.
  • Planting crops in alternative strips (relatively long and narrow heaps of soil), and in such a way that a row of the crops (such as corn) or food being produced grows beside another row of a different crop called a “cover crop” (such as oats, or alfalfa); this practice, which is called strip cropping or strip farming, restores soil fertility by reducing topsoil erosion. When water runoff erodes topsoil away from the rows of crops or food being produced, the topsoil is trapped or held by the cover crops which also add nitrogen to the soil. In addition, when the crops or food being produced are harvested, the cover crops are left behind to trap topsoil and water runoff and reduce water runoff.
  • Planting crops or growing food on steep slopes (sides of hills or mountains) in a way that doesn’t deplete topsoil or cause topsoil erosion; this practice, which is called terracing or terrace cultivation, reduces topsoil erosion by significantly curbing runoff, thereby limiting the presence of any environmental impacts of food production.
  • Installing windbreaks and employing alley cropping (an agroforestry practice) or planting shelterbelts to control and reduce wind erosion which can erode topsoil if left unchecked. Windbreaks are structures that impede wind flow and reduce wind speed, while shelterbelts are trees or shrubs that are planted in rows to protect growing food crops against wind.
  • Practicing low-tillage and no-tillage cultivation by reducing or eliminating the tilling or plowing of topsoil; in addition, crop residues that cannot be consumed by humans can be left behind after harvest; these practices help to reduce topsoil erosion.

3. Prevention and reduction of soil salinization

Soil salinization can be prevented by reducing irrigation and planting saline- or salt-tolerant crops instead of crops that cannot tolerate certain significant degrees of salinity. Soil salinization can even be halted and salinity can be removed by using flush soil and installing underground drainage systems—but both of these methods are expensive; in addition, salinization can be prevented by not planting crops on the soil for a period between two and five years.

4. The practice of aquaculture far away from or near the offshore

The environmental impact of rearing aquatic animals and plants for food can be significantly reduced if it is practiced far away from the offshore. Even if it can’t be practiced far away from the offshore, at least, it can be practiced near the offshore where the environmental impact of rearing aquatic animals and plants would be much lesser than that of industrialized fishing.

Rearing aquatic animals or cultivating aquatic plants far away from or near the offshore, or in zero-discharge tanks or freshwater ponds which are recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), would reduce discharges of polluting wastes and the demand for chemicals to tackle diseases.

5. Control and reduction of desertification

Although desertification is quite difficult to resolve, especially if it is exacerbated by natural factors, it can still be controlled by reducing population, man-made impact on climate change, deforestation, overgrazing, irrigation, mining, and environmentally degrading planting practices.

Desertification can be reduced by installing windbreaks, and land can be restored by planting trees and other plants on it. Growing plants and trees can help to maintain and stabilize topsoil and hold water more firmly in place.

6. Efficient production and less consumption of meat

If efficient, well-managed, and non-industrialized meat production is done on the ground, land, or pastures, instead of in buildings, it can help to avoid the harmful health and environmental costs of industrialized beef production.

In addition, the production and consumption of more poultry and plant-eating farmed fish, instead of animal protein such as carnivorous fish, beef, and pork would significantly reduce fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

Generally, eating less or no meat would save money, reduce ecological and carbon footprints, and make the environment much more healthy.

7. Application of low-input farming or agricultural systems

In contrast with high-input farming—which relies heavily on fossil fuels, increases the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and violates the principles of sustainability—low-input farming relies on comparably less renewable energy (wind, solar energy, flowing water, etc) to produce fuels and electricity for crop or food production.

In addition, low-input farming or agricultural systems produce lower carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, reduce topsoil erosion, increase topsoil fertility, make food production much easier for poor farmers, and help poor families feed themselves.

6 Harmful Environmental Impacts of Food Production

Since 1950, agricultural systems have produced outstanding increases in the world’s food production. However, evidence has shown that when food production, agriculture, and aquaculture aren’t handled or regulated properly, they cause harmful or negative impacts on the environment.

Despite the encouraging steps that have been taken towards environmental sustainability, the cultivation of land and raising livestock for food production have caused greater environmental impacts than any other human activity.

7 Ways to Reduce Negative Environmental Impacts of Food Production

If mankind isn’t careful, the environmental impacts of food production may seriously hamper or limit food production in the future: crop and livestock yields may decline in some parts of the world because of environmental issues such as:

  • contamination and depletion of surface and underground water used for irrigation.
  • loss of farmland due to urbanization.
  • emission of greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.
  • erosion of topsoil.
  • etc.

The following are 6 harmful environmental impacts of modern food production as a result of agricultural activities:

1. Soil erosion

Excessive farming and deforestation destroy soil-holding vegetation, loosens and weakens undisturbed topsoil, and leads to the occurrence of erosion, especially gully erosion which has two major harmful effects:

  • depletion of plant nutrients in topsoil, and loss of soil fertility which can make it difficult for plants to grow or reproduce.
  • water pollution in nearby open waterways such as rivers and streams in which topsoil ends up as sediment. Sediments can kill fish and impede the natural flow of water in lakes, rivers, and irrigation trenches.

In summary, soil erosion removes important plant nutrients from topsoil and adds them to surface waters and aquatic systems, thereby degrading the fertility of topsoil, polluting watercourses, and altering the natural chemical cycling processes in phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon cycles.

2. Desertification

The accelerated use of land for agricultural purposes and activities such as overgrazing, deforestation, overplowing, and the destructive use of land, have all contributed to an increase in the rate of desertification in some parts of the world, thus gradually transforming habitable and cultivatable lands into deserts.

3. Salinization

When irrigation water is repeatedly used in dry climates, it causes a gradual accumulation of salts such as sodium chloride (NaCl) in upper soil layers. This process of soil degradation is called salinization; it is harmful to the environment because it reduces plant yields, stunts plant growth, and can eventually kill plants and destroy the land.

4. Waterlogging

When farmers apply a lot of irrigation water to ensure that salts penetrate deeper into the soil, it causes water to accumulate underground and gradually heightens the water table; this process is called waterlogging. Waterlogging is harmful to plants grown on farms because it deprives them of oxygen and reduces their level of productivity.

5. Greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and climate change

Whenever vegetation and forests are cleared and burned to raise crops and livestock, large quantities of greenhouse gases (such as methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide) are generated; they cause air pollution, warm the atmosphere, and influence regional climate changes in ways that make some lands unsuitable for growing crops.

During industrialized meat and livestock production—particularly, cattle and dairy cows—methane is discharge through belching, and from the liquid animal manure stored in waste lagoons. In addition, large amounts of energy from fossil fuels and water also produce greenhouse gases and saturate the atmosphere with foul odors.

6. Reduction or destruction of biodiversity (diversity of animal and plant life)

In many parts of the world that are dominated by farming, clearing of vegetation or forests, and tilling of grasslands have either reduced or destroyed a significant part of biodiversity which is the world’s total genetic variety of animal and plant species which provides food for all living things.

The extensive use of fish meal and fish oil to feed farmed fish poses a threat to wild fish and depletes wild fish populations or species, especially when they are contaminated by toxins such as PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyl) which are very stable chlorinated organic chemicals that are dangerous environmental pollutants found at the bottom of oceans.

Scientists had estimated that since 1900, the world lost about 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural plants, and many food plant varieties that were available decades ago, no longer exist.

6 Negative Impacts of Mining on the Environment

Several different mining techniques are often used to remove mineral deposits after they have been located. The technique used to remove mineral deposits depends on the types of mineral resources and their locations. In many cases, the materials that lie over a natural resource or deposit are removed in order to expose and mine the natural resource before it is processed.

Mining starts with the removal of all types of vegetation, forests, earth (soil), and rock that is the overlying mineral deposits on a site. Mining—specifically, the area strip mining technique—often leaves behind deposits of wastes called spoils or “spoil banks which are banks or heaps of excavated refuse or waste earth produced from surface mining activities. Generally speaking, mining scars and disrupts the land surface, and does long-term harm to the environment in a number of ways.

6 negative impacts of mining on the environment

1. Area strip mining creates spoil banks (which are very susceptible to wind erosion, water erosion, and chemical weathering) and makes it difficult for vegetation to regrow because of the absence of topsoil on sites where the spoil banks have been created.

Due to this reason, spoil banks have a negative impact on the environment and economy and often contribute to national capital degradation and expenditure, especially when a substantial amount of money and long process of primary ecological succession is required to return sites—that have spoil banks—back to their previous natural condition.

2. During mining and mountaintop removal, enormous and powerful machines plow great volumes of dirt and waste rock into the valleys that exist below mountaintops. This activity creates a negative impact on the environment because it produces toxic and wastewater sludge behind dams in the valleys, buries mountain streams, increases floods, and destroys forests.

3. The large quantities of debris deposited in the valleys destroy forests and create huge floods that can cause dams to overflow or collapse, and release toxic substances such as sulphuric acid, mercury, and arsenic.

4. Mining damages the environment of the communities around mining sites and makes it almost impossible for the people who live in the communities to avoid breathing debris or dust and other toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere as a result of large-scale daily blasting which also pollutes wells and rivers, and disrupts groundwater springs.

5. Surface mining in tropical areas or forests degrades or destroys the diversity of important animal and plant life in the habitat that is around such areas or forests, especially when the areas or forests are cleared and rivers are polluted with mining wastes that contaminate freshwater supplies which keep fish and other forms of aquatic life alive.

6. Subsurface mining, which usually produces less waste material, creates a negative impact on the environment because it cracks or breaks sewer lines, damages houses, and causes hazards such as explosions, combustion of flammable materials, and cave-ins (the sudden collapse of land above underground mines).

The Impact of Nigeria’s Border Closure on its Economy

The mandate of any nation’s customs and border control agencies is to allow licit and legal free trades, and halt illicit and illegal trades. Illicit and illegal trades involve the movement of various types of commodities and services that usually lead to the creation of numerous black markets which have been known to slowly but gradually cripple economies.

Many times in the past, Nigeria usually closed its borders because of one form of illicit trade or another. However, border closure has often led to inefficient operations within licit and legal supply chains, thus increasing costs and time delays, disrupting deliveries, and interrupting the smooth flow of goods and services.

Once again, and recently in August, 2019, Nigeria—which shares boundaries with the republics of Benin, Niger, and Cameroon—closed its land border to the movement of goods. The government declared that it did so in order to halt smuggling of food and weapons into the country, especially from Benin republic.

In many instances, regardless of the situation at hand, most countries don’t often close their borders to the free trade of goods and services. Rather, they close their borders whenever their security is in jeopardy. Examples of countries that have closed their borders in the past in order to enhance national security, include: Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, and Rwanda—amongst others.

During other circumstances, some countries usually close their borders in order to control or stop the spread of diseases (such as Ebola) that have the potential to travel across borders. It is recommendable to close borders in order to put a halt to arm smuggling; on the other hand, when borders are closed, food becomes scarcer, and inflation ensues, thereby harming the economy and citizens.

As reported in many news outlets, the current president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, ordered the most recent border closure with one main aim: to curb smuggling of rice (a staple food in Nigeria) from Benin and Niger into Nigeria—Africa’s most populous nation.

According to the government, the most recent and worrying problems that lead to another border closure included the smuggling of rice, and the illicit exportation of cheap subsidized petrol from Nigeria to its neighboring countries. In fact, according to most oil marketers in Nigeria, between 10% and 20% of Nigerian fuel is usually smuggled abroad.

The current Nigeria government, which has been strengthening its economic policies, believes that if it continues allowing importation of cheaper goods, it would be difficult for the country to increase local production and become a self-sufficient nation. Authorities reason that border closure will promote local production; on the other hand, critics argue that when demand exceeds domestic production, the country would have no better option than to fully engage in cross-border trade with neighboring countries.

The truth is that the government cannot always control demand which usually increases due to the increasing number of births and mouths that have to be fed on a daily basis. Since Nigeria doesn’t always have the local capacity to produce enough rice to meet up with the populace’s demand, any attempt to close the border and halt importation could lead to more smuggling, and increase in the price of goods for local consumers.

Any person who can recall the cases of corruption which Nigeria has experienced, would tend to believe that the smuggling of fuel and goods should be blamed on the country’s personnel who have been in charge of securing Nigeria’s borders. The sad fact is that the country’s poor citizens—who are far much more in number than the rich—are the ones who usually suffer when government personnel at the borders receive bribes and allow smuggling to take place to such an extent that the government has no better option than to close its borders.

Although it is quite true that, like all other governments, the Nigeria government has the right to close its borders. On the other hand, whenever borders are closed, it leads to positive and negative impacts on the economy and citizens, with merits and demerits alike.

Positive impact: Merits of Nigeria border closure

  • Although nobody might have sufficient knowledge of the full impact of smuggled fuel, food, drugs and ammunition into Nigeria, border closure has actually helped to prevent excess ammunition and drugs from entering the country, causing economic mayhem, and destroying the futures or lives of children who can possibly become good leaders tomorrow.
  • Border closure boosts Nigeria government’s pockets or revenues because more duties are being received whenever any illegal goods are forced to enter the country legally through the land ports. According the current Nigeria Customs Service boss, Nigeria has made more money since it recently closed its land borders.

Negative impact: Demerits of Nigeria border closure

  • Although border closure can help control the trade of illicit drugs and weapons, the shutdown of the Benin border in particular, has already caused food inflation in Nigeria—and the inflation only continues to accelerate. For instance, since the most recent Nigeria border closure in August, 2019, the cost of buying a bag (50 kilograms) of rice has risen from N 9,000 (about $25) to N 22,000 (about $60).
  • Border closure makes the poor ones in Nigeria to pay higher prices for goods, while those responsible for smuggling live comfortably. It seems that the government is not aware that most poor people don’t have the means to acquire, store, and transport and smuggle large volumes of goods and services—these are the same people that border closure harms the most.
  • Whenever there is border closure, most businesses and markets that create income in border communities usually shut down, and the passage of taxis, motorcycles, trucks and passengers drastically reduces. The price of petrol usually shoots up and doubles, while motorcycle and taxi drivers triple their own prices. Small businesses that depend on cross-border trading, usually fold up. The helpless society ends up suffering because of a handful of powerful smugglers who either have ties with government officials, or ties with themselves and ordinary people who they have control over.
  • Border closure negatively impacts Nigerian businesses that focus on exporting goods and services. The impression most people would get from statements made by Nigeria government is that border closure works only one way—on importation; it seems the government hasn’t looked enough at the other side—on exportation. It has to be noted that Nigeria, which is actually a net exporter through borders, can also affect its exportation whenever it closes its borders. In fact, a recent report made by FSDH Merchant bank clearly stated that some textile firms in northern Kano city closed down because they could no longer export goods across the border with Niger republic.
  • Border closure has been giving Nigeria a negative impression in a committee of nations like ECOWAS. Why? Because it breaches the accepted protocol on the free movement of services, goods, and people. There is a protocol, or an understanding established by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to which Nigeria belongs. Nigeria’s position on border closure reveals how less concerned it is about making free trade as free as it has agreed that it should be. Border closure undermines and devalues agreements, and could destroy any trust, understanding and goodwill.
  • With intermittent or temporary border closure around the “giant of Africa”, it might be much more difficult for pessimistic critics to agree how free trade would increase intra-Africa trade to 60% by 2022, as has been earlier projected. Border closure has raised concerns about the type of free trade that is being practiced in West Africa, especially as it has been known to cause shortages in supply of materials that have been imported from Nigeria to neighboring countries.

Recommendations to Nigeria government

It can be complex and extremely demanding to manage and facilitate legitimate and legal free trade while concurrently preventing illicit trade—but it can be done! Experience has proven that border closure, on its own, will not be able to solve the problems that arise as a result of smuggling.

Also, a porous border could be indirectly reflecting the corruption of some unknown or hidden Nigeria government officials, and the failure of the Nigeria Customs Service to carry out its duties in an efficient manner.

Nigeria government officials argue that Nigeria’s porous borders allow people to smuggle goods and services and still not pay tariffs and excise duties. Instead of closing the borders intermittently and causing untold hardship for border communities, and businesses of neighboring Benin and Niger, the Nigeria government should take a critical look at its personnel—the ones who are in charge of securing its porous borders. A strong inquiry should be made in order to find out whether the personnel are actually doing the work they ought to do. Are they fulfilling their duties on behalf of the nation? A nation usually reflects the qualities and characteristics of the people who work for it.

The influence that unquestionable cabals and powerful interest groups have on political decisions, would make an ordinary citizen have no belief in any type of border closure, especially when it has been ineffective in the past. The following are recommendable:

  • the Nigerian government should take a critical look at its customs service personnel and remove the inefficient ones; if it doesn’t do so, each time it reopens its borders, the same old smuggling activities could still rise up and continue because of the presence of corrupt personnel. In many cases, Nigeria needs a competent customs service, not intermittent or temporary border closures.
  • the Nigeria government should modernize or improve the state of its customs service by using more information technology and applying more formal management procedures which can improve accountability and transparency which are the cornerstones of incorruptible societies. Whatever the case may be, the Nigeria government should honor its free trade agreement with ECOWAS, and still improve its existing port logistics; in addition, it should construct and properly link all known and yet-to-be-discovered railway lines and road infrastructures. Reliable evidence-gathering techniques should be considered and employed, such as undercover operations and electronic surveillance.
  • after leaving farming and relying heavily on fuel for decades, the Nigeria government should be patient and use as many years (as it left agriculture for fuel) to invest in farming; and it should do so to such an extent that it won’t make the poor masses suffer whenever there is border closure—or whenever border closure becomes to necessary, especially for security reasons. Although it is true that border closure could help to boost local food production, it should also be noted that food—especially rice, its staple food—takes time to grow; it also needs extra time to be harvested, processed and sold. Moreover, the country’s struggling farming industry cannot keep up with the huge increase in its citizens’ demand for a staple food like rice. Generally speaking, in the present-day, Nigeria is not yet sufficient enough to close its borders without making its citizens suffer for it.
  • whenever it becomes necessary to close borders, border closure should go hand-in-hand with strategies that can build economic growth and address a range of social needs, including health, education, social security, job opportunities and environmental stewardship.
  • the Nigeria government should promote shared responsibility: it should increase public-private dialogue on the issue of border closure and promote partnerships with organizations and governments that can help address the global nature of illicit trade which border closure hopes to prevent. Public and private organizations do have evidence-based work programs that can effectively address and halt illicit trades.
  • the Nigeria government should strengthen its legislation by actually penalizing people who conspire and participate in smuggling. Nigeria security agencies, which are widely known for taking bribes and allowing offenders to get off the legal hook, should be compelled to act better than they have been doing.

Civil Engineering Services (PDF Download Available)

1. Definition of Civil Engineering Services

Civil engineering services are professional duties or works carried out by civil engineers which include: design, construction, and maintenance of the physically and naturally built environment, including works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings, etc. A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering, i.e. the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructures while protecting public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructures that have been neglected.

Download free eBook (PDF): Civil Engineering Services

Civil engineering services take place in the public sector from municipal through to national governments, and in the private sector from individual homeowners through to international companies. Because civil engineering is a vast profession, which includes several specialized sub-disciplines, its history is linked to the knowledge of structures, materials science, geography, geology, soils, hydrology, environment, mechanics, and other fields.

Services Offered By Professional Civil Engineers

The question asked at the assembly of the European Council of Civil Engineers (ECCE) was “What services may be offered by civil engineers in your country?” The aim of the question was to ascertain the degree of diversity in the civil engineering role, and also to discover if there are any exceptions for which special approvals or special education is required in the nations that make up the organization. Examples of various types of civil engineering services are listed under the following countries:

Croatia

The following services are provided by civil engineers:

  • design services for infrastructure projects (roads, railways, water supply, sewerage schemes, water treatment plants, hydroelectric power plants, dams, etc.)
  • design services (only for the civil engineering portion of design work for buildings, such as structural design, organization of work, material and work specifications, conceptual and detailed structural drawings, etc.)
  • supervision (inspection) services during realization of works
  • project control to check the fulfillment of essential project requirements, in accordance with the Construction Product Directive (Directive 89/106/EEC)
  • construction services in building and engineering works
  • use and production of raw materials, and material testing services
  • maintenance of completed projects
  • scientific research in the field of civil engineering.

They may be self-employed, employed in design offices, or employed in other types of companies. Civil engineers are not allowed to offer architectural design services.

Cyprus

Civil engineers can offer various services for civil engineering works including, feasibility studies, civil engineering designs, structural designs, preparation of tender/contract documents, procurement, supervision of construction works, etc. Civil engineers who have registered before 1993 can also carry out architectural designs and submit them for building permits. Civil engineers who registered after 1993 are not permitted to submit architectural designs. There is however a dispute as to what ‘architectural design work’ is.

Czech Republic

Civil engineers can undertake the design, development, supervision, and execution of all forms of construction. Selected activities in construction, which are of decisive significance for the protection of public interest, in the preparation, design, or execution of construction work may be performed only by persons who have a proven professional qualification obtained by examination and have obtained a professional certificate.

Estonia

A wide range of services may be offered by civil engineers after graduation in the fields of construction, design, and maintenance of buildings and structures.

France

Civil Engineers are involved in all steps of the construction process, so they offer their services in the following phases:

  • preliminary plans of works
  • materials production
  • design of works
  • construction processes on job sites
  • quality control of works carried out
  • operation of works after construction.

They also operate at any functional or operational levels in the industry, and in positions of authority in the public sector.

Germany

There is a wide range of possibilities of services in Germany, for example, Services related to civil engineering works and transportation facilities, traffic planning services, services relating to buildings, open-air facilities, project control, experts reports and valuations, town planning services, services relating to planning load-bearing structures, services relating to thermal building physics, services relating to sound insulation and acoustics, services relating to soil mechanics, earthworks and foundation engineering.

Ireland

In Ireland, civil engineers may offer all services. Civil Engineers are allowed to submit “architectural” designs for building permits.

Portugal

The services offered by Civil Engineers are defined by law but only relating to design. A civil engineer may offer any service in the construction sector. For example, design of structures, urban planning, hydraulics, geotechnics, construction management, etc. Civil engineers are still allowed to submit “architectural” designs for building permits, but only for small buildings. There is a plan to change this in the near future.

Slovakia Republic

Civil engineers perform complex activities in design, territorial development planning and design, project management, research, and development, as a site manager, as well as service activities. They are also involved in public and state administration, education, rural development in all kinds of services, surveying, and many other areas. For selected activities, they must have authorization, i.e. proof of qualification from the Slovak Chamber of Civil Engineers by an examining board including a certificate.

United Kingdom

Civil engineers can undertake the development, design, supervision, and execution of all forms of construction both in public and private work. For some types of work, e.g. the construction of dams or to work as an independent building inspector, special authorization is needed.

2. Water Supply Installation

Generally, pipes must be installed to meet requirements for durability, safety, and thermal comfort/stability. Prior to the installation of water supply facilities, design considerations will be carried out, and also, a choice of materials will be made. The following factors should be accounted for in the design:

(a) the water supplier’s requirements, including those of notification.

(b) the estimated daily consumption and the maximum and average flow rates required, together with the estimated time of peak flow.

(c) the location of the available supply.

(d) the quality, quantity, and pressure required, and the available pressures at various times during a typical day.

(e) the cold water storage capacity required.

(f) the likelihood of ground subsidence due to mining activities or any other reason.

(g) the likelihood of contamination of the site.

(h) transient (short-lived) or surge pressures that might arise during the operation of the system.

Installation shall be designed to avoid waste, undue consumption, misuse, contamination, and erroneous measurement. The installation shall be designed to avoid the trapping of air during filling and the formation of airlocks during operation.

2.1 Handling of Materials

All materials and components used for the construction of a water system shall be handled with sufficient care and attention to prevent their deterioration or the ingress (the act of entering) of contaminants. Deterioration, which is due to improper laying of pipes, use of poor-quality material, improper tightening of capillary/mechanical joints, and improper compaction of underground/underlying soil, etc., can impair the serviceability, or affect the performance of pipework systems. Some pipes are manufactured from asbestos cement. When working on these pipes and all other types of asbestos-containing materials, keep exposure to asbestos dust as low as is reasonably practicable. Great care should be exercised in cutting and grinding operations to keep dust generated to the minimum and prevent people from breathing in the dust. This may be achieved by the use of hand rather than power tools.

Bending of Pipes

Damaged pipes shall be rejected. Care should be taken to avoid crimping and restricting the diameter of pipes when forming bends. Purpose-designed equipment should be used where appropriate.

2.2 Joining of Pipes

Care shall be taken to establish satisfactory jointing techniques for all water service pipework. When making joints by welding, brazing, or soldering, precautions shall be taken to avoid the risk of fire, and care taken to avoid inhalation of fumes from the jointing process. Ends shall be cut square, all burrs (rough projection left on a workpiece after cutting) shall be removed from the ends of pipes and any jointing materials used shall be prevented from entering the system. All piping and fittings shall be cleaned internally and shall be free from debris. No metal pipe shall be connected to any other pipe or water fitting by means of an adhesive in any case where the metal pipe is:

(a) installed in the ground or passes through or under any wall footing or foundation;

(b) embedded in a wall or solid floor;

(c) enclosed in a chase or duct (enclosed passage for fluid);

(d) in a position where access is difficult.

Cutting tools that are in good condition should be used to limit tube distortion and the tube should be cut square (directly perpendicular) with the axis. Any tube ends that are distorted should be re-rounded using a suitable tool prior to the joint assembly.

Copper Pipes

When making capillary solder joints (or solder fittings – tubes having small internal diameters), the mating faces of the tube and fitting shall be abrasively cleaned with nylon cleaning pads or emery strip (not steel wool) and flux applied sparingly to the spigot (regulator for controlling the flow of a liquid from a reservoir).

Capillary fittings (pipe fittings that have socket-type ends so that when the fitting is soldered to a pipe end, the solder flows along the ring-like space between the pipe exterior and the socket): the joint should be heated until the solder (lead-free) is constrained within the fitting or is fed in with a solder stick or wire, flows by capillary attraction (surface tension and resulting in the elevation or depression of liquids in capillaries) to fill the joint space. The joint should remain untouched until the solder has cooled and solidified but then any surplus flux (solder discharge) on the assembly should be carefully removed. The use of excessive amounts of flux should be avoided.

If you would like to have the document on selected topics in “civil engineering services”, then download our self-published 67-page eBook through the following link: eBook (PDF): Civil Engineering Services. The topics in the eBook contain the topics discussed above, along with other topics and lots of images for illustration: generally, it has:

1. Definition of Civil Engineering Services

  • Services offered by civil engineers in some selected countries

2. Water Supply Installation

  • Handling of materials
  • Joining of pipes
  • Connections between different materials
  • Joining pipes to cisterns and tanks
  • Underground pipe laying
  • Pipework in buildings

3. Hot Water Systems

  • Choice of system
  • Gas-Fired Water Heaters in Rooms Containing a Bath or Shower
  • Water-jacketed Tube Heaters
  • Main types of hot water systems
  • Common Materials and Components

4. Sanitary Appliances

  • Preliminary Data for Selection of Appliances
  • Time Schedule
  • Materials
  • Design Considerations

5. Methods of Solid Waste (Refuse) Disposal

  • Non-hazardous Waste
  • Mixed Waste (Radioactive/Hazardous)

6. Equipment for Air Conditioning & Ventilation

  • Air Conditioning
  • Ventilation

7. Installations for Industrial Buildings

  • Gases (Natural Gases)
  • Liquids (Liquefied Natural Gases)

8. Refrigeration

  • Vapor-Compression Refrigeration, or Vapor-Compression Refrigeration System (VCRS)
  • Description of the Vapor-Compression Refrigeration System

9. Vacuum Cleaning

  • Major types of vacuum cleaners

10. Fire-fighting Systems

  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire hose/Fire hose reels
  • Fire hydrant (diesel/electric-driven) systems
  • Automatic Sprinkler Systems

(Featured Image Credit: Pixabay.com.)

Negative Environmental Impact of Using Mineral Resources

Mineral resources are naturally occurring concentrations of solid homogeneous inorganic substances that occur in nature and have precise chemical compositions. Mankind has done a great deal in developing the technical know-how to investigate, locate and extract more than a hundred minerals from the Earth’s crust.

On the other hand, the mining, processing and production of items, tools and equipment from mineral resources has left open wounds on the environment’s land, air and water resources.

Two major types (broad categories) of minerals

The two major types of minerals that exist are metallic minerals and non-metallic minerals. Examples of metallic minerals include gold, iron, copper, and aluminium, while examples of non-metallic minerals include limestone, gravel, sand, and phosphate salts.

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Minerals and rocks are called “non-renewable resources” because it takes a very long time for them to be reproduced by nature or natural processes.

Negative impact of mineral resources on environment

Although metals can be used to produce many useful products, the processes of mining and recycling take up a lot of energy, produce a lot of solid wastes, and also pollute the surrounding air, water and land (soil) environments.

Many studies conducted by scientists warn that one of the greatest threats to environmental health is the negative impact caused by industrial processes which include extraction, mining, and product conversions.

If mankind is not careful, the cost of manufacturing and production will exceed the value that mankind derives from finished products of mining, manufacturing and production.

The degree of environmental impact of mining a mineral or ore depends on the grade or mineral content of a particular mineral or ore. Usually, higher-grade minerals are the first to be sought for, located and used.

As higher-grade minerals become depleted, lower-grade ones become the next valuable mineral resource to be sought for. But the problem associated with lower-grade minerals is that the process of mining them takes up a lot of energy, water, money, and other minerals.

In addition, the process is known to increase mining and solid wastes, land degradation, and land, water and air pollution.

In the pursuit and acquisition of minerals, mining can cause long-term harm to an environment because it is widely known to disfigure and disrupt environments by scarring and disrupting their land surfaces.

Whenever minerals are removed from mountaintops by great machines, dirt and waste rocks usually destroy surrounding forests, cover up mountain streams at the base of mountains, and also increase flood hazards.

Nearby communities are not safe when it comes to mining: they find it hard to breathe pure natural air. Many communities have been economically and environmentally damaged as a result of mineral exploration and mountaintop removal.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hundreds of mountaintops have been removed in the U.S.A in order to extract coal; this has degraded the surrounding environment by polluting and burying about 1,900 kilometers length of streams.

In tropical areas like tropical forests, surface mining degrades or destroys important biodiversity that keeps many forms of life, and the environment balanced.

Degradation or destruction of biodiversity occurs when forests are cut down and rivers become polluted with wastes produced from mining activities.

Sub-surface mining causes lands, houses and sewer lines to collapse above some underground mines; also, it creates hazards such as explosions, fires, and cave-ins, and causes diseases such as black lung.

In addition, water runoff from mining processes usually contains pollutants such as mercury, arsenic and sulfuric acid which contaminate surrounding fresh water supplies and aquatic life used as food.

How water wastage can be reduced in the environment

The use of water is of serious concern in our world today, especially because of the way it is being used in unsustainable ways that have led to lots of wastage and deterioration of the environment which is mankind’s earthly home.

It is far easier, and much less costly to reduce water wastage than many people think. In fact, it costs much less money and energy to reduce water wastage than it does to provide new supplies of water—except in situations where governments subsidize water systems in order to reduce water prices and make their acquisition much easier.

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15 Reasons Why Download PDF: You Should Study Environmental Science

Many studies have been carried out on the usage and sustainability or unsustainability of water. Mohammed El-Ashry of the World Resources Institute once made three profound statements concerning water wastage:

  • it is technically and economically possible to reduce water wastage to 15% and meet most of the world’s water needs in the anticipated future.
  • approximately two-thirds of the quantity of water used worldwide is unnecessarily wasted through leaks, evaporation, and other types of losses.
  • about half the quantity of water obtained from surface and ground supplies in the U.S.A. (the world’s largest user of water) is unnecessarily wasted.

According to most water and environment specialists, the first major cause of water wastage is the fact that water is relatively cheap or easy to acquire

Because water is almost readily available, and governments subsidize it to low prices, users have little or no interest to invest time or money in water-saving schemes.

At times, it seems as if governments’ efforts to subsidize water are sending out a wrong message that water is abundant and can be used haphazardly or wasted.

On the other hand, if water is not subsidized, low-income farmers might find it hard to buy enough water to meet their agricultural needs.

How water can be conserved (or water wastage reduced) in an environment

In the U.S.A., almost 90% of the quantity of water used in industries is for the production of oil, chemicals, paper, coal, metals, and processed foods.

Reduction of water wastage can be achieved by following the example of some industries that recycle their water via recycling and purification in order to reduce water wastage, and most especially costs—water treatment costs.

Another way to reduce water wastage is by depending less on the use of coal-burning and nuclear power plants for the production of electricity.

Coal-burning and nuclear power plants normally use large quantities of water in their cooling systems which have a wide variety of applications in manufacturing and production industries.

A brief summary of some important solutions for water wastage

  • collect and reuse household water for agricultural or other purposes (offices, hotels, etc.)
  • use water-saving shower-heads and toilets
  • recycle water in manufacturing and production industries
  • pass laws to enforce regulations for the conservation of water in cities
  • conduct research and redesign manufacturing and production processes
  • plant crops or trees that require little water for their growth, especially in heavily populated cities
  • use drip irrigation which has the ability to save water and nutrients by making water drip slowly to the roots of plants, crops, or trees
  • fix all leaking taps or leakages
  • use water meters in billing systems.

We can all reduce our water wastage footprint by using water much more sustainably without wasting it. The solution starts with taking adequate steps and acts within our local environments and stretching our acts globally.

Nature has always had a way of controlling human populations

Records about the pre-historic and historic times indicate that through one activity or another, nature has always controlled or regulated the growth human populations by reducing them.

Sometimes it has happened through floods; at other times it has happened through unknown diseases. Heat, earthquakes, tsunamis, and many other activities have also controlled and reduced human populations—maybe nature has its reasons!

A brief history of some natural activities that have pummeled and reduce human populations

In 1845, Ireland experienced a drastic reduction in its population after fungus destroyed potato crops and caused about one million people to die from hunger as a result of diseases related to malnutrition.

Because of this natural act, three million people were migrated to other countries, especially the U.S.A.

During the fourteenth century, at least 25 million people died after the “bubonic plague” spread across densely populated cities of Europe.

Usually, the bacteria that causes this disease lives in rodents; however, it was transferred to human beings by fleas that sucked or fed on rodents and bit human beings thereafter.

The disease was wild, and spread far and wide through crowded cities that were characterized by poor sanitary conditions.

One surprising side of history is that diseases which killed many people in a past age, are easily being cured in the present age: today, several antibiotics that were not available until the present-day, can be used to eradicate “bubonic plague”.

On the other hand, if treatment is not administered, about half the number of any group of people infected with the disease would die within three to seven days.

According to some studies, AIDS killed more than 27 million people died between 1981 and 2008, and still continues to claim about two million lives each year.

No matter the feats that will be achieved, mankind would likely continue to look defenseless against nature’s ways of controlling human populations

It is evident that technological, social, and cultural ideas have assisted mankind in increasing its populations within the space/capacity of the Earth to accommodate humans; on the other hand, nature always has something up its sleeves to reduce human populations.

Although Nature’s plans are hard to decipher, mankind keeps going as if much is known about the future—as if the future is the past: although we remain positive and expect the best, no one knows for sure what nature might bring next!

18 best ways to save the environment much more

In many cases, there is no way we can save the environment without giving up certain standards—even high ones. People tend to think that if we walk more, use smaller cars, recycle plastics/cans, compost certain forms of waste, reuse water, buy energy-efficient appliances…then such actions would cut down, and even interfere with the growth of an economy. People who think this way are greatly mistaken!

In fact, it is easier to save the environment much more than people think we possibly can, and without experiencing detrimental effects. We can conserve natural resources much better, and save the environment much more if we change certain daily habits like the ones related to eating and transportation—amongst others.

15 Reasons Why You Should Study Environmental Science

Generally—in addition to many other ways that can be used to save the environment, and which might not be listed in this article—we can save the environment much more through the following 18 ways:

1. By reducing our rate of/dependence on driving or using vehicles

Even though it’s quite true that we might not be able to walk always and everywhere, it has to be noted that the use of vehicles for everything, continues to produce emissions that compromise our air and health. One of the worst things that usually happens is when people leave vehicles on without using them for the purpose they were designed or manufactured for. It’s dangerous for people to continuously inhale polluted air. We can save the environment much more if people actually walk or take public transit much more than has been the norm.

2. By conserving water much more

Regardless of how much or less water is available in an environment, it can and should be conserved much more than has been the norm in many places. We can save the environment much more if we stop taps from running for too long without using them, especially when we brush and cook. We should try to make more use of spigots or regulators that control the flow of water, and shower-heads that conserve water and energy.

3. By reducing or conserving the amount of paper we use

About 40% of the world’s timber is used for producing paper. Paper production uses a lot of water and endangers natural habitats or environments where organisms or groups of organisms live. Since it has become normal to print and use paper, people don’t usually think about the effects of the excess paper that is being littered indiscriminately in the environment. We can save the environment much more if we lessen paper production and usage by reducing the amount of paper that is being wasted in many world activities.

4. By reusing refillable plastic water bottles/containers much more

Most people use refillable water bottles and containers once, or a few times and throw them away forever without seeing any value in using them again and again for the same purpose, and in a way that can save the environment. It is wasteful to throw away water bottles or containers that can be reused; in addition, waste endangers the environment and affects environmental health. We can save the environment from much more health hazards if we reuse refillable plastic bottles or containers, and plates/utensils, instead of disposable ones.

5. By being more mindful, and carefully scrutinizing what we throw away into trash cans or containers

Before you throw away “waste” collected from the kitchen or any other part of the house or environment, observe whether it contains any items that can be used or recycled. The obvious truth is that there are much more valuable wastes than we are usually aware of. There are lots of plastic bags and wastes that can be reused or repurposed, rather than thrown away.

Plastic bags that are thrown in the open environment can suffocate animals that mistaken them for food. Truth is that there are lots of so-called “useless trash or junk” that are still useful, and can be turned into something fresh and purposeful. We can save the environment much more if we don’t throw away wastes that we honestly believe can be reused in one form/way, or another.

6. By saving much more electricity

We should get adapted to turning off switches whenever we aren’t using light bulbs, laptops, desktops, TVs, and general electrical appliances. In addition, we should lower air conditioning or heating equipment when necessary: whenever we can, we should make our air conditioning or heating systems less hot or less cold, instead of allowing them run unnecessarily on certain temperatures.

We can save the environment much more if we stop the habit of leaving electrical devices plugged in without putting off switches. Leaving switches on can still allow such devices use what is known as “phantom” energy: electrical energy that is drawn in even though devices are in sleep mode after they have been turned off.

7. By preventing wastage of food

Many people draft a plan for the food they would eat in a day, week, or month, without ever taking time to quantify the approximate amount that would be enough for eating without leaving excess and throwing it away as waste into the on-looking and helpless environment.

By buying and using a necessary amount of food, people can save money and the environment, and reduce production of waste. We can save the environment much more if we cook only the quantity of food needed per meal/meal time, so that we won’t cook more than necessary. In addition, we can properly store leftovers and use them as one or more future meals. In other cases where there are unplanned leftovers, we can give them to beggars or people who are homeless.

It is believed that food production is one of the major causes of wildlife extinction. The food we eat contributes to approximately 25% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and is responsible for almost 60% loss of global biodiversity.

8. By living a bit of a vegetarian lifestyle—if we can’t live it completely

Nobody has to give up meat forever; however, it would bring the human body and general environments much benefit if people commit to living a meat-free lifestyle every few days, weeks, or more. It takes about 2,500 gallons of water—which is insufficient in so many societies—to produce only one pound of beef; imagine the quantity of water that would be required to produce the uncountable pounds of beef eaten on Earth every year. We can save the environment much more if we cut down the quantity of meat we produce and eat.

9. By properly disposing hazardous wastes

There are certain kinds of wastes or items that shouldn’t be thrown in open dumps, landfills, and sanitary sewers; examples include pharmaceutical products or by-products, pesticides, paint, fluorescent light bulbs, cleaning products, batteries, etc. It is advisable to dispose such items in a special or more technical way because if the common/popular methods are used to dispose them in the environment, they could deteriorate environmental air, land and water quality to an irreparable extent.

We can save the environment much more if we properly dispose hazardous waste much more than it has been usually disposed in many societies and environments, especially in developing or underdeveloped countries/societies.

10. By using our voices, websites, the internet, or any platform

One of the noblest things to do in life is to speak up for what is right, or speak up for the truth—for reality! Everyone would agree that it is right to speak up for the environment, and let people know how it should be saved or protected. We seem to be the first generation to know fully well that man-made activities are gradually destroying the environment; and we may be the last to do anything meaningful to save it.

We can save the environment much more if we use our voices, websites, platforms or brands to speak up for protection of the natural world which is the home of humans, animals, plants, and every other type of living and non-living thing. So speak up because people are out there and ready to listen, learn, and take action!

11. By downloading/installing softwares, instead of buying discs

Downloading many types of software—rather than buying them—reduces the amount of paper and materials used for packaging, and consequently reduces transportation/air pollution and waste of time and other forms of energy. In addition, it is often cheaper to download softwares than to buy discs that are used to install softwares. We can save the environment much more if we install more softwares by downloading them from the internet, rather than using them from paper-enveloped discs.

12. By using the internet to make more payments and receive more statements for household bills

Once there is good internet connection, making payments, and receiving statements online is quick and convenient, and can also make a huge difference on the depreciating state of the environment because it can cut down reliance and dependence on paper.

It was once reported that if every household in the U.S. received electronic statements for household bills, instead of offline paper statements, about 18.5 million trees could be saved; and the unnecessary production of 2.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases could be prevented. We can save the environment much more if we make more payments and receive more statements online, rather than buy discs offline; in addition, we can use e-mails to send more correspondences, rather than paper.

13. By using rechargeable batteries much more

Science has informed us about the extent of damage that corrosive acid (from discarded batteries) can create in/on soil, especially when it ends up in landfills. Apart from the fact that using rechargeable batteries can protect the environment much more, it can also save money on the long run. We can save the environment if we make use of rechargeable batteries much more than batteries that can’t be recharged more often!

14. By minimizing the amount of pesticides and fertilizers needed or required

Many farmers and food producers rely heavily on pesticides and fertilizers to kill pests, protect their growing crops, and help them grow as much as possible. On the other hand, the use of pesticides and fertilizers is often unregulated, unchecked, and thus causes more harm to the environment. We can save the environment much more if we use pesticides and fertilizers in a much more precise and regulated manner.

15. By reporting smoking vehicles to local air agencies

Air pollution is one of the most common and destructive forms of pollution, both to the environment and living things in general. Although it is true that smoking vehicles are the sources of income in countries with low standards of living, it is advisable to put smoking vehicles away because people’s health and lives are far much more important than vehicles that pollute the air and deteriorate environmental air quality. We can save the environment much more if we report vehicles that emit too much smoke than usual.

16. By painting with brushes and rollers, rather than using spray paints

Anybody who compares the mechanism behind spray paint, and painting with brushes or rollers, will come to a quick conclusion that spray paint emits higher quantities of chemicals into the environment than brushes and rollers do. We can save the environment much more if we minimize the rate and quantity of harmful chemicals emitted into the environment; in this regard, brushes and rollers should be used much more often than spray paint.

17. By regularly inspecting, servicing and emptying septic tanks

One of the most disturbing causes of land and water pollution is failed septic tanks/septic tank systems, especially in underdeveloped or developing nations. Septic tank systems run unchecked by both owners, and the government agencies in charge of environmental protection. We can save the environment much more if we regularly inspect, service and empty septic tanks at appropriate times.

18. By inspecting and regulating the amount and quality of noise circulating in the environment

Noise or sound pollution is the propagation of poor quality and harmful noise that has a negative impact on human and animal health. Most of the world’s noise is caused mainly by machines, transportation, and poor urban planning—especially side-by-side placement of industries together with residential buildings; this results in noise pollution and emotional imbalance within residential areas.

High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects in humans, and increased incidences of coronary artery disease. In fact studies are showing that the rate and quality of noise has had negative effects on a range of animals in various habitats—generally, noise can directly impact the health of humans and animals. We can save the environment much more if we regulate noise-producing activities and put industries at an appreciable distance away from residential areas and various types of marine (water), land, and air environments.

27 latest environmental job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on upcoming opportunities

This article contains information linking to 27 latest environmental jobs, and a link to a site that regularly updates its information on hundreds of environmental job opportunities that cut across environmental advocacy, internships, law & policy, natural resources/conservation, and protection. Many people are happy to earn a living by preserving or saving the environment. And like it happens in many other fields, there are many environmental jobs opportunities up for grabs today and in the future.

Although environmental jobs spring up every now and then, you can still apply for hundreds of upcoming or newer ones later. Please note that the job adverts which can be accessed via the links listed below could disappear after some time, especially if a good number of people apply quickly.

However, even though job adverts and opportunities could disappear at any time, you may still make regular checks for hundreds of new or upcoming environmental job opportunities on a site that can be accessed via the information on the pages that will open if you click the following links:

(1) 7 latest environmental advocacy job opportunities

(2) 8 latest international environmental job opportunities

(3) 7 latest environmental law, policy & regulation job opportunities

(4) 5 latest environmental natural resources & conservation job opportunities

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5 latest environmental natural resources & conservation job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on new or upcoming opportunities

Although environmental natural resources & conservation job opportunities are often advertised, you can still apply for upcoming ones in the future. However, if you are interested in applying for environmental natural resources & conservation opportunities today and now, then quickly view and apply for the job opportunities listed much further below because the adverts could disappear after some time.

You can frequently check sites that regularly publish and update information on all types of environmental job opportunities. If you are interested in viewing regular updates for new or upcoming environmental natural resources & conservation opportunities, click here. More importantly, for updates on hundreds of different types of environmental jobs, click here and bookmark the web page that opens.

27 latest environmental job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on upcoming opportunities

15 Reasons Why You Should Study Environmental Science

The latest available environmental natural resources & conservation job opportunities are as follows:

(i) Job Title: Stewardship Director

Description

  • Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) is seeking for an interested individual who is qualified to become part of its mission to protect the natural, recreational, scenic, agricultural and historic resources of the Royal River region for current and future generations.

Requirements

  • In order to find out more about the job position, interested candidates should click here and download relevant information.

Application

  • For more details, click here. In order to apply for the job position, click here and download the application form/instructions.

(ii) Job Title: Senior Associate, Conserving Marine Life in the U.S.

Description

  • The Pew Charitable Trusts is seeking for interested individuals who can develop and implement outreach and campaign strategies to support the conservation of marine life in the United States, specifically along the Atlantic coast with a focus in North Carolina and other south Atlantic states. The individual should be capable of building strong relationships with regional and state policy-makers, including engaging policy-makers and their staff directly, etc.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree (Advanced degree required) or equivalent expertise in public policy/marine conservation issues.
  • Interested candidates should at least four years of applicable experience in natural resources conservation, advocacy campaigns, or public policy work.
  • Etc.

Application

(iii) Job Title: Director of Conservation

Description

  • Catalina Island Conservancy is seeking for interested individuals to fill the position of Director and help to improve and maintain the biodiversity and ecological health of Santa Catalina Island by using an adaptive management approach that comprises of all aspects of wildlife, vegetation, rare species, habitat management, small- and large-scale restoration projects, wildlife and plant community monitoring, etc.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should view the job requirements here.

Application

  • For more details, click here. In order to apply for the job position, interested candidates should send their cover letters and resumes to jobs@catalinaconservancy.org, and indicate the position they are applying for in the subject line.

(iv) Job Title: Database and Development Coordinator

Description

  • The Natural Resources Council of Maine is seeking for qualified individuals who can fill the position of full-time Database and Development Coordinator and manage its online and offline databases, and also generate and maintain data and reports—amongst other duties.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should visit here for more details regarding the requirements.

Application

  • For more details, click here. Interested candidates should submit their cover letters and resumes to jobs@nrcm.org by October 14, 2014.

(v) Job Title: Oak Openings Restoration Manager

Description

  • The Nature Conservancy is seeking for interested and qualified individuals who can fill the position of Restoration Manager, and develop, manage, and advance conservation programs, plans, maintenance, management, development and coordination across the 1,300 square mile Oak Openings region of NW Ohio and SE Michigan.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree and 3 years experience in natural resource management or a similar field, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Interested candidates should have experience managing staff or volunteers, and be able to work closely with partners such as the media, government officials, internal scientists.
  • Etc.

Application

  • For more details, click here. Interested individuals should apply for this job position, by clicking here and the “How to Apply” button.

Note

Generally, if you are interested in getting regular updates on new or upcoming environmental natural resources & conservation job opportunities, click here; for information on general environmental jobs, click here and bookmark the web page that opens.

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7 latest environmental law, policy & regulation job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on new or upcoming opportunities

Although environmental law, policy & regulation job opportunities are often advertised, you can still apply for upcoming ones in the future. However, if you are interested in applying for environmental law, policy & regulation opportunities today and now, then quickly view and apply for the job opportunities listed much further below because the adverts could disappear after some time.

You can frequently check sites that regularly publish and update information on all types of environmental job opportunities. If you are interested in viewing regular updates for new or upcoming environmental law, policy & regulation opportunities, click here. More importantly, for updates hundreds of different types of environmental jobs, click here and bookmark the web page that opens.

27 latest environmental job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on upcoming opportunities

15 Reasons Why You Should Study Environmental Science

The latest available environmental law, policy & regulation job opportunities are as follows:

(i) Job Title: Senior Air Consultant

Description

  • RPS North America is seeking for individuals who can prepare permit applications, letters, and memoranda for client, local, state, and/or federal agency review; assist clients with permitting strategy and developing pathways to compliance; build and maintain client relationships through professional interactions and active networking; and mentor junior staff to ensure the quality and technical accuracy of work—amongst other duties.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a B.S./M.S. degree in Engineering or Environmental Sciences.
  • Interested candidates should be proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel, have strong written and oral communication skills, and be able to demonstrate understanding of EPA/TCEQ air regulations and practices.
  • Etc.

Application

(ii) Job Title: Oceans Policy Manager

Description

  • Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is seeking for individuals who are passionate about creating environmental solutions that can make a lasting difference in the world, regardless of perspective and talent. EDF intends to hire candidates who have integrity and a desire to uphold commitment to science, rigorous analysis, intellectual honesty, and ethical action.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a graduate degree or equivalent work experience in science, policy, economics or law in areas related to environment and/or energy.
  • Interested candidates should have a minimum of six years’ experience working to effect changes in policy issues or regulatory processes.
  • Etc.

Application

(iii) Job Title: Deputy Director

Description

  • The Pipeline Safety Trust is seeking for a talented individual who will fill the position of Deputy Director and work collaboratively with the current Executive Director for a period of at least 6 months, before filling the position of Executive Director.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree in an appropriate field, be committed to improving pipeline safety, and be willing to travel throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Interested candidates should have the ability to communicate technical information to diverse audiences, and, at times, build networks across oppositional constituencies.

Application

  • For more details, click here. In order to apply for the job position, interested individuals are expected to submit their resumes and cover letters of modest length describing their current understanding of pipeline safety in the United States, and why they think safety needs to be improved. In addition, email applications should be sent to jobs@pstrust.org. In order to apply for the job position, click here.

(iv) Job Title: Environmental Coordinator

Description

  • Kiewit is seeking for qualified individuals to fill the role of Environmental Coordinator and coordinate, manage and implement project-wide environmental compliance programs and strategies with an understanding of state and local regulations—amongst other duties.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree in environmental health, environmental engineering, environmental studies, or other related fields, and three years’ experience as an environmental coordinator.
  • Interested candidates should be familiar with ASTM E 1527-05, as well as one or more of the following: FERC, SWPPP, SPCC, CWA, CAA, RCRA, CZMA.

Application

(v) Job Title: Bureau Chief of Law Enforcement

Description

  • The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is seeking for an individual who can fill the position of Chief (Colonel) of the Department’s Law Enforcement Bureau and oversee operations aimed at protecting the State’s natural resources and providing public safety and education in order to enhance, promote, and protect the natural resources of Iowa through public relations, education, and law enforcement.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have graduated from an accredited four-year college or university and possess up to six years’ experience in full-time management-level work in finance, human resources, engineering, law, social work, regulation, data processing, or program research or evaluation.
  • Etc.

Application

(vi) Job Title: Environmental Field Technician/Asbestos Inspector

Description

  • Woodard & Curran is seeking for a highly motivated, experienced and dedicated environmental technician to join its Environmental Remediation consulting team in the Greater Boston Area and support a variety of environmental investigation and remediation projects.
  • Etc.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree in environmental science or related field, and a strong background in remedial systems, site investigation, safety, and construction related to environmental clean-up projects.
  • Interested candidates should have 3+ years’ experience in environmental sampling and monitoring for site investigation and remediation projects, and an understanding of basic environmental sampling requirements and procedures for a variety of environmental media, including but not limited to groundwater, surface water, soil, and sediment.
  • Etc.

Application

(vii) Job Title: Environmental Planning Department Director

Description

  • HNTB is seeking for an interested individual who can fill the position of Environmental Planning Director and continue with an established and successful practice of managing complex projects, and supervising/mentoring a large interdisciplinary department.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s Degree in a relevant science, planning or engineering discipline, and 15 years of relevant experience in extensive business development and project management with various governmental agencies (cities, counties, authorities, MPOs, DOT, etc.).
  • Interested candidates should have 15 years relevant experience in business development and hands-on management of complex and multifaceted projects that followed the NEPA, SEQRA, CEQR and ulRUP process for various agencies.

Application

Note

Generally, if you are interested in getting regular updates on new or upcoming environmental law, policy & regulation job opportunities, click here; for information on general environmental jobs, click here and bookmark the web page that opens.

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8 latest international environmental job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on new or upcoming opportunities

Although international environmental jobs spring up every time, you can still apply for upcoming ones in the future; but if you are interested in applying for international environmental jobs today and now, then hurry up and apply for the job opportunities listed much further below because the adverts could disappear after the position is filled, or applications are over.

You can frequently check sites that regularly publish and update information on all types of environmental job opportunities. If you are interested in viewing regular updates for new or upcoming international environmental jobs, click here. More importantly, for hundreds of updates on different types of environmental jobs, click here and bookmark the web page that opens.

27 latest environmental job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on upcoming opportunities

15 Reasons Why You Should Study Environmental Science

The latest available international environmental job opportunities are as follows:

(i) Job Title: Conservation Programme Manager

Description

  • Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust (CWET) is an award-winning conservation education non-governmental organization (NGO) that operates in Mfuwe (Zambia) and educates local children about wildlife, the environment, and conservation. CWET is seeking for a full-time Conservation Programme Manager (CPM) to oversee all its financial and administrative operations, and programs.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should be happy, self-motivated, capable of working largely without being supervised, and have a strong proficiency in both written and spoken English.
  • Interested candidates should have a degree in business studies (or similar/related); relevant post-graduate qualifications would be a clear advantage.

Application

  • Interested candidates MUST address the “Job Description and Person Specification” which is available on request from posvac@chipembele.org. For more details, click here. Note that the position will become available on or as soon as possible after 1st November 2019.

(ii) Job Title: Field Environmental Engineer/Scientist

Description

  • Golder is seeking for an individual to fill in the position of Field Environmental Engineer/Scientist in their Contaminated Sites team on a full-time basis. The position, which will be based in Perth, Australia, will require working with driven professionals across multi-discipline groups.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree or higher in Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering, or a related discipline.
  • Interested candidates should have 3+ years of experience working on contaminated sites, with strong analytical, technical reporting, and problem-solving skills.

Application

  • For more details, click here. Interested candidates can apply by clicking here.

(iii) Job Title: Climate Programme Lawyer

Description

  • ClientEarth (a regional non-profit conservation organization) is seeking for an accomplished individual who can fill the position of Climate Programme Lawyer based in any European office of ClientEarth in London, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, or Warsaw. The individual will be involved in occasional travel. (Note that other European locations are potentially available.)

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have experience in a relevant corporate or financial services environment; specifically with litigation or disputes practice (private, or in-house).
  • Interested candidates should have some experience working in a fast-paced environment with corporate and financial sector actors in the EU, US, or Asia.

Application

  • For more details, click here. Interested candidates can come from any section of the community if they have the legal right to work in the country where the position is based. Download the full job description and person specification here.

(iv) Job Title: Project Manager (public engagement, Dutch gas phase-out)

Description

  • The European Climate Foundation (ECF) is seeking for an individual who will lead in the advocacy and policy work of its project, support citizens gas phase-out, and engage with partners in the Netherlands and abroad; in addition, the individual will manage and monitor budget and deliverables conducted by a set of grantees and external consultancies.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates must have at least 5 years of relevant work experience.
  • Interested candidates should have knowledge of Dutch energy policies, and understand spoken and written forms of both Dutch and English languages.

Application

Interested candidates should read more details here, and apply via this link.

(v) Job Title: Head of the Environmental Department

Description

  • Enel Green Power is seeking for an individual who will occupy the position of Head of Environmental Department and coordinate activities associated with the environment by defining, implementing, and developing environmental procedures and policies according to ISO 14001 standards, and those of the group. In addition, the individual will evaluate contractors in environmental matters, and monitor and control the group’s environmental objectives.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental, Industrial or related any field of study.
  • Interested candidates should have at least 5 years’ experience supervising or being in charge of environmental areas at a national level.
  • Interested candidates should have knowledge of Mexican Environmental Legislation, ISO 14001, and International Environmental Standards (Ecuador Protocol, ESG, etc.).

Application

(vi) Job Title: Director, Clean Energy (B.C.)

Description

  • The Pembina Institute is seeking for a highly motivated individual to join its team as Director, Clean Economy (B.C.), and head the development of the strategic direction for the clean economy program in B.C. with the aim of effecting policy change that could result in thriving more on clean energy, and reducing carbon pollution in the province.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should be strategic thinkers who can bring fresh ideas on how to create change.
  • Interested candidates should have strong backgrounds in climate policy, and a record of influencing policy change.

Application

  • For more details, click here. Find the full job description and information on how to apply here.

(vii) Job Title: Project Research Officer

Description

  • TRAFFIC International (a leading non-governmental organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants conservation/sustainable development) is seeking for an individual who can provide necessary support to the project, and liaise closely with the TRAFFIC Project Manager and other key stakeholders based in Thailand, as well as other TRAFFIC team members in Asia.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have at least a Bachelor’s degree in either natural resource management, environment or sustainable development-related studies, social sciences, and/or related fields.
  • Interested candidates should have at least 5 years of professional experience in conducting research (ideally including wildlife trade), and strong research methodology skills, project delivery, planning and time management, etc.

Application

  • For more details, click here. In order to apply for the job position, click here.

(viii) Job Title: Director, Public Relations and Corporate Communications

Description

  • African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is seeking for an individual who can develop and implement a public relations strategy that can build AWF’s brand visibility and reputation; manage, mentor, and grow a team of professional and dedicated communications experts; identify challenges and emerging issues faced by the organization, and exercise judgment on how to prioritize media opportunities, etc.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Master’s degree in either of communications, journalism, public policy, international development, international relations, or any other relevant field.
  • Interested candidates should have a minimum of 10 years experience in strategic communications/public relations, and a minimum of 5 years experience in senior management.
  • Interested candidates should have outstanding verbal communication skills including experience in making presentations and working with the media at events.
  • Etc.

Application

  • For more details, click here. In order to apply for the job, click the “Apply for this position” located at the bottom of the page that can be accessed here.

Note

Generally, if you are interested in getting regular updates on new or upcoming international environmental job opportunities, click here; regarding information for general environmental jobs, click here and bookmark the web pages that open.

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7 latest environmental advocacy job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on new or upcoming opportunities

Although environmental advocacy jobs spring up every now and then, you can still apply for newer or upcoming ones in the future. However, if you are interested in applying for environmental advocacy jobs now, then quickly view and apply for the job opportunities listed below because the adverts could disappear after some time, especially if people apply quickly.

In addition, it will be a good idea to frequently check sites that regularly publish and update information on all types of environmental job opportunities. If you are interested in viewing regular updates on new or upcoming environmental advocacy jobs, click here. More importantly, for updates on hundreds of different types of environmental jobs, click here and bookmark the web page that opens.

27 latest environmental job opportunities—with links to continuous updates on upcoming opportunities

15 Reasons Why You Should Study Environmental Science

The latest available environmental advocacy job opportunities are as follows:

(i) Job Title: Communications Director

Description

  • Highstead is a regional non-profit conservation organization that is seeking for an accomplished change-agent who can create a communications program that is capable of propelling its land conservation, science, and stewardship programs, and inspiring people to advance the Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative strategies for conserving New England’s forests and farmlands, and support nature and society.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have extensive communications background, a strong conservation ethic, and experience in advancing non-profit, environmental policy, conservation, and/or land planning initiatives.
  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree (Master’s preferred) in a communications-related or environmental field, with excellent writing, editing, and verbal communication skills, and be willing to travel regionally on occasion in support of outreach and events.

Application

  • Interested candidates should submit their cover letters and resumes to jcologgi@highstead.net as a single PDF file, and reference “Communications Director”. Note that applications will be accepted until September 23, 2019. For more details, click here.

(ii) Job Title: Fundraising and Administrative Position

Description

  • Mount Grace is seeking for an individual who can provide administrative support, assist in major fundraising campaigns and general office needs, and work closely with, and report to, the Executive Director and Deputy Director, respectively. No previous fundraising experience is necessary. Note that Mount Grace is a proud equal opportunity employer and strives to be an inclusive and diverse organization.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have excellent communication skills.
  • Interested candidates should be enthusiastic, positive, and have a responsive approach when interacting with colleagues and community members.
  • Interested candidates should have a creative mind with the ability to suggest improvements, set priorities, and meet deadlines.

Application

  • Interested candidates should send their letters of interest and resumes to Sarah Wells at wells@mountgrace.org, and mention how they learned about this job opening. For more details, click here; in order to view other available full-time positions, click here.

(iii) Job Title: Outreach Coordinator

Description

  • Conservation Northwest is a regional non-profit organization that is seeking for a temporary Outreach Coordinator in order to increase understanding of wildlife and habitat conservation, organize grassroots and community advocacy, and participate in wildlife forums, particularly those related to carnivore recovery.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have at least three years experience in wildlife biology, ecology, or related fields, and excellent written/oral communications skills, and be able to work with people from the political and social spectrum.
  • Interested candidates should have some knowledge about north-central Washington’s communities, landscapes, and wildlife.
  • Interested candidates should have skills and experience, as well as enthusiasm for wildlife conservation.

Application

  • Interested candidates should submit resumes and one-page cover letters to Joe Scott, International Programs Director at jscott@conservationnw.org. Note that this job position will be opened until it is occupied. For more details, click here.

(iv) Job Title: Institutional Partnerships Coordinator

Description

  • American Farmland Trust (AFT) is seeking for an individual to fill the position of Coordinator, Institutional Partnerships, and regularly report to the Director of Institutional Partnerships in Washington, DC, at AFT’s national office.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, and at least two years of experience.
  • Interested candidates should be highly organized, creative, attentive to detail, and have a strong ability to prioritize and manage multiple deadlines.
  • Interested candidates should have excellent oral, written, interpersonal, and communication skills and experience in copyediting.
  • Interested candidates should have knowledge of project budgets and be able to review/proof budget information.

Application

(v) Job Title: Executive Director

Description

  • The Madison River Foundation is seeking for an individual to fill in the position of Executive Director and lead the Madison River Foundation in a strategic direction by identifying and implementing short- and long-term strategic goals, and be accountable to the Board of Directors of Madison River Foundation.

 Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have 3-5+ years of experience in non-profit, and advocacy for local, state, and federal issues.
  • Interested candidates should have 5+ years of experience in broad fundraising, and grant writing.
  • Interested candidates should have 5+ years of experience in hiring and managing staff, and creating a positive work environment.
  • Interested candidates should have 3+ years of experience in managing and operating budgets, and relating with organization boards.

Application

(vi) Job Title: Communications Director

Description

  • Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council is seeking for a Communications Director who will develop its annual communication plan, implement communication strategies to promote the mission of the organization, and be responsible for directing media relations, websites, publications, events, social media, and member/community outreach.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree and three years of communications experience.
  • Interested candidates should be able to demonstrate strong organizational, interpersonal, public speaking, and writing skills.
  • Interested candidates should be able to work independently, take initiative, manage multiple projects simultaneously, and have a desire and interest in working to protect Northern Michigan’s water resources.

Application

  • Interested candidates should send resumes and cover letters to Gail Gruenwald, Executive Director, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, 426 Bay St., Petoskey, MI 49770. Note that applications have to be submitted before October 10, 2019. The start date for the job will be in November or December 2019. For more details, click here.

(vii) Job Title: South Coast Project Manager

Description

  • The Coastal Conservation League is searching for a full-time South Coast Project Manager who is experienced, reliable, task-oriented, and will work on coastal issues involving land use and transportation, planning, public health, sustainable agriculture, energy and climate, and air and water quality. The position of project manager requires organizing extensive grassroots, building relationships, communicating in public, and analyzing policies.

Requirements

  • Interested candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, and 3+ years experience in the environmental field, or in the field of communications, or media relations.
  • Interested candidates should be able to initiate, support, and lead grassroots organization efforts.
  • Interested candidates should be able to speak publicly on a regular basis, and write for internal and external audiences.
  • Interested candidates should be able to work with the media, educate the community, and plan/identify new projects and strategies.

Application

  • Interested candidates should send emails of cover letters and resumes to jobs@scccl.org, or a regular mail to Coastal Conservation League, Human Resources, 131 Spring Street, Suite A, Charleston, SC 29403. For more details, click here.

Note

Generally, if you are interested in getting regular updates on new or upcoming environmental advocacy job opportunities, click here; regarding information for general environmental jobs, click here and bookmark the web pages that open.

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Application of Google Earth in remote sensing for environmental research

In order to get information in the distant past, the physical presence of human beings was required much more than it has been in the present age. Why? Because of the obvious lack of advanced technology back in the times of the distant past.

Nowadays, physical presence, and the rigors associated with providing it is not always required in any quest to acquire information; thanks to remote sensing technologies such as satellites and Google Earth which are very important tools in the present age when information seems to be much more important, and vaster than at any other time in recorded history.

Satellites and Google Earth are now at the forefront, and will likely continue to be there; they will continue to be used in detecting and acquiring information from remote places.

Remote sensing devices

Remote sensing devices are instruments that sense and acquire information about environments from remote positions that don’t necessarily require the physical presence of humans.

The use of satellites and Google Earth as remote sensing tools/devices is now very popular because of their wide range of applications which have been employed by people who know how to use them in monitoring different types of environments.

In the recent past, probably 10 or more years ago, Google Earth software has helped an uncountable number of people fly virtually over anywhere on Earth, and view brilliant high-resolution images and maps of specific areas.

Any interested individual who has Google Earth software and an internet connection, can zoom the screen of their devices (e.g., laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) and see multi-dimensional views of cities, buildings, vegetation, oceans, and other important features on the surface of the Earth.

What is Google Earth?          

Google Earth is a computer program that can help anybody view the Earth’s surface from remote positions and different altitudes.

Present-day satellites have highly advanced cameras with microwave sensors that pass through clouds, and infrared sensors that measure temperatures at different heights above the Earth’s surface—and in different locations around the world.

Application of satellites & Google Earth in monitoring environmental issues

Environmental groups and scientists use satellite and Google Earth technologies to acquire information useful to people in Amazonia (areas in the Amazon Jungle); acquired information helps in making good decisions that could help protect land much better from activities such as illegal mining and felling of trees.

Remote sensing tools (satellites and Google Earth) have other applications in environmental protection: they can be used to monitor oil spills, illegal fishing, air pollution from various sources, melting of sea ice, and variations in the concentration of ozone around specific parts of the world.

Many scientists, people, and even governments use Google Earth for various purposes such as studying the negative impact of urbanization on the environment, and the growth of plant species and diseases that affect people—amongst other purposes.

Google Earth was used to discover a forest that was unknown to the world before

In 2008, British scientists used the technology behind Google Earth to find a remote mountain forest that was unknown to the world, but always located in Mozambique, Africa.

The scientists who later visited this remote area, which is difficult to access, discovered hundreds of new insects (which included 3 new butterfly species), plants, and animals that were unknown to the world before.

Mark Mulligan (London’s King’s College) who is an expert in using remote sensing, used satellite technology to help people get a close look at all the Earth’s seventy-seven thousand protected areas.

David Tryse, an ordinary citizen, developed a computer program/software that enables anyone to surf the world virtually, track where deforestation is occurring, and see/study endangered species and biodiversity.

Conclusion

Google Earth and satellites can help ordinary citizens around the world in their quest to carry out environmental investigations/inquiries, improve environmental quality, and prevent environmental degradation in places where people live.

Thanks to science and the handful of individuals who have made it possible for any interested person to hover around the Earth virtually, zoom for themself and see how certain types of natural capital are being used or misused.

The positive environmental impact of the world’s invisible organisms

Usually, people only appreciate what they see; often, they don’t appreciate what they can’t see. Many processes in nature are carried out by invisible organisms (specifically micro-organisms) that are too tiny for the unaided human eyes to see; probably, the chief among these processes includes nurturing of plants, and continuous provision of food.

Micro-organisms are everywhere! Billions of them can be found in the human body, on the human body, in any quantity of soil or water. So important are micro-organisms that one could be tempted to view them as “minute” or “tiny” rulers of the universe. They exist in different forms and thousands of species: fungi, bacteria, phytoplankton, protozoa—and many others that are too small to be viewed directly with physical eyes.

The importance of micro-organisms is often overlooked

Because people concentrate more on negativity or the negative side of things, micro-organisms are mostly viewed as threats (which is quite true), and infectious to human and animal health in various forms: “germs” or bacteria, fungi that cause skin diseases/athlete’s foot, and protozoa that cause malaria, etc.

But compared to the vast number of micro-organisms that have helped human, animal and plant life to be sustained for ages, harmful micro-organisms are much lesser.

The growth and continuous existence of human and animal life are as a result of the work of multitudes of micro-organisms which are completely out of the range of normal human sight.

The valuable activities of micro-organisms

Many processes in nature won’t be able to work without the valuable and invisible activities of micro-organisms. Science informs us that the presence of micro-organisms in human nostrils helps prevent harmful bacteria from reaching the lungs, while bacteria helps the human intestinal tract to break down eaten food.

Bacteria and other micro-organisms help reduce the concentration of pollutants in wastewater by breaking down animal and plant wastes that are usually present in wastewater, and other less-polluted waters.

Fungi (for example: yeast) and bacteria help to produce foods such as yogurt, bread, soy sauce, cheese, wine and beer.

The fungi and bacteria present in the soil help to break down, biodegrade, or decompose organic wastes into similar nutrients usually absorbed by the plants that humans and animals eat.

So it can be safely agreed that without these invisible creatures, humans and animals would go hungry and produce much more unuseful waste.

Micro-organisms (a.k.a. microbes), particularly phytoplankton, provide much of the Earth’s oxygen, and help to regulate temperature by removing part of the carbon dioxide produced from the combustion of coal, natural gas, and gasoline.

Scientists use micro-organisms to develop new fuels and medicines.

Genetic engineers input genetic material into microorganisms and convert them into micro-organisms that can remove contaminants and pollutants from soil and water environments.

Some micro-organisms help to control diseases that affect plants; others help to control insects that attack food crops. It would benefit the environment immensely if micro-organisms are relied upon much more in pest control, rather than potentially harmful chemical pesticides.

In summary, micro-organisms are an important part of the Earth’s natural resources.

How to Develop Models for Natural & Environmental Systems

One of the best ways to develop appropriate models, computer programs, or simulations that can predict the behavior of similar, simple, or complex real-life natural or environmental systems, is by studying several existing real-life natural or environmental systems.

An extensive study of past or existing real-life conditions and scenarios can provide relevant information that could be used in making a computer program or model.

What is a model?

A model can be defined as a product that represents a hypothetical description of processes, circumstances, or situations.

With useful data/information and important technology, models can be produced and used to understand how various types of natural or environmental systems could behave or work.

Information (data) and technology are absolutely necessary for creating models

Usually, a combination of available (raw) data and technology is useful in producing mathematical models or simulations from dependent or independent variables; the final product helps to understand, learn, or predict how other difficult, accessible or inaccessible natural/environmental systems work.

Some of the most applicable and powerful technologies consist of mathematical models that are operated on high-speed computers.

Important steps in developing a model

Anyone who desires to produce an effective or highly applicable model has to repeat some particular steps, probably many times over:

  • First, the major components of any natural or environmental system have to be identified and expressed in the form of mathematical equations—which actually summarize major information. (It has to be noted that, in most cases, natural and environmental systems have a couple of components associated with them.)
  • Second, high-speed computers have to be used to describe the probable behavior of a system, which is based on circumstances and equations fed into a model. Typically, circumstances and equations are based on past or existing studies.
  • Third, a comparison has to be made between a system’s projected or predicted behavior (which is hypothetical and drawn from studies of existing case scenarios), and actual case scenarios or behaviors.

The 3 steps briefly highlighted above, have to be repeated until a trend/pattern is observed. By observing and studying trends, relevant information and equations can be generated and used to produce models that would mimic past and current behaviors of natural/environmental systems.

Successful models can be used to make useful predictions

After developing a successful mathematical model for any natural or environmental system, it can be used to predict what would likely happen under different types of conditions or circumstances.

In fact, models can actually provide precise, or useful answers; like what could/would likely happen tomorrow or in the near (distant) future. Models give a number of projections or predictions of likely occurrences, which are based on different suppositions or assumptions.

How can a model be applied?—An example

Based on the 3 steps briefly stated, a model can be produced and used to describe, for example, a river, and predict what would likely happen to its water quality and other variables if the river is continuously being polluted with varying quantities of solid waste.

Other areas where models can be applied include, pollution of oceans, deforestation, air pollution, climate change, loss of biodiversity, etc.

The reality of global warming: scary facts, and possible future consequences

It’s very likely that most people would feel uncomfortable if too much heat-emitting activities (such as cooking, use of electrical appliances, etc.) occur in their houses; in addition, most people would feel “very very” uncomfortable if there are no escape routes for heat generated from too many activities that produce heat, and make their houses difficult to stay in.

If the statements in the previous paragraph are true, then imagine how much more uncomfortable all living things on Earth would feel as a result of negative impacts man-made (artificial) activities on the environment—especially when generated heat is trapped within Earth’s atmosphere.

Man-made activities, such as breeding/raising livestock, and burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil to power industries, vehicles, and appliances in homes) usually release high quantities of carbon dioxide, methane, etc., into the atmosphere.

These gases, along with nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), amongst others, are greenhouse gases, and contribute to “the greenhouse effect”.

The higher the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, the more heat will be trapped within the Earth’s environment.

High quantities of trapped heat cause global temperatures to rise—“global warming”.

Extra details about the causes of global warming

Although details of global warming are well known, some important points will be stated for the benefit of those who might not know a thing or two about it.

Naturally, certain gases like carbon dioxide and methane (known as greenhouse gases—GHGs) help the Earth to trap the sun’s heat (cosmic rays) in the atmosphere, from where plants absorb it, use it to grow to maturity, and provide all types of food that empower all other living things.

Also, naturally, greenhouse gases warm the Earth’s surface to an extent that is enough to sustain all forms of life. Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of the Earth would be around zero degrees (0º) Fahrenheit, instead of today’s temperature which is around 58º Fahrenheit.

(Note that a temperature of 0º Fahrenheit would not be sufficient enough to empower many important natural processes that keep most forms of life alive.)

Man-made activities, especially the burning of fossil fuel and coal, produce methane, other greenhouse gases, and carbon cycles that emit carbon dioxide which is absorbed every year by oceans, seas, plants, lands, etc.

Greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect and negatively impact global climate by warming.

97% of scientists believe that man-made activities are the major cause of global warming

Mankind has to be concerned about global warming, especially when multiple reviews of scientific literature have pointed to the fact that about 97% of scientists/climate specialists believe that man-made activities are the major cause of the high level of global warming which the world has been experiencing in recent times.

Also, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists have concluded with 90% confidence that global warming is increasing beyond the natural level because of increasing heat-emitting man-made activities which produce lots of carbon dioxide through burning of natural non-renewable resources like fossil fuel oil, and coal.

In an Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are unprecedented in the last 800,000 years”.

It is now an indisputable fact that the earth is heating up. In fact, within the last century, the Earth’s temperature is believed to have risen by 1.3° Fahrenheit, and temperatures are still rising.

With global warming on the rise, in about 10, 20, or more years from today, mankind will likely feel a greater negative impact of man-made burning and heating activities if sensible ways are not discovered and used to halt escalating rates of heating activities.

The negative effect of gases generated from man-made (anthropogenic) activities has been observed in the climate system and is believed to be the major cause of global warming which has been observed since the middle of last century—the 20th century.

Evidence of the negative impacts of global warming

  • The thickness of ice in the regions around the north of the Arctic Circle has decreased by a surprising 50% within the past 50 years. Currently, much of the Arctic ice is just below the freezing point and is floating on water where it is highly sensitive to little rises in temperature that can make it melt completely.
  • Large chunks of ice at the South Pole around the Antarctic Circle, which have been stable for tens of thousands of years, are gradually breaking off. In fact, during the year 2000, a piece of ice with an area of about 4,200 square miles, broke off. Also, in the year 2002, a large piece of ice broke off in the Thwaites Glacier.
  • In 2007, Greenland’s ice shelves decreased in size by 24 square miles. In 2008, it decreased further by 21 square miles.
  • Each time the ocean rises vertically by one foot, it spreads horizontally by about 100 feet and covers more land. Researchers observed that sea levels rose by 8 inches in the past century, and this was due to the expansion of seawater as a result of absorbing more heat.
  • As the Earth’s temperature is rising, tropical diseases are gradually spreading northward; dangerous insects, waterborne diseases, and malaria are spreading northwards.
  • From reliable records of temperatures taken in the past, 1995, 2005, and 2010 ranked among the hottest years ever, while the period between 2000 and 2009 was once considered to be the hottest decade.
  • Recent levels of carbon dioxide emission have been the highest in the past 100,000 years.

Despite all the evidence some people still don’t believe in global warming

It’s surprising that with all the evidence presented to the world by science, quite a number of people still don’t believe the globe is heating or warming up.

It is obvious that such people need to be educated to an extent. The following points could really clear up misunderstandings, or unfounded beliefs:

  • Greenhouse effect causes global warming when the Earth’s atmosphere traps heat radiating from the Earth towards space. Examples of gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect include water (H2O) vapor, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
  • There are 2 types of greenhouse effects that are part of global warming: man-made (anthropogenic) greenhouse effect, and natural greenhouse effect. Man-made greenhouse effect is caused by mankind, while natural greenhouse effect (which is mild) is caused by nature.
  • Natural greenhouse effect is spurred by natural solar and cosmic rays, and is extremely important because it supports all forms of life.
  • The major problem is that the general greenhouse effect (natural + man-made) has been strengthened by man-made activities, and made life-threatening negative impact on the whole environment.
  • Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, clearing of forests, amongst others, have strengthened the general greenhouse effect (natural + man-made), and caused global warming to be higher than it naturally was in the near and distant past; also, recent negative effects of warming are worse than at any other time in recorded history.
  • Man-made activities (especially the incessant and excessive burning of large quantities of fuel) have increased the total quantity of heat and caused overall global warming (natural + man-made) to be higher than the natural level that cosmic rays have been producing for billions of years.
  • The greenhouse effect, which has increased excessively due to increasing man-made activities, is mainly attributed to increasing carbon dioxide emission levels.

One major question usually asked by people who don’t believe in global warming—and an answer

Question: If global warming is real, why is it so cold in some parts of the world?

Answer: Global warming is a gradual and ongoing process that does not prevent cold weather. Global warming can make average cold weathers not to be colder, and average warm weathers to be hotter: when temperatures are rising, it would be unlikely for colder weathers to occur, and likely for hotter weathers to occur.

Another thing is that a study of special local weather patterns could be misleading. Weather specialists have observed that cold winters in the North-eastern part of U.S.A. could be an exception; in which case, there is abnormal warm winter around the same period in the whole of the northern hemisphere.

Over time, scientists expect winters to become shorter as global temperatures continue to rise. Some researchers have observed that colder-than-average winters could be caused by climate change. How? As the climate warms, more water vapor is produced; it enters the atmosphere, intensifies rain and snowstorms, thereby creating colder and snowier environments—winter.

Possible negative impacts of global warming in the future—if man-made heating activities are not curbed

  • According to the United Nations, sea levels could rise by 7 to 23 inches by the year 2100.
  • The polar ice cap may vanish completely and permanently, and alter the Earth’s natural weather by changing the flow of air and ocean currents around the world.
  • If all the ice in Antarctica melts, sea levels would rise by about 180 feet worldwide.
  • If all the ice in Greenland melts, sea levels would rise by about 21 feet worldwide.
  • If ocean and sea levels continue to rise, there will be a gradual change in the orientation of the map of the Earth’s coastlines

Do you think mankind should completely put a halt to man-made activities that have been heating up the Earth and causing drastic negative impacts on the environment? Or, do you think global warming doesn’t exist, and mankind should continue with its current rate of fossil fuel usage and other activities that have been reported to be the cause of global warming? Comments about your opinion will be highly appreciated in the comment section below.

Thank you.

7 Important steps that can be used to study environmental problems—like a scientist

This article contains an outline of seven important steps most inquisitive people and scientists use to acquire a deep understanding of environmental problems, and how the natural environment works.

It has to be noted that, in order to comprehend the physical world, it isn’t necessary to follow the steps below, and in the exact order they appear on this post.

The step-by-step outline listed below is based on the author’s personal experience, and could be a highly valuable procedure for studying the environment, and the things within it:

(1) Acquire correct information about an environmental problem: What is the actual or basic problem? What are the specifics?

What is known about a particular issue? What is the basic information available, even if it might be a bit trivial?

Example: Plastic debris has been polluting a river (of interest), reducing the speed of boats and rates of fishing activities, and killing aquatic life.

(2) Commence investigation by asking a question

It’s always important to ask what the cause of an environmental problem is, or what the causes of a particular issue/situation are; why it developed, or why it persists.

Example: What can be done to reduce or stop pollution, and prevent loss of aquatic life in the river?

(3) Source for more detailed data/information. Search for the type of data that could provide the best answer to questions related to the problem

In order to answer questions (to a high degree of certainty) during investigations about problems, issues have to be observed or watched, and experiments have to be conducted; also, data has to be collected, and/or measurements have to be made.

Example: Who disposes plastic into rivers? How many times do people or companies dispose plastic in rivers? What is the quantity/weight/volume of plastic disposed into rivers?

(4) Suggest a hypothesis to explain the reason behind sourced or collected data

A hypothesis should be suggested after evaluating observations and collected data. Typically, hypotheses explain what has been observed naturally, as expressed by results from experiments.

Collected data could reveal how many times plastic is dumped into rivers; furthermore, it can provide a reason or an answer why it is difficult for aquatic life to survive.

Example: “When plastic is dumped into rivers, it occupies an appreciable amount of space in the body of water, thus making it easy for aquatic life to ingest plastic, and die as a result of ingestion.

(5) If the hypothesis is valid, strong, and logical, then make projections to other environments that could have similar or different data related to the environment of interest 

A hypothesis can be projected to cover other rivers that have similar or different conditions: similar or different rates of dumping waste; similar or different temperatures; similar or different quantities of aquatic life or species; etc.

If the hypothesis is certain or logical, then could it provide reasons for the issues occurring in other rivers that are equally, or more polluted?

Example: It is possible that disposal of plastics into other rivers, is causing pollution, reducing the speed of boats and fishing activities, and loss of aquatic life.

(6) Conduct more observations, do more experiments, take more measurements, or make more assessments in order to strengthen hypothesis and evaluate projections

In order to evaluate projections, observations, tests or measurements should be made on other rivers which will definitely have their own characteristics: temperature, volume of flow, volume of water, suspended solids, etc.

Example: In order to assess how valid, broad, and general a hypothesis is, results of observed data from the river of interest can be compared with results of observed data obtained from research carried out on other rivers.

(7) Accept or reject the previous or earlier-stated hypothesis

If newly observed data does not support an earlier-stated hypothesis, there could be obvious reasons and explanations from experiments, observations, measurements, or tests.

The process of accepting and/or rejecting hypothesis based on observation and study, is what scientists use, consistently, until there is an agreement on the best explanation for problems, and the reason(s) lying behind certain issues.

Well-tested and widely accepted hypotheses become scientific theories.

For example: with the amount of reliable data available, it is widely agreed that dumping of plastics into rivers results in/causes pollution, obstruction of fishing, and loss of aquatic life.

Lesson

Curiosity and critical thinking are important in studying the environment. Critical thinking involves the following:

1. Scepticism: we have to be skeptical about everything we hear or read about—don’t just accept everything without making assessments, no matter how little; make as many assessments as possible.

2. Critical evaluation and validation of available evidence are very important in this age of the Internet in which a lot of highly unreliable data floats around; some data are just opinions of unlearned people.

3. Identification and assessment of public and personal assumptions, beliefs, and feelings regarding certain problems or issues.

Conclusion

Curiosity, skepticism, logic, evidence, and critical thinking are very important tools to use in studying the environment. On the other hand, faith, intuition, imagination, and creativity are also very important.

According to Albert Einstein, “There is no completely logical way to a new scientific idea.”

History supports Einstein’s statement and has shown that different types of logic were used by different creative people to discover most scientific & technological advancements, along with much-improved ways that have helped mankind to understand how the natural world works.

How to Transform an Environmentally Unsustainable Society into an Environmentally Sustainable One

Environmental degradation is no longer a new topic. Many air, water, and land environments in many societies (worldwide) are heavily polluted to such an extent that they’ve become unsustainable and need urgent attention so they can be transformed from unsustainable environments to sustainable environments: the types of environments that are part and parcel of environmentally sustainable societies.

But how can environmentally unsustainable societies move from an unsustainable level to a sustainable one? What important measures must be put in place before such a great challenge can be surmounted—especially when an appreciable amount of time, human and natural resources are needed in transforming society and its environment?

This article will provide very important strategies that could help to transform environmentally unsustainable societies into environmentally sustainable ones.

But first, what is an environmentally sustainable society?

An environmentally sustainable society is one that has enough natural resources that can cater for the needs of its present and future population(s) without threatening the ability of its future generations to meet their own basic needs.

Environmentally sustainable societies conserve, manage and protect their natural resources (or natural capital) properly, and live on the income that their natural resources generate.

Download PDF: 18 Best Ways to Save the Environment Much More

Download PDF: 15 Reasons Why You Should Study Environmental Science

Environmentally sustainable societies know that if they waste, excessively deplete and mismanage their natural resources/capital, they will deteriorate from a sustainable level to an unsustainable one.

Environmentally sustainable societies exploit natural resources (i.e., the Earth’s natural capital or fund which nature provides for all human beings, plants, and animals), and use them to enhance their environments and increase their present and future ability to meet human, animal, and plant needs.

The sustainability of the environment is in the hands of mankind, and it needs to be properly implemented and maintained

On the other hand, environmentally unsustainable societies also exist, and there is growing evidence that some environmentally sustainable societies are showing signs of becoming environmentally unsustainable—i.e., they are living unsustainably and their environments are degrading.

What are some major characteristics of environmentally unsustainable societies?

  • their air is highly polluted with smoke from indigenous industries; it’s at such a degree that people have to turn on vehicle headlights during the day in order to see what is in front of them.
  • their lakes, rivers, seas, oceans, or water bodies are polluted because they contain various types of toxic solid and liquid wastes that have been dumped or discharged by people.
  • their lands are highly polluted with wastes from factories; this has happened to such a degree that people and industries have abandoned certain polluted wastelands. Why? Because they are unproductive and have recorded high rates of unemployment and crime.
  • etc.—many other unsustainable characteristics.

Now, what are the most important steps that can be taken in order to transform an environmentally unsustainable society into an environmentally sustainable one?

(1) Establish, or improve existing social capital: Everybody in each society has to put its hands together in order to solve environmental problems—this needs to start at the grassroots

In order for an environmentally unsustainable society to become environmentally sustainable (or much less environmentally unsustainable) it has to build or improve on what sociologists call “social capital”.

Each society has a social capital—its own citizens.

In order to establish or improve social capital, people from different backgrounds, with opinions and characteristics have to come together, communicate with each other, understand each other, and find a common ground to work together in order to solve existing societal or environmental problems.

In this regard, indigenous local society leaders, learned people, government officials, business leaders, and all citizens have to come together, discuss, work out modalities and look for high- and low-cost options that can be used to transform ailing and highly polluted unsustainable societies into sustainable and livable ones.

The solutions to environmental problems are easier to implement if every person in society—regardless of age or background—is carried along.

Important questions that should be asked during meetings—when establishing or improving social capital:

  • is there pollution in the environment—air, water, and land?
  • is there too much pollution? What is the presumed level of pollution?
  • what are the causes or existing sources of pollution?
  • how can pollution be eradicated from the society or environment?
  • should the sources of pollution be regulated or eradicate, even if it will affect the economy/standard of living, but end up preserving health?
  • etc.—many other important questions.

If citizens of societies do not put heads together, and reason together, it will be difficult to eradicate environmental problems because, naturally, without discussions, enlightenment, and leadership, many people tend to neglect Mother Nature’s call of duty to protect the environment.

(2) Once respective leaders can summon people together and address environmental issues, a timeline should be set—as agreed—in which it is believed that most important goals would be achieved; for example, environmental clean-up, closure of polluting factories, etc.

(Also, there should be a plan, not only for a few meetings but a continuous series of meetings, as agreed by all members of a society or community.)

All citizens, especially leaders and learned people, should be allowed to contribute as much as possible so that environmental problems can be identified precisely and goals/solutions can be proffered after members of society brainstorm all-important solutions, or ideas provided by citizens.

Examples of some important goals that environmentally unsustainable societies could proffer

  • enforce or encourage the reduction of air pollution from industries—from high emission rates to low or even zero-emission rates, if possible.
  • stop or discourage littering/open dumping of solid waste on land, and in water bodies.
  • stop construction of structures, building or factories that encourages increasing discharge of waste into air, water and land environments.
  • launch a recycling program in order to conserve certain resources, and recycle and re-use others that are recyclable and reusable.
  • replace some high carbon-emitting factories and vehicles that use more fossil fuel, with those that use more electricity, and give off low- or zero-emission discharges. Note: replacement could only be a good option if there is sufficient funding to do it.
  • etc.

(3) Implement goals

All stated goals that have been agreed on, should be zealously and vigorously implemented, and effectively monitored from inception to completion.

If goals are properly implemented, then air pollution and environmental degradation levels will gradually become much lower than the minimum levels recommended locally, or internationally.

(4) Exercise patience

It takes time and patience to get things done in today’s world. Government leaders, society leaders, learned people, and citizens have to exercise a lot of patience because transforming an environmentally unsustainable society into a sustainable one would involve a lot of human resources, natural resources, energy, and a lot of time as well. It is not such an easy task as stated on paper, but it can be done.

If patience is not properly exercised, the dream of a society can be forgotten, long before a single step is taken.

Conclusions

  • each individual in society matters a lot. Most environmental damages are results of social changes due to each individual’s action—which could be excessive burning of combustible fuels, dumping of solid wastes on land, and in water, etc.
  • Each individual’s action at the grassroots can lead to massive changes in overall environmental conditions—either positively or negatively.

In fact, research conducted by social scientists suggests that it takes between 5% and 10% of the population of a society, community, country, or the whole world to bring about a “major social change”.

  • human history and research have proven that significant social and environmental changes occur in a shorter time than many people think—especially if goals are pursued with the type of vigor and zeal that is necessary.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead once summed up the ability a group of people could have if they desire to make a social change: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

  • If societies start now, rather than later, they will still have enough time to change from environmentally unsustainable societies to environmentally sustainable ones.

Recommendations for sustainable living

There are some recommendable strategies that can be used to reduce negative environmental impacts and create more environmentally sustainable environments/societies.

The following strategies can help to sustain the Earth’s natural capital and create more sustainable environments:

1. Carry everybody along—as stated at the beginning of the article.

2. Rely more on renewable energy from the sun and indirect forms of solar energy such as wind and flowing water. Solar energy can provide most heating and electricity needs without emitting health-deteriorating carbon compounds into the atmosphere.

3. Protect the biodiversity of nature by preventing pollution and degradation of air, water bodies, and land—since pollution affects the health of animal species, natural processes, and ecosystems.

4. Sustain the Earth’s natural chemical cycles by reducing pollution, production, and mismanagement of solid wastes; and preventing natural systems from being overloaded with harmful man-made chemicals.

Q & A 3: Environmental Worldview, Sustainability of Biodiversity, and Environment

Question 1: How does poverty cause harmful environmental effects?

Answer: Poverty leads to desperation for survival, and causes poor people to harm the environment by degrading wildlife, species of fish, forests, soils, grasslands, and renewable energy resources at an ever-increasing rate. In places with large populations, the overall environmental impact is higher because of improper disposal and littering of waste in the environment, amongst other negative effects.

Question 2: What major health-related problems are associated with poverty?

Answer: Due to the fact that poor people have limited access to adequate sanitation facilities and clean drinking water, the following problems usually occur:

  • malnutrition: this is caused by a lack of protein and other important nutrients needed for good health; it could lead to several other problems as well.
  • water-borne diseases: this is caused by pollution of drinking water by human and animal feces.
  • respiratory diseases: this is a result of people inhaling smoke from open fires or poorly vented stoves used for heating and cooking inside homes.

Question 3: What is environmental worldview?

Answer: Environmental worldview is a set of views and beliefs each person has about how the world’s environment works, and what they think their role is in it. Each group of people has different opinions about how environmental problems should be handled and balanced with socio-economic problems.

Question 4: How do environmental worldviews affect environmental problems?

Answer: If similar data is given to different people who have widely different environmental worldviews, each person would arrive at almost different conclusions because of the difference in their assumptions, moral, religious and ethical beliefs.

Question 5: What is environmental ethics?

Answer: Environmental ethics are beliefs about how the environment should be treated. It expresses the conviction about what is right and wrong, as regards to how the environment should be treated.

Question 6: What is an environmentally sustainable society?

Answer: An environmentally sustainable society is one that has enough current and future basic resources needed by its people, in a way that doesn’t compromise the ability of present and future generations to meet their own basic needs.

Question 7: What does it mean to “live sustainably”?

Answer: To live sustainably means to live comfortably on natural resources (natural income). Natural resources include renewable resources (such as plants, animals, soil, atmosphere, and bodies of water—oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, etc.) provided by the Earth; and non-renewable resources like fossil fuel, coal, etc. To live sustainably means not to degrade or deplete the Earth’s natural capital which supplies income, and provides mankind with resources for the foreseeable future.

Question 8: How important enough is social capital when it comes to creating a sustainable society?

Answer: When it comes to creating a sustainable society, social capital, which involves bringing people together and harmonizing their different views, helps societies to find a common ground and understanding to work together in order to solve environmental problems facing any society.

Question 9: What is biological extinction?

Answer: This is a term used to describe incidences in which species can no longer be found anywhere on Earth. Any species that cannot be found, is said to behave suffered biological extinction.

Question 10: Why is it important for mankind to prevent its activities from causing the extinction of other species?

Answer: The most important reasons are as follows:

(i) Each species is an important part of the Earth’s life-supporting system. Each specie provides natural resources and natural services that keep mankind and other species alive. For example, mankind depends on some insects for pollinating crops, and some birds for natural pest control. Each species is ecologically valuable because they play key roles in energy flow and chemical cycling.

(ii) Most species contribute to economic services: services that support each economy. For example, various plants provide economic value as food crops, paper, medicine, etc.

(iii) It’s likely that from analysis of previous extinctions, future generations of mankind won’t enjoy the diversity of life-sustaining biodiversity we are currently enjoying if we make some species extinct.

(iv) Last but not least, all species have the right to live/exist, regardless of how useful they are. According to people who hold this view, mankind has an ethical responsibility to protect species from becoming extinct, especially if the causes of extinction are man-made.

Question 11: What is mass extinction?

Answer: Mass extinction is the extinction of many species in a relatively short period of time.

Question 12: What are endangered species?

Answer: Endangered species are species that have few survivors in quantities that could make them become extinct in a short period of time.

Question 13: What are threatened species?

Answer: A threatened species (a.k.a., vulnerable species) are species that have enough remaining survivors, but due to their depreciating numbers, would likely become endangered in the near future.

Question 14: How many segments does the environment consist of?

Answer: The environment consists of the following segments:

(i) The atmosphere: the gases surrounding the Earth.

(ii) The hydrosphere: all water resources (oceans, seas, rivers, etc.)

(iii) The lithosphere: consists of all minerals occurring in the earth’s crusts and soil.

(iv) The biosphere: is the sphere where all living organisms and interact with the environment.

Question 15: Why are environmental studies important?

Answer: Environmental studies is important because it enlightens us about the importance of protecting the environment from pollution, and conserving its renewable and non-renewable resources.

Question 16: Why is the current rate of the world’s growing population an environmental challenge?

Answer: The growing population is an environmental challenge because it puts heavy pressure on natural resources, and reduces the ability of countries/regions to develop socio-economically.

Question 17: Why is poverty an environmental challenge?

Answer: Poverty is an environmental challenge because poor people, who depend on resources in their immediate surroundings, plunder resources much faster than nature can renew them.

Question 18: What is deforestation?

Answer: Deforestation is a process whereby trees are cut down indiscriminately, and to such an extent that it leads to empty spaces of lands that were once covered with trees.

Question 19: What are the most significant negative effects of deforestation on the environment?

Answer: The most significant negative effects of deforestation are: soil erosion, landslides, and loss of agricultural productivity.

Question 20: What are the major causes of land degradation?

Answer: The major causes of land degradation include:

(i) Increasing urbanization, industrialization, and other soil-related activities.

(ii) Unplanned clearing of forests, and littering of forest litter.

(iii) Washing away of soil particles from deforested areas: soil erosion, which has resulted in high increases in run-off, pollution, and increases in turbidity and mineralization in many rivers.

Why non-renewable resources are not as non-renewable as you think

Sometimes when scientific experts/researchers use English words/terms to express ideas in their field of study, they leave a lot of people (especially those who don’t have a science background) in a bit of confusion, because the meanings of their words/terms in scientific context are different from their original meanings in English language.

In many instances, the originators of certain scientific words/terms have used certain English words in ways that could make critical thinkers think that the originators didn’t take time to find more appropriate English words/terms that could express their ideas better and still carry both laypeople and scientific researchers/experts along.

Most laypeople, if not all, have an impression of what certain English words mean; however, they get surprised, confused, or even left in the dark when the same terms (or words) are presented with different meanings in science-related fields/subjects; one such term is “non-renewable resources”.

There are probably many other English language words that have different meanings, not only in science, but most likely in arts or social sciences. We’ll appreciate if you can briefly highlight any for us in the comment section at the end of this article.

In order to carry everybody along, we’ll start by taking a look at the definitions of “renewable” and “non-renewable” from different sources. Thereafter, we’ll define “renewable resources” and “non-renewable resources”, and give examples of each.

Next, we will pick out the difference between the renewable and non-renewable resources, and highlight the parts of each that don’t seem to be precise. Finally, we’ll state 3 lessons learned, and end the article by making 5 recommendations.

A look at the definitions of the word “renewable”

WordWeb offline dictionary defines “renewable” as “that which can be renewed or extended; has a perpetual supply; never runs out; or, continues forever, or for an indefinitely long time.

Merriam Webster offline dictionary defines “renewable” as “anything capable of being replaced by natural ecological cycles”. (Would this likely imply that “non-renewable” means the opposite? Would “non-renewable” mean “anything that can’t be replaced by ecological or geological cycles”?)

Cambridge online dictionary defines “renewable” as any substance that can be used and easily replaced;

The main point to pick from these 3 definitions is this: renewable resources can always be renewed. I prefer to use “reproduced” because that’s the word that has a meaning which I think actually fits the process.

A look at the definitions of the word “non-renewable”

WordWeb defines “non-renewable” as substances that are incapable of renewal — or resources that can’t be renewed.

Merriam Webster gives 3 definitions of “non-renewable”:

  • substances that are not renewable
  • substances that can’t be replenished once they’ve been used up — at least in our lifetime
  • substances that can’t be replaced after they’ve been used.

(Notice the slight difference between the second and third definitions.)

Cambridge online dictionary defines “non-renewable” as anything that exists in limited quantities, and can’t be replaced after been used up. (Notice this definition too.)

The main point that can be picked out from these definitions from Merriam Webster is that “non-renewable” are resources “that can’t be renewed or replaced.

Now, if we attach the word “non-renewable” to resources, we’ll get the term “non-renewable resources”, which means “resources that can’t be renewed”—and in my opinion, this is irrespective of time.

However, a lot of research has shown that non-renewable  (opposite of renewable) resources can be renewed after tens of thousands, millions, or even billions of years.

A look at the definitions of “renewable resources”

Everyone would likely agree that renewable resources are resources that can be replenished naturally with the passage of time (according to WordWeb). In case you don’t know, renewable resources include forests, plants, grasslands, populations of fishes, freshwater, fresh air, fertile topsoil, etc.

Everyone who has elementary about science would agree that all these resources can be renewed. (Once again, I prefer to use the word “reproduced” because I believe it’s a more befitting word.)

Other definitions of renewable resources from other sources include: (They’ve been listed in order to give support to the definition of “renewable resources” as previously stated.)

  • Merriam Webster defines “renewable resources” as “resources that are capable of being replaced by natural ecological cycles”.
  • Wiktionary defines “renewable resources” as “natural resources that are replenished by natural processes at a rate comparable to its rate of consumption by humans or other users”.
  • Miller & Spoolman (2012) defines renewable resources as “resources that take anywhere from several days to several hundred years to be replenished through natural processes … as long as we do not use it up faster than nature can renew it”.

These 3 definitions of renewable resources wouldn’t leave anyone confused because they are all-encompassing, and generally mean the same thing: time is required to renew renewable resources; however, the actual amount of time is not fixed or specific.

Now, if we take a look at the definitions of non-renewable resources from 2 points of view: dictionaries, and specialists (those with a scientific background), we’ll notice that non-renewable resources can be renewed just like renewable ones.

However, the meaning of the word “non-renewable”, as previously stated (and which is a part of the term “non-renewable resources” as we’ll see in the next paragraph) does not convey this fact; why?

A look at the definitions of “non-renewable resources”

Most people (if not all) who don’t have a background in science, but who understand the meaning of “non-renewable”, have, at least, a basic/dictionary-level understanding of it. I’ve confirmed this several times while teaching undergraduate students for 6 years.

Backed with evidence, I’ve personally concluded that most laypeople (people without a background in science) who understand the meaning of “non-renewable” tend to assume that “non-renewable resources” mean any resources that can’t be renewed, respective or irrespective of time.

However, those who don’t know any better should note that the definitions of “non-renewable” as given by some sources, is not applicable to “non-renewable resources” because science has shown that non-renewable resources can actually be renewed; the only difference is that renewal can only take place over a very long period of time; say tens of thousands, millions, or even billions of years.

In case you don’t know, examples of non-renewable resources (i.e., resources that can’t be replenished in our lifetimes, or in very many lifetimes) include fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas; minerals and metals that lie deep in the Earth: iron, silver and gold, silver, and iron, fossil fuel, aluminium, etc.

All these resources can actually be renewed by geological processes after tens of thousands, millions, or billions of years. (Note that nuclear materials (such as Uranium) are also non-renewable resources.)

At this point, let’s take a look at the definitions of non-renewable resources from experts/researchers points of view:

  • Miller & Spoolman (2012, p. 14) defined non-renewable resources as “resources that exist in a fixed quantity/stock in the earth’s crust. On a time scale, it generally takes tens of thousands, or even millions or billions of years for these resources to be renewed by geological processes”.

This definition shows that non-renewable resources are not non-renewable after all: they are renewable, but only after a very long time.

A layperson who knows the definition of “non-renewable” as we stated earlier, and looks critically at the definition of non-renewable resources as stated by Miller & Spoolman (2012), could be a little bit confused about their (Miller & Spoolman) definition because the Earth is about 3.5 billion years old, and by their definition (tens of thousands, or even millions or billions of years), renewal of non-renewable resources should be taking place right now: renewal should be an ongoing process.

Another thing to take note of is this: contrary to definitions in dictionaries, once a substance can be renewed, then irrespective of time, it can be renewed; period!

Ok, if we put that argument aside and look critically at geological cycles — then like me — we would likely prefer to use the word “reproducible resources” rather than renewable resources, because geological cycles, like human beings and animals, actually reproduce both renewable and non-renewable resources, rather than renew. (Check definitions of renewable — related to renewing — as previously stated.)

If we agree that resources are reproduced by nature, just like how human beings and animals reproduce, then we’d also agree that, unlike a few months or years which are required to reproduce renewable resources, it would take millions or billions of years to reproduce non-renewable resources. Whatever we agree on, both renewable and non-renewable resources are renewable, or in my own word, “reproducible”.

Now, let’s look at another source that defined “non-renewable resources”:

  • according to Merriam-Webster.com, Sheldon Judson & Marvin E. Kaufman (writers of “Physical Geology”) defined non-renewable resources as “resources that can’t be replaced after they’ve been used …”.

This definition can be misleading because of the reason we stated earlier. Although Sheldon Judson & Marvin E. Kaufman are older writers who might have had a different perception of the definition at their time of writing, Merriam Webster would have done a better job by providing precise definitions from other science experts, probably experts of this era/age.

Once again, let’s look at another different source that defined “non-renewable resources”:

  • based on literature from a publication, Jaiswal (2013, p. 3), defined non-renewable resources as resources that can be replenished at a rate much slower than the faster rate at which they are currently being exploited.

Good enough, this definition is fairly precise, but could still leave some readers confused because the words “slower” and “faster” are not precise enough when one looks at the overall context of the definition given. Does slower mean 100,000, 1 million, or 1 billion years? Does faster mean 1, 10, or fifty years? What do both words actually mean?

Observations/discussion

If we take a look at the list of renewable resources mentioned before and compare them with the list of non-renewable resources, we would all agree that the major difference between renewable resources and non-renewable resources lies in the amount of time each category needs for renewal. It’s evident that one category (non-renewable resources) requires much more time than the other (renewable resources).

Another thing to take note of is that the word “non-renewable”, as understood by most laypeople, doesn’t convey any possibility of renewal — at all. On the other hand, experts/researchers have not stated precise durations of time that could clearly differentiate renewable resources from non-renewable ones.

Lessons

  • most sources (irrespective of whether they are laypeople, students, or specialists, etc.) don’t seem to provide definitions that have the same/similar meaning.
  • all sources that have provided imprecise definitions would likely not be able to carry everybody along.
  • most laypeople might be at the mercy of any definition that’s thrown out there — right or wrong — if those concerned (environmental scientists/specialists, experts/researchers, and dictionaries/grammarians, etc.) with disseminating information are not careful about what they publish.

Recommendations

  • experts (or originators of scientific terms) who borrow words/terms from English language, should use them to convey meanings that are similar to their original meanings in English language. If they do so, people who don’t have a scientific background would be carried along without any difficulty.
  • all sources that have provided imprecise definitions should review what they’ve published, and give fairly precise definitions/meanings for the benefit of anybody searching any source — online or offline. We agree that people should be at liberty to express themselves, but that shouldn’t be an avenue for carelessness.
  • science experts could, if they agree, use other terms in place of “renewable” and “non-renewable” resources. Based on most of the definitions we’ve assessed, one would probably recommend that the words “slower” and “faster” be used as given in the definition by Jaiswal (2013, p. 3), which states: “non-renewable resources are resources that can be replenished at a rate much slower than the faster rate at which they are currently being exploited”. If I had my way, “renewable resources” would be called “fastly renewable resources” because they renew faster, while “non-renewable resources” would be called “slowly renewable resources” since their renewal is slow and takes a longer time. (It’s even possible to break down each category into different grades because some renewable resources renew much faster than others within the same category; this same idea could be applied to non-renewable resources.)
  • science experts should agree on a definite time period (years) that would clearly distinguish renewable resources from non-renewable resources because existing literature from different sources is not precise about the amount of time. Should renewable resources be defined as resources that can be renewed between one day and 500,000 or 1 million years? What about non-renewable resources? Etc.? If we consider that each human life is valuable, and we agree that the average duration of each human life is between 80 and 100 years, or anything around that range, then renewable resources could be re-defined as resources that are capable of being renewed between one day and any period between or around 80 and 100 years; any other resources that are capable of being renewed beyond that range could be called non-renewable resources, or preferably, “slowly renewable resources”.
  • people who carry out research/thesis, or search for information to produce literature reviews, should be careful when copying definitions so that the end product of their work can be fairly understood by everyone — laypersons and experts/researchers alike.

Negative Impacts of Material & Immaterial Types of Affluence on Environment

When people talk about affluence, they usually associate it with abundance of material possessions or valuable items—especially items that are not “so common” or available.

Seldom is affluence associated with things that are either common, almost available to everybody, or in the possession/vicinity of everyone. In most cases, affluence isn’t associated with things that are almost evenly distributed or accessible to everyone, such as air, time, space, etc.—we may call such things “immaterial possessions”.

It’s sad to see that when certain things/possessions are in abundance, most people become more self-centered, materialistic, and only pay more attention to pollution and environmental degradation when the negative effects of their affluent lifestyles affect their health or the income generated from their commercially profitable business(es).

Material & immaterial types of affluence

Environmentally speaking, all of us are affluent because we have things or possessions that are almost available to everybody.

Some people fall into a category I may call “the materially affluent”, while the same people and others fall into a category I may call “the immaterially affluent”. Why? Because the materially affluent have available or abundant cars, industries, electronics, etc.—they have possessions that are not so common or available to everybody. On the other hand, the immaterially affluent have air/atmosphere, space, time, etc.—they have possessions that are quite common or available to everybody.

But mind you—in a way—the immaterially affluent poor also contribute to pollution caused by industries owned by the materially affluent rich people. How? They contribute by working in industrial processes of production or disposal that contribute to environmental pollution.

We can conclude that almost all of us are immaterially affluent because we have almost equal access to an appreciable amount of air, land, or space which we can use; the only problem is that when it comes to waste management and disposal, people misuse these things a lot. Another thing that should be noted is that immaterially affluent people have almost an equal amount of/access to air, time, space—intelligence can also be included.

On the other hand, we can also conclude that most people are not materially affluent because they don’t have (or don’t have enough) cars, industries, electronics, etc.

In one way or another, all of us might be guilty of being recklessly extravagant in the way we use our material or immaterial possessions. Extravagance is an attitude that is quite difficult to change, especially when possessions are in abundance.

Mismanagement of material and immaterial possessions has caused pollution in the environment to such an extent that the aesthetic quality and productive capacity of the atmosphere, water, soil, and landscape have been impaired; in other cases, some ecosystems have been completely damaged.

Apart from the fact that material affluence and excess/unnecessary purchase of possessions lead to littering of wastes in the environment, immaterial affluence—associated more with the poor who aren’t materially affluent—also leads to littering of waste in the environment in the same way that material affluence does.

In summary, any excessive, inappropriate and trivial use of material and immaterial possessions could lead to environmental degradation of the atmosphere, land, and water bodies (rivers, oceans, seas, etc.) in any part of the world.

The downside of material & immaterial types of affluence

The downside of material and immaterial types of affluence is the negative impact that both types of affluence have/have had on the environment. Negative impacts easily occur because both materially and immaterially affluent people have the ability to acquire resources or possessions at almost any time and from almost anywhere in the world. Also, most people use resources without looking for/at the harmful environmental impacts of the high-consumption and largely wasteful lifestyles associated with using such resources.

The lifestyles of many materially-rich consumers in countries like the U.S.A., India, and China, are built upon growing affluence, which leads to high levels of unnecessary consumption and waste of resources. This type of affluence is based mostly on mass advertisement, and the belief that by buying more and more material goods, one would likely be able to have more joy, fulfillment, and happiness—unfortunately, affluence doesn’t always bring these pleasures.

Affluence affects the environment both positively and negatively, and leads to mismanagement and unnecessary depletion of resources, and environmental damage. Many people who are materially and immaterially affluent have embraced an extravagant lifestyle and imposed a lot of burden on the environment because they easily access and misuse material or immaterial possessions—they use possessions in recklessly wasteful ways.

Negative impacts of some activities associated with material and immaterial affluence

Records and studies of the negative impacts of affluence on environment, have shown that many people manage material and immaterial possessions in ways that have damaged the Earth’s land, air, and water bodies—especially when proper waste management practices are not employed. Some activities associated with negative impacts include:

  • pollution of land and rivers with solid, human, and animal wastes. These types of pollution (caused by the affluent lifestyles of the materially affluent rich and immaterially affluent poor) expose people to air and water-borne diseases.
  • preparation and use of wheat, rice, meat, food, and production of coal, fertilizer, steel, cement, etc., have created by-products that have been littered in the environment and degraded the air/atmosphere, land, and many water bodies.
  • production of televisions, cell phones, refrigerators, electronics, etc., has created solid waste by-products which have also caused pollution in the environment whenever there has been improper disposal.
  • production and use of fuel-efficient cars have led to air/atmospheric pollution and caused a lot of discomfort and diseases, especially in populated cities.
  • industrialization has created products that have polluted and choked many water bodies to such an extent that some water bodies are devoid of fishes and other forms of marine life.
  • production of ammunition and nuclear weapons has provided an available platform for people and nations to engage in wars, thus destroying houses and property, and polluting large quantities of air, land, and water bodies.

Observations

  • generally, people use their money or time to acquire material or immaterial possessions as they see fit, and they face little or no supervision or interference from regulatory bodies or governments.
  • most times, people acquire/use what they have acquired for trivial reasons: they seek social status and base their self-worth on the quality and quantity of their acquired possessions.
  • mass advertisement, and campaigns of consumerism—whichever ways they are portrayed in the media—lead to ever-increasing pollution, scarcity of renewable and non-renewable resources, and many other forms of environmental degradation all over the world.
  • while a small percentage of humanity enjoys the benefits of material affluence, and a much higher percentage enjoys the benefits of immaterial affluence, the negative impacts of both types of affluence contribute to the loss of health and life among both the poor and rich in every country.
  • the rate at which waste is being collected from one environment and dumped in another, seems to be unprecedented. Often, when improvements occur in one environment, another environment gets worse because the waste simply has to go somewhere.
  • production processes often create large amounts of waste than useful products; also, packaging, distribution, use, and consumption of products produce large quantities of waste.

Conclusion/advice

  • it’s in the nature of human beings to be consumers: we have to consume in order to survive. However, consumers should learn and try to consume responsibly.
  • the future of life on this planet will depend on how we create policies that could reduce our own environmental problems.
  • if we can tackle materially or immaterially affluent lifestyles that create negative impacts on our environment, we’ll likely be able to address most environmental issues.

Why Environmental Pollution Increases Despite the Usage of Pollution Prevention & Clean-up Measures

Wherever there is environmental clean-up, it’s expected that there should be an effective, complete or total clean-up of pollution or pollutants. On the contrary, prevention pollution and clean-up measures have rather lead to increasing environmental pollution, as highlighted in this article.

But first, what are the effects of pollutants on environment?

Pollutants discharged into the environment have three types of negative and unwanted effects. First, they degrade natural systems that support human, animal and plant life. Second, they affect the health of all living things (humans, animals and plants), and the internal structure of non-living things in the environment. Third and last, they create unpleasant and objectionable tastes, sights and smells.

Download PDF: 18 Best Ways to Save the Environment Much More

Existing methods for handling pollution:

Mankind has been handling pollution in 2 major ways:

  • the first is by pollution clean-up (or output pollution control) which is normally employed in cleaning up pollution, or diluting pollutants after they are created or discharged.
  • the second is by pollution prevention (or input pollution control) which eliminates, prevents, or reduces production or discharge of pollutants.

Factors that increase environmental pollution despite usage of pollution prevention & clean-up measures:

Inasmuch as mankind has relied a lot on pollution prevention and clean-up, three noticeable major factors still make both measures ineffective in combating rising cases of environmental pollution:

(1) Rising population & consumption levels

Due to exponential rises in populations and consumption levels in many countries or regions of the world, pollution still increases without corresponding funding/improvement of existing pollution control measures which we might rightly call “temporary bandages of yet-to-be-healed wounds”.

For example, the use of catalytic converters in cars has reduced some forms of pollution like hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. On the other hand, the increase in the number of cars and total distance travelled by cars—which are as a result of increases in population—have reduced the effectiveness of catalytic converters as a clean-up measure or approach.

Catalytic converters don’t seem to have curbed air pollution to a desirable extent; in fact, in 2018, scientists from Harvard university and 2 Chinese universities reported that emissions of formaldehyde, majorly from vehicles, played a greater role in producing thick toxic pollution which has been contributing to China’s notorious wintertime smog, and to such an extent that was previously unknown.

Berkeley Earth, a non-profit organization, once estimated that 1.6 million people in China die each year from heart, lung and stroke problems caused by air pollution.

(2) Collection of waste from one environment, and disposal of the same waste in another environment

It’s unfortunate that mankind has no better option than to dispose waste within the Earth, rather than outside. It’s even more unfortunate that a lot of waste is being improperly disposed, and has wrecked the health of many human lives. Generally, disposal and clean-up have involved the removal of waste or pollutants from one environment, and disposal and pollution into another environment.

For example, people collect waste and burn it, thus causing air pollution and producing toxic ash which must be dumped elsewhere—probably on land; this could possibly lead to surface and underground water pollution when rainfall or water runoff transports the toxic ash away from the point of disposal.

The negative impacts of dumping wastes in open bodies of water are there for everyone to see: trashed rivers containing dead fish and aquatic animals surrounded by plastic products, etc. Also, the accumulation of toxins (like mercury) in the systems of many forms of marine life has resulted in sea foods that are unfit for human consumption.

(3) Lack of sufficient finance & funding for pollution prevention & clean-up measures

After pollutants are discharged into the environment, it’s usually challenging or difficult for governments and concerned persons to sponsor or finance prevention control and clean-up measures which could partially or completely sanitize the environment. Another thing to note is that the level of difficulty depends on the type of government or people living in a particular environment.

Recommendation

In order to address the rise in environmental pollution despite existing pollution prevention and clean-up measure, scientists, researchers, and governments need to work together, find and implement ways to curb pollution and pollutants despite the existence of the factors stated above.

Point Sources vs Non-Point Sources of Pollution; How Non-Point Sources of Pollution can Be Controlled

One of the problems environmental scientists have been addressing, and which is common in many environments, is pollution. Pollution is any condition (chemical, physical, dissonance (noise), heat, etc.) in an environment that is at a level which can harm the health of living organisms, and distort the composition of non-living organisms. Activities or substances that cause pollution (i.e., pollutants) enter an environment through natural activities such as eruption of volcanoes, etc., and man-made activities such as combustion of gasoline and discharge of chemicals or solid waste into rivers and oceans, etc.

Disposal of waste, which can be categorized into point source (PS) and non-point source (NPS) types, leads to point and non-point sources of pollution. Point and non-point sources of pollution exist in environments as a result of the disposal of various types of waste by nature, human beings and animals. If points/areas of waste disposal are concentrated, then they lead to point source pollution. On the other hand, if points of disposal are not concentrated, then they lead to non-point source pollution. In summary, pollution is broadly categorized into two types: point source (PS) pollution and non-point source (NPS) pollution.

Point source (PS) pollution

Point source pollution is any individual identifiable point or concentrated area that emits pollution, such as a hole on a septic tank, or the open end of a pipe discharging wastewater from a brewery. Point source pollutants and pollution can be noticed in various industries: mining, agricultural, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, oil and gas, etc.

Examples of PS pollution in the agricultural industry include (but are not limited to) areas/points for feeding, collection of animal waste, distribution of fertilizers, storage of insecticides/pesticides, etc. Examples of PS pollution in municipalities include (but are not limited to) landfills, wastewater treatment facilities, underground tanks in petroleum stations, etc. It can be notice in these examples that pollutants can be traced to particular points or areas.

One major problem associated with PS pollution is that, whenever pollutants are not handled properly, they end up in surface water (rivers, oceans, seas, etc.), underground water, or even potable water supplies. These instances occur when pipes discharge wastewater from industries into rivers or groundwater environment. Another instance is when there are leakages in pipe networks (for potable water distribution) that allow polluted groundwater to mix with potable water flowing through them.

Non-point source (NPS) pollution

Non-point source pollution is any dispersed area of pollution that emits pollution which can’t be traced to an identifiable point, a single source, or a concentrated area. Non-point sources of pollution are often called “diffuse” pollution, which means that they’re sources of pollution that cover a wide area and can’t be traced to a particular point or concentrated area.

Examples of instances when NPS pollution occur: whenever rainwater carries fertilizers away from agricultural farmlands into rivers or water bodies; whenever underground water flows and carries pollutants (bacteria, harmful microorganisms, etc.) from a polluted area and deposits them in other areas that are either not polluted, or are less polluted; etc. Water that conveys pollutants may originate from man-made sources like irrigation systems and leaking pipe networks, or from natural sources like rainfall.

It is much easier and cheaper to identify and control/prevent pollution from PSs than from NPSs.

Negative effects of pollutants

Pollutants have a lot of negative impacts on living organisms, just to name a few: they can reduce the quality of air, land and water; they can damage health, create irritations (such as noise), and unpleasant tastes, smells and sights; etc.

Reasons why point sources are preferable to non-point sources of pollution

Point sources and non-point sources of pollution are two negatives—which if not handle properly, can degrade environments and make them unsustainable. Non-point sources of pollution are more difficult to handle, and have been known to degrade environments much more than point sources. In order to sustain environments much better, individuals and governments have to provide structures and enforce legislations that promote the use of PSs of disposal, and discourage the use of NPSs of disposal.

The major reason why point sources are preferable (in comparison with NPS) is due to the environmental benefits that PSs provide when compared with NPSs. In summary, these are the following reasons why point sources of disposal are preferable:

  • Pollutants can be easily traced to PSs of disposal/pollution because PSs are usually noticeable, confined, and concentrations of pollutants are relatively easy to estimate. The point is this: appropriate technologies can be easily used to assess, control and abate pollution from PSs. On the hand, pollutants from NPSs are difficult to locate, and their concentrations are difficult to estimate because the pollutants are somewhat scattered and can’t be easily traced.
  • Pollutants from PSs are more controllable, while pollutants from NPSs are less controllable because they can be easily transported and dispersed. In parts of the world where there are high humidity, environments have more NPSs of pollution, and are more susceptible to NPSs of pollution because they have more runoff (water/wastewater flow)—which means more transportation and dispersal of pollutants.
  • It’s difficult to assess the origins and concentrations of pollutants transported from non-point sources into rivers and other bodies of water. Also, it’s a daunting task to conduct researches on NPSs of disposal/pollution than for PSs of disposal/pollution.

Generally, there are demanding challenges in studying different parameters associated with NPS disposal/pollution: determination of areas of selected sampling locations, determination of adequate runoff quality, determination of acceptable catchments, selection of the most acceptable test procedures, etc.

How to control non-point sources of pollution

In developing nations—particularly those that have low standards of living—prevention/control of NPSs of disposal and pollution has been quite difficult because it requires substantial amounts of money which are not always available. On the other hand, developed nations, which have higher standards of living, are able to control NPSs of disposal/pollution better by enforcing lawful regulations. For example, a regulation called “the Clean Water Act (1987)” was adopted in order to “establish a national program for controlling non-point source pollution and enhancing watershed protection”. Specifically, section 319 of the Clean Water Act adopts management programs for NPS pollution control.

Another control measure, as provided by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been in place/practice since 1990. The EPA awards grants to states in order to assist in implementation of NPS control & management programs for reduction and prevention of NPSs of pollution.

Generally, non-point sources of pollution can be controlled by employing the following measures:

(1) Effective management of public lands

Public lands can be effectively managed in ways that reduce overflow of water, soil erosion, use of chemicals, etc. A lot of regulations (like erosion control laws) are in place, and people could be educated on watershed, conservation, and how to prevent NPSs of pollution in homes, offices, neighborhoods, industries, etc.

Homes are the smallest units in any society. A lot of activities that occur in (or around) homes require the use of best management practices (BMPs) for control/reduction of pollutants that contribute to NPS pollution. Each house contributes pollutants which can accumulate and create a significant impact on a neighborhood, city, state, nation, etc.

There are measures for pollution prevention that can be used to prevent NPS pollutants from littering around environments and mingling with storm water; such measures include: proper maintenance of sewerage systems; proper disposal of domestic animal waste; keeping food waste, cigarettes, etc., out of drainage systems so that clogging of can be prevented.

(2) Use of on-site technology in prevention or reduction of NPS pollution

Certain on-site technologies like stream-bank protection and channelization practices can be used to control or reduce NPSs of pollution which contain pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, animal dung washed away from farmlands, etc. These pollutants and similar types can be controlled by creating buffers consisting of vegetation, plants or trees between farmlands and banks of water bodies like rivers and lakes. Buffers help filter all types of pollutants—including sediments—and prevent them from entering receiving bodies of water, either completely, or, at least, to an appreciable extent.

Runoff from municipal and urban areas can be controlled using drainages, trenches and retention ponds to hold wastewater containing suspended solids and various types of pollutants.

(3) Use of watershed approach in management of NPSs of pollution

From available information, the watershed approach is proving to be the most effective technique for managing NPSs of pollution. A lot of literature has shown that every individual resides in a watershed or surface area in which water from many areas drains into. The watershed approach relies on input of information from local, state and federal agencies, and many stakeholders (political, social, and economic boundaries) who live in watersheds, and has been used to address serious environmental problems in watershed areas. The watershed approach has been successfully applied to a lot of watershed areas in the United States. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S.A. can be divided into approximately 2,149 medium-sized watersheds, averaging about 1,700 square miles in each area.

Q & A 2: Pollutant Types, Ecological Footprint, IPAT Equation, and Environmental Problems

Question 1: What are pollutants?

Answer: Pollutants are any substances or materials that contaminate or pollute land, water, or air environments.

Question 2: What are biodegradable pollutants?

Answer: Biodegradable pollutants are noxious or harmful materials that natural processes, bacteria, or microorganisms are capable of degrading, decomposing, or breaking down over a period of time. Examples are newspapers, food waste, sewage, and human/animal wastes.

Question 3: What are non-degradable pollutants?

Answer: Non-degradable pollutants are harmful materials or chemicals that natural processes, bacteria, or microorganisms are not capable of degrading, decomposing, or breaking down over a period of time. Examples are poisonous or toxic chemical elements such as arsenic, mercury, and lead.

Question 4: What is sustainability?

Answer: Sustainability can be defined as any condition in which usage or exploitation of natural resources enhances the environment and increases its current and future potential of meeting human and animal needs.

Question 5: What is unsustainability?

Answer: Unsustainability can be defined as any condition in which usage of natural resources leads to wastage, environmental pollution, and depletion of natural resources beyond nature’s capacity to replenish them for current and future use by humans and animals.

Question 6: What is ecological footprint?

Answer: Ecological footprint is the impact of human activities as determined, expressed, or indicated by the quantity of land, air, water, and natural resources used up, either sustainably or unsustainably by people living in a particular country, an area, or a region. Ecological footprint could enhance the status of an environment or degrade it.

In 2008, the Global Footprint Network and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which both develop and employ tools for promoting sustainability (and also estimating ecological footprint and biocapacity, and measuring the quantity of resources used and leftover), estimated that mankind’s global ecological footprint exceeded the Earth’s biocapacity (biological capacity) to support humans and other forms of life indefinitely by at least 30%. That figure was reported to be about 88% in high-income countries like the United States.

Question 7: What is environmental degradation?

Answer: Environmental degradation is the decline in the quality of the natural environment as a result of natural or man-made activities which pollute or deplete resources such as air, water, and soil, and destroy wildlife, ecosystems, and habitats. Environmental degradation is one of the major threats facing the world. If the environment is compromised beyond a certain limit, the existence of all forms of life could come to an end.

Question 8: What is biocapacity?

Answer: Biocapacity can be defined as the capacity of life-supporting and biologically productive areas to renew the ongoing supply of renewable natural resources, and remove or filter pollutants and degrading materials like carbon dioxide from the environment. Unsustainability occurs if an area’s ecological footprint exceeds its biocapacity.

Question 9: According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), what quantity of Earth would at least be needed to sustain this generation of mankind indefinitely and prevent environmental degradation?

Answer: According to WWF, today’s mankind requires at least approximately 1.3 planet Earths—i.e. 130% of planet Earth—to continuously supply renewable resources at the current average rate of resource usage per person and indefinitely dispose resulting pollution and wastes.

It was once stated that if the average rate of renewable resource usage per person continues at the projected rate, mankind would need the equivalent of 2 planet Earths—i.e. 200% of planet Earth—by the year 2035 in order to supply resources indefinitely and prevent environmental degradation.

Question 10: What is “per capita ecological footprint”?

Answer: Per capita ecological footprint is a measure of the quantity of Earth’s renewable resources used by a single individual. It can also be defined as the result obtained by dividing a nation’s ecological footprint by its total population.

Anyone can estimate their own ecological footprint by visiting this website: www.myfootprint.org/.

Question 11: Who developed the ecological footprint concept?

Answer: The ecological footprint concept was developed by 2 people: William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel.

Question 12: What is IPAT?

Answer: IPAT (or, I = P × A × T) is a model or mathematical equation developed in the early 1970s by scientists Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren; it has been used to determine how population size (P), affluence, or resource consumption per person (A), and beneficial or harmful environmental effects of technologies (T) contribute to the environmental impact (I) of human activities.

I = P × A × T, where:

Impact (I) = Population (P) × Affluence (A) × Technology (T).

The three factors (P, A & T) on the right side of the equation have been employed in determining environmental impact in different countries. Environmental impact (I) is a rough estimate of how much people are either sustainably using or degrading the natural capital located in their environments.

Question 13: What forms of technology (T) can increase environmental impact (I)?

Answer: Forms of technology that can increase environmental impact include: factories that spread pollution; power plants that burn coal; motor vehicles that burn gasoline; etc.—all these can increase the T factor in the IPAT equation, and also increase I (impact).

Question 14: What forms of technology (T) can reduce environmental impact (I)?

Answer: Forms of technology that can reduce environmental impact include: pollution prevention and control technologies; renewable energy-using solar cells and wind turbines that produce electricity; fuel-efficient cars; etc.—all these can decrease the T factor in the IPAT equation, and reduce impact (I).

Generally, it has to be noted that some forms of technology are environmentally harmful, while some other forms are environmentally beneficial.

Question 15: How do increases in both population growth and resource use per person combine to deplete non-renewable resources and degrade renewable ones?

Answer: Non-renewable resources become depleted and renewable ones become degraded when human populations increase and raise demand for use of more nutritious topsoil by increasing food production; underground water resources get depleted when increasing populations raise demand for more water and water wells; fossil fuels get depleted when increases in population lead to increase in demand of fossil fuel for transportation of food, materials, products, people, etc; etc.

Question 16: What is ecological tipping point?

Answer: Ecological tipping point, or ecological threshold, is a threshold level above which there is unsustainability and often an irreversible shift in the behavior of a natural system—caused by natural or mostly man-made activities. When an ecological tipping point is passed, an ecosystem may no longer be able to return to its natural sustainable state.

Reaching a tipping point is like stretching rubber: rubber can be stretched several times, but it permanently deforms or breaks at a certain irreversible point.

Question 17: Give examples of potential ecological tipping points.

Answer: Examples of potential ecological tipping points include:

  • permanent distortion of natural generation of certain populations of fish—due to overfishing
  • premature extinction of many species of living organisms, due to overhunting by humans
  • climate change caused by burning of oil and coal, and emission of gases that cause the atmosphere to warm more rapidly than it would when there are no emissions.

Question 18: What are the major causes of environmental pollution & degradation?

Answer: According to many environmental scientists, experts, and researchers, the major causes of environmental pollution & degradation are population growth, wasteful and unsustainable use of natural resources, poverty, and failure to tackle the negative environmental impacts of many goods and services.

Question 19: With regard to unsustainability, what is affluence?

Answer: Affluence can be defined as any acquisition and consumption/usage of abundant resources and property in such a way that leads to unnecessary wastage of resources, and environmental pollution/degradation.

This type of affluence is based mostly on the assumption that the continuous purchase of more and more material goods will bring fulfillment and happiness. Unfortunately, the acquisition of excess material goods has often led to the degradation of most environments.

Question 20: Define affluenza, and list its negative and positive impacts on the environment.

Answer: Affluenza can be defined as the addiction to purchasing more and more material goods and resources. Affluenza could impact the environment, both negatively and positively.

Negative impacts of affluenza include:

  • unsustainable use of resources
  • environmental pollution and degradation as a result of high consumption and wasteful lifestyles
  • discontentment, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness

Positive impacts of affluenza include:

  • better education which could make people become more aware and concerned about the environment
  • provision of technologies to reduce wastage of resources, environmental pollution, and degradation
  • improvements in environmental quality due to financing of scientific research and technological advancement—all of these have been sponsored by affluence.

How to Reduce/Eradicate Environmental Problems Caused by Mismanagement of Common & Shareable Resources

Since the beginning of time, nature has been providing resources and sustaining all forms of living and non-living things without handing right/ownership over any resource to any particular person or group of people. However, over time, people, different nations, and governments have been claiming ownership of resources and engaged in wars to secure rights over the resources and materials that are continuously being supplied by nature.

When a resource is owned, it becomes someone’s own property. To own property is one thing; to manage it is another! One major problem associated with both common and shareable properties—which we will soon define, individually—is that they are much more mismanaged than private property is.

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Misuse of resources leads to mismanagement of resources, wars, environmental pollution, environmental degradation, and destruction of human lives and properties. Irrespective of the type of procedures used by people or organizations to acquire resource ownership or properties in various regions or countries—legally or illegally—resources or properties can be categorized into any one of the following three:

(1) Private resource

A private resource is any resource owned by an individual or organization—or any group of individuals or organizations. Examples of resources that could be regarded as private resources include land, farmland, minerals, animals, etc.

(2) Common resource

A common resource is any resource owned by large groups of individuals or organizations. For example, all citizens of the United States own about one-third of the total land area of the country. Examples of common resources include irrigation systems, pasture/grazing land, fossil fuel, coal, electricity, etc.

(3) Shareable/open-access resource

A shareable or open-access resource is any resource owned by everybody because it’s shared by everybody and is openly accessible to any interested individual. Examples of shareable resources include groundwater, air, fishes, lakes, rivers, oceans, etc. In some cases, common resources and shareable resources mean the same thing.

Over the decades, several wars and cases of mismanagement and wastage of common and shareable resources have been incited by the mentality that “If I don’t use this resource, then someone else will; it doesn’t matter whether I actually need this resource, let me just use it; even if I waste it and pollute the environment, it doesn’t matter; it will always be available”.

Whenever few people have used resources, this mentality has not often led to instances of drastic negative environmental impacts; however, whenever many people have used resources, this mentality has often made the reverse occur. Lots of evidence have shown that negative environmental impacts occur whenever a lot of people use shareable resources like air, various species of fish in oceans, groundwater from open hand-dug wells, etc.

Observations & Lessons

1. Since the beginning of the industrial age, the Earth’s environment has been exposed to negative impacts of indiscriminate disposal of chemicals, gases, liquid, solid wastes, etc.

2. Uncontrolled use of fossil fuel in industrial and transportation facilities has caused carbon dioxide emission levels to rise and increase environmental temperature, thereby melting ice caps and rising sea levels.

3. Large quantities of waste, sewage, and unwanted materials like plastics have been indiscriminately disposed of in the environment and found ways into lakes, rivers, oceans, and seas; more so, they have polluted these bodies of water, and negatively impacted the quality of human and marine lives.

4. Etc.

How to reduce/eradicate global environmental problems caused by mismanagement of common & shareable resources

(1) Regulate the use of common and shareable resources so that rates of consumption would be less than rates causing environmental problems. This is one area where governments and leaders of communities have to establish laws/regulations that can limit the use of various types of resources to sustainable levels, and also limit the quantity of pollutants disposed on land, air, and water environments.

(2) Regulate access to common and shareable resources. This is another area where leaders of governments and societies can make a difference by passing laws that would regulate or limit access to/exposure of shareable resources like fish and other species that have been killed beyond sustainable limits—even to the point of extinction.

Laws could be implemented that would limit or regulate the amount of time that certain land, air, and water environments are exposed to different types of environmentally degrading activities, and different sources of pollution and pollutants.

(3) Convert ownership of shareable resources from the public, to a private organization(s) or person(s). The reason for this is that whenever an individual (or a few individuals) owns a resource, such a resource tends to be protected and managed better.

Although some individuals would be able to manage public-turned-private resources better, life could be difficult for those individuals who don’t have rights to public resources that have been converted to private ones.

Imagine the possible negative impacts mankind could be exposed to if some self-centered and stingy individuals (who are, on the other hand, probably good managers) owned the air, rivers, oceans, and seas, and kept them as their own private property.

(4) Harmonize scientific solutions from research with political processes dictated by world leaders. While scientists look for solutions to prevent the degradation of forests and unsustainable use of common and shareable resources, the applicability of their work would be limited if there is no effective input from political leaders.

For example, major environmental problems could include:

  • extinction of wildlife. 
  • depletion of forests.
  • pollution of rivers.

For these problems to be solved, scientists might state that:

  • people should limit or stop killing wildlife—or they should be prevented from doing so.
  • people should limit or stop cutting down matured trees—or they should be prevented from doing so.
  • people should stop disposing chemicals into rivers—or they should be prevented from doing so.

But the implementation of such solutions would require input from leaders of government through the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.

In this area, one major challenge is that enforcement of laws often leads to conflict between scientists, and either government, businesses, people, or citizens.

For example, when scientists advise that forests should be protected in order to preserve and conserve important diversity of plants and animals, citizens and timber/paper production companies might protest against scientists because of the benefit they derive from using wood and paper.

Q & A 1: Definition of Terms in Environmental Science, Sustainability & Pollution Sources

Question 1: With reference to our planet (Earth), what is the meaning of the word “environment”?

Answer: Environment is the totality of surroundings (or global ecosystem) which consists of all living and non-living things (soil, rocks, rivers, seas, air, gases, plants, trees, animals, etc.)—or, as the famous physicist Albert Einstein defined it, “The environment is everything that isn’t me [or us: the people]”.

Question 2: What are the main objectives of environmental science?

Answer: The main objectives of environmental science are:

  • to learn how nature works
  • to understand how people interact with the environment
  • to find ways to handle environmental problems so that people can live more sustainably.

Question 3: What is ecology?

Answer: Ecology can be defined as a branch of science that studies how organisms or living things interact with one another and their environment. It can also be defined as the totality of the patterns of relationships between organisms and their environment.

Question 4: What is an ecosystem?

Answer: An ecosystem is a set of living organisms within a particular area that interact with each other and their environment which contains non-living things, matter, and energy. Typically, all living organisms in an ecosystem interact with one another, with solar energy, and with all non-living things within their ecosystem’s land, water, and air.

Question 5: What is environmentalism?

Answer: Environmentalism can be defined as an activity or movement committed to protecting all life-supporting systems from pollution and destruction. Environmentalism is mainly practiced in political and ethical spheres more than it is practiced in science.

Question 6: What are the 3 major things that the Earth’s long-term environmental sustainability depend on?

Answer: The Earth’s long-term environmental sustainability depends on the following:

  • Solar energy: this is the energy from the sun which the Earth uses to support photosynthesis for plants to grow and provide nutrients needed by living organisms to stay alive and reproduce. Without solar energy, there wouldn’t be any plants, food, and animals.
  • Chemical cycling: also known as nutrient cycling, refers to the recycling and circulation of nutrients within the environment (land, air, and water) for the growth and sustenance of all forms of life. Without chemical cycling, there wouldn’t be fresh air, freshwater, and renewed soil—implying that there wouldn’t be any food and life.
  • Biodiversity: also known as “biological diversity”, refers to the wide variety of organisms, the natural systems (land, air, and water bodies) in which they live, and the free services they provide such as purification of water and air, and renewal of topsoil. Without biodiversity, most forms of life wouldn’t exist.

Question 7: What are natural resources?

Answer: Natural resources are mineral deposits, materials, waterpower, resources, or energy supplied by nature.

Question 8: What are natural services?

Answer: Natural services are processes (such as purification of air, renewal of water and topsoil, etc., in nature) that efficiently renew all natural resources and support all forms of life.

Question 9: What is natural capital?

Answer: Natural capital is the totality of natural resources and natural services that keep human beings, animals, plants, and other forms of life alive and supports their existence. Natural capital can sustainably and continuously support the wide diversity of species, populations, and nations if managed properly and not spent too quickly.

Question 10: What are renewable resources?

Answer: Renewable resources are natural resources that are replenished by natural processes at a rate comparable to their rates of consumption or usage by humans, animals, and natural processes. They can also be defined as resources that take anywhere from several days to a few hundred years to be replenished through natural processes, as long as they aren’t used up faster than nature can renew them.

Question 11: List some examples of renewable resources.

Answer: Examples of renewable resources include forests, plants, grasslands, populations of fishes, freshwater, fresh air, fertile topsoil, etc.

Question 12: What are non-renewable resources?

Answer: Non-renewable resources are natural resources that can’t be replenished in our lifetimes, or in very many lifetimes. They can also be defined as natural resources that can be renewed by geological processes after tens of thousands, millions, or billions of years.

Question 13: List some examples of non-renewable resources.

Answer: Examples of non-renewable resources include fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas; minerals and metals that lie deep in the Earth: iron, silver and gold, silver, and iron, fossil fuel, aluminium, etc.; nuclear materials such as Uranium, etc.

Question 14: Under which conditions would human activities deplete natural capital beyond sustainable limits?

Answer: Human activities would deplete natural capital beyond sustainable limits if human activities use up resources faster than nature can restore them; also, when natural components/systems (water, water flow, air, airflow, land, etc.) are overloaded with pollution and wastes beyond nature’s capacity to purify and renew them.

Question 15: Give examples of human activities that deplete natural capital beyond sustainable limits.

Answer: Examples of human activities that deplete natural capital beyond sustainable limits or make natural capital unsustainable, include:

  • Cutting down of trees and clearing of matured forests much faster than nature can regrow them
  • Eroding of topsoil much faster than nature can renew it through nutrient cycling (or recycling)
  • Removal of groundwater much faster than nature can replenish it
  • Disposal of polluted wastewater, chemicals, solid and animal wastes into oceans, rivers, and lakes much faster than nature can purify these bodies of water.

Question 16: Give examples of renewable resources that could be used much more in order to reduce dependence on non-renewable resources like fossil fuel and coal which are rapidly diminishing day after day.

Answer: Examples of renewable resources that could be used in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuel and coal include wind, solar energy, flowing water, and heat in the interior part of the earth.

Question 17: What is recycling?

Answer: Recycling is the act of processing used, discarded, or abandoned waste materials into new materials or products. For example, pieces of steel and aluminium can be melted to form new cans or products. On the other hand, resources such as fossil fuel and coal cannot be recycled once they undergo combustion.

Question 18: Define pollution.

Answer: Pollution can be defined as any undesirable, unattractive, and unwanted state in which the natural environment is contaminated with harmful substances as a result of human and animal activities.

Question 19: What are point sources (PS) of pollution?

Answer: Point sources of pollution are individual, single, and easily identifiable sources of pollution, or any sources of pollution that originate from concentrated areas or identifiable points such as discharge points on septic tanks, open ends of wastewater discharge pipes from breweries, chimneys of incinerators, effluent wastewater pipes of abattoirs, and exhaust pipes of automobiles.

Question 20: What are non-point sources (NPS) of pollution?

Answer: Non-point sources of pollution are sources of pollution that do not originate from a single source, an identifiable point, or concentrated area. Non-point sources of pollution are often called “diffuse” pollution because they cover a wide area and cannot be traced to a specific point or concentrated area. Examples of non-point sources of pollution include areas containing pesticides blown from land into air, runoff of fertilizers/chemicals used on farms, and trash carried by stormwater from land into streams and lakes.

Environmental Unsustainability: Characteristics & Lessons

The fact that mankind has been living unsustainably is no longer disturbing news, even when it makes headlines, globally. Today’s generation is the only one to have lived at such a high degree of unsustainability.

There has been an accelerating rate of waste generation and depletion of natural resources, especially non-renewable ones. The term that best describes the negative impact caused by increasing waste generation and natural resource depletion is known as “environmental degradation” or “natural capital degradation”.

Over the past few decades, researchers have found out that—amongst other negative impacts—a lot of soils are  continuously eroding, the sizes of many forests are drastically reducing, and nutrients in farmlands are not replenishing fast enough.

In addition to the steady rise in global warming, there have been increasing cases of “big ice melting”, rising sea levels, forest fires, droughts, and floods. In many parts of the world, rivers are not yielding as much water as they used to, and the respective populations of various species of fish and other types of animals are going extinct at a rate that’s about a hundred times faster than it was before the age of “homo sapiens” (the species to which modern man belongs).

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The rate of environmental unsustainability rose to such a height that, in the year 2000, the UN (United Nations) Secretary-General at the time, Kofi Annan, called for an assessment (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment: MEA) of the impact of human activities on the environment. The assessment was formally launched in 2001 and conducted within 4 years by 1,360 experts from 95 countries. At the end of the assessment (2005), the UN published a report which revealed that human activities had degraded about 60% of the Earth’s natural services, especially within 50 years prior to 2005 (i.e., between 1955 to 2005).

Fig. 1: Overview of environmental degradation

Many statements attributed to the UN and scientists worldwide have acknowledged that human activities have been straining the natural functioning of the Earth, and the ability of the Earth’s ecosystems to sustain future generations is under serious threat; on the other hand, UN scientists also acknowledge that mankind has the knowledge/technologies to conserve natural resources and prevent further degradation of the Earth’s natural capital (resources).

Lessons learned from cases of environmental unsustainability

  • Most people don’t have any intention to degrade their environments.
  • Most people have degraded/have been degrading their environment without realizing it.
  • As human populations continue to increase in number, everyone will continue to look for ways to satisfy their needs by using more resources; in so doing, the amount of waste littered in the environment will continuously rise if mankind is not careful.
  • Environmental problems are still prominent in countries and societies where leaders have done their best to conserve natural resources by maintaining and expanding their economies.
  • Some parts/regions of the world have achieved high standards of living, sound economic growth, and provided more goods and services for their citizens. However, there has not been effective enforcement of regulations or policies that could prevent excessive waste of natural and man-made resources, pollution, and environmental degradation.

The UN classifies countries into “more developed countries”, or “less developed countries”, and does so on the basis of each country’s respective average income per person. The United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and most European countries are more developed and generate high income. On the other hand, many other nations (in which 81% of the world’s population live) are classified as less-developed; they include countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Another category not previously mentioned is the “middle-income” (i.e., not more developed, and not less developed) or “moderately-developed countries”; some of them include China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, and Mexico. According to information from UN and World Bank data, the “more-developed countries” (which have about 19% of the world’s population) use about 88% of all the Earth’s resources and produce about 75% of the world’s pollution and waste.

Generally, information from the UN points to at least two things:

  • A country could be more developed but environmentally unsustainable because of how ineffective it has been in regard to combating the factors that cause environmental degradation.
  • A country could be “less developed” or “moderately developed” but still be regarded as “environmentally sustainable” if it effectively combats the factors that cause environmental degradation.