Since the industrial revolution in Europe in the early part of the 19th century, the World has witnessed tremendous growth and development.
These growths were mostly of manufacturing and production nature powered by fossil fuel engines. Over the decades pollutants have invaded the air, water and soil of the earth‘s environment.
A threshold has been attained and now the consequences are beginning to unfold in biodiversity loss, acid rain, global warming etc. This is a cause for concern. In this unit we are going to look into these issues with a view to appreciating their magnitude and what to do about them.
Because the sea is expected to yield still larger quantities of valuable resources in the future, and because the water itself is now being used on a small scale through desalination, the concern for preserving the integrity of the ocean has grown.
The contaminative effect of increasing technological development and industrialization has been known to disrupt and destroy the fragile coastal ecology by indiscriminate discharge of industrial and municipal waste into the sea.
The pollution of the marine environment by petroleum and chemical spillage and sewage disposal has helped focus world attention on the need for controlled use of resources and planned disposal of waste products.
Other pollution concerns are the effects of insecticides and pesticides on marine fish and birds, increasing levels of lead in the surface waters, and the disposal of hot water from power plants into the sea with untoward effects on marine life.
1. Ocean Pollution
Pollution in the ocean is a major problem that is affecting the ocean and the rest of the Earth, too. Pollution in the ocean directly affects ocean organisms and indirectly affects human health and resources.
Oil spills, toxic wastes, and dumping of other harmful materials are all major sources of pollution in the ocean. People should learn more about these because if people know more about pollution in the ocean, then they will know more about how to stop pollution.
What are Toxic Wastes?
Toxic wastes are poisonous materials that are being dumped into the ocean. They harm many plants and animals in the ocean and have a huge impact on our health. Toxic waste is the most harmful form of pollution to sea life and humans.
When toxic waste harms an organism, it can quickly be passed along the food chain and may eventually end up being our seafood. In the food chain, one toxic organism gets eaten by another larger animal, which gets eaten by another animal, and can end up being our seafood.
Toxic waste gets into seas and oceans by the leaking of landfills, dumps, mines, and farms. Farm chemicals and heavy metals from factories can have a very harmful effect on marine life and humans.
Many fishermen believe that the toxic chemicals in the ocean are killing much of the fish population. One of the most harmful chemicals in the ocean is lead. Lead can cause many health problems.
It can damage the brain, kidneys, and reproductive system.
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Lead can also cause birth defects for people. It has been shown to cause low IQ scores, slow growth, and hearing problems for small children. House and car paint and manufacturing lead batteries, fishing lures, certain parts of bullets, some ceramic ware, water pipes, and fixtures all give off lead.
Many things found in the ocean may cause seafood to be dangerous to human health. The effect on humans from contaminated seafood may include birth defects and nervous system damage.
Medical waste found in the ocean is being tested to see if swimmers have a chance of developing Hepatitis or AIDS.
Other waste has been known to cause viral and bacterial diseases. This type of pollution can be stopped by watching what pollution we are letting into the ocean. People are trying to decrease the amount of waste in the oceans by recycling as much garbage as they can so there is a smaller amount of very harmful materials in the ocean.
2. Boating Pollution
Whenever someone takes their boat onto the water for a ride, it is creating pollution that can be very harmful to the sea life.
Boating pollution is the pollution that comes from the boat‘s engine when it is running, and it pollutes the water, killing animals with the chemicals in the exhaust from the engine. The engine gives off excess gasoline, which pollutes the waters and ends up killing the animals.
3. Garbage Dumping
Garbage dumping is the dumping of harmful materials into the ocean like human waste, ground-up garbage, water from bathing, and plastics. Most of the waste that has been dumped into the ocean in the early 1990‘s is still there today. One main cause of garbage dumping occurs when sewage pipes share their space with storm water drains.
Rainfall causes the sewage pipes to overflow and the sewage waste mixes with the storm water drain, which flows into another water source such as a lake or river. After that, the garbage pollutes the ocean, kills plants and animals in the water (for example, the plastic rings that are around pop cans can get around an animal‘s neck, causing it to suffocate), and makes the water dirty.
Wastewater is a disposal problem that needs to be taken care of. Wastewater is run-off from rainwater and usually ends up in rivers, lakes, and oceans. In order to reduce the amount of wastewater, we need to make sure that the water that ends up in the ocean is clean. We can do this by watching how much pollution we put into the ocean.
Whenever even a small amount of pollution gets into the ocean, it damages the environment. A lot of people don‘t realize that this same pollution is going into the ocean every day and all the small amounts add up to a major problem. To decrease the threat to public health, safety, and the environment, we need to watch how much wastewater we produce.
Other Sources of Pollution
Pollution causes a lot of plant and animal deaths in the ocean. In addition to boat pollution, other things that cause water pollution are agriculture (like pesticide run-off), land clearing, and people that pollute the environment without thinking about what harm it can do to animals and humans.
How is Cars Polluting the Oceans?
Cars pollute the ocean a lot. Whenever a car gets driven, you may have noticed a lot of smoke that is coming out from the back of the car. This smoke doesn‘t go directly into the ocean. It ends up being in acid rain.
Acid rain is pollution mixed with regular rain, and when acid rain gets into the ocean, it pollutes the waters and kills many fish over a period of time. Cars are big pollution source. If pollution from cars cannot be stopped or at least cut down, then pretty soon the amount of fish and other creatures in the ocean will decrease.
How is Agriculture Polluting the Oceans?
Chemical pesticides, chemical substances used to kill harmful animals or insects, and fertilizers, chemical or natural substances put on the land to make crops grow better, are another source of pollution. When it rains, the pesticides and fertilizers get taken off of the plants and end up in our oceans, killing ocean plants and animals.
They are used by animal and agricultural farms, plantations, industries (especially illegal ones), and believe it or not, our very own gardens. A way to decrease the amount of pesticides and fertilizers polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans is by watching the amount of pesticide spray that you put on the plants in your garden. You can also buy organic products, which are grown with only natural pesticides and fertilizers.
Chemical detergents, batteries, plastics, and sewage are all produced by homes and everyday human activity. Every day humans create and use these things, and every day, people are creating a risk to the plants and animals that live in the oceans and lakes by doing things like driving without carpooling and making sure batteries are not leaking.
Some ways that you can protect the oceans are by recycling plastics, disposing of batteries properly, using rechargeable batteries instead of regular batteries, using less water, carpooling, and recycling.
- The Ocean Zones
From the shiny, clear sunlight zone to the dark, murky midnight zone, lie facts about the three different zones of the ocean.
Even though the very bottom zone is about ninety percent of the ocean, more than ninety percent of the ocean‘s sea life lives in the top zone, which is why it is important that we do not pollute our oceans.
- Sunlight Zone
The sunlight zone is also called the Euphotic Zone. This zone is the top zone, and it is also the smallest. The sunlight zone is only about 600 feet deep, but ninety percent of the ocean‘s sea life lives in the sunlight zone. This zone is home to a wide variety of marine life because plants can grow here.
Plants can grow here because sunlight can get to the plants in this zone, so the plants can do photosynthesis and grow. Also, the water temperature is warmer than any other zone in the ocean. The sunlight can reach this zone and warm the ocean water, so it is warm enough for fish and other sea life.
Sharks, tunas, mackerels, jellyfish, sea turtles, sea lions, seals, and stingrays are a few of the animals that live in the sunlight zone.
Pollution is major problem in the sunlight zone. The main kind of pollution that occurs in this zone is oil pollution. The two main causes of oil pollution in the ocean are big ships leaking oil or ships carrying oil crashing into the ocean.
Global warming is affecting many different parts of the ocean as well. It is causing the water to rise, and when it rises, it covers things such as low land islands with plants, animals, and even some people‘s homes on them. This can hurt animals in the different layers of the ocean.
One other way ocean layers are affected by global warming is that warm water, caused by global warming, is hurting and even killing algae which are what some fish in the sunlight zone eat.
These fish would die because all of their food would have gone. When the fish die, it is a break in our food chain, which would lead to a big problem for all of the animals that rely on the algae-eating fish for their food.
- Twilight Zone
The twilight zone is also called the Disphotic Zone. In depth, the twilight zone is about 2,400 feet, making it the second largest zone. As the water becomes deeper, the water pressure becomes higher.
Almost no sunlight can reach this zone.
Therefore, very few plants can grow here. The only animals that can live here are those that can adapt to very little sunlight, really cold temperatures, and very high pressure. The few animals that can live in the twilight zone are lantern fish, hatchet fish, viperfish, mid-water jellyfish, octopus, and squid.
Many animals that live in the twilight zone have bodies that protect them from predators. The viperfish and the ratchet fish have fangs so they can easily protect themselves and help them eat their prey.
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Other fish are so thin that when a predator looks at them, they do not even see them! Some fish are colored red and black to blend in with their surroundings.
Some squid and fish can use their bodies to make light with special organs in their bodies called photospheres.
These photospheres give off a greenish colored light, which helps them see. Most fish in this zone don‘t chase their prey. They wait for their pray to swim by. Then they snatch their prey and eat it.
Some of the pollutants that cause problems for the amazing creatures of the twilight zone are metals and toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals settle in the sea, and eventually some of the fish eat these chemicals.
Other fish eat these fish that ate the chemicals, and these fish, too, will eventually die because they are putting toxic pollution into their bodies.
- Midnight Zone
The midnight zone is also called the Aphhotic Zone. Ninety percent of the ocean is the midnight zone. This zone happens to be the bottom zone, so it is completely dark. Very few creatures in the ocean live in the midnight zone because the water pressure is extreme and it is near freezing down that far.
Some of the very few creatures that live down in this zone are angler fish, tripod fish, sea cucumbers, snipe eels, opossum shrimp, black swallowers, and the vampire squids.
Because of the lack of plants at this depth, all of the creatures in this zone are predators.
They survive by consuming bacteria which grows from the mineral-rich materials and hydrogen sulphide that are given off by underwater cracks in the earth‘s crust. Since there is no light down in this zone, some fish do not even have eyes.
The picture above is showing the different anoxic zones. One problem caused by pollution that occurs in the midnight zone is called anoxic water. This means that there is no or hardily any dissolved oxygen in the water.
When there is no dissolved oxygen, fish and other creatures & nbspzone cannot breathe and they will quickly die from a lack of oxygen.
Some of the creatures that live at this depth might die or migrate to other parts of the ocean. If they do migrate, there is a possibility that there could become a problem in the food chain.
It is very important that we address the issues that affect the ocean. Ninety percent of sea creatures live in the sunlight & nbspzone, which is the zone that is most affected by global warming and oil pollution. We must stop these problems because if we don‘t, we will hurt and maybe even kill our sea life.
Global warming refers to average temperatures, measured over decades. Temperature measurement obviously varies with location and seasons. Warming simply means that the earth retains more of the sun’s heat over time.
Heat drives weather and increased heat means increased water and turbulence in the atmosphere. The consequences are determined by the distribution of this extra heat and its effect on ocean and air circulation patterns.
We can accept paradoxical weather results as the extra heat makes climate systems more unstable.
The most obvious effect of warming is the melting of ice in Arctic, Antarctic and high mountain glaciers. Ice monitoring has become an important scientific enterprise.
Measurements to date reveal accelerating ice melting.
The extra fresh water is added to the ocean, raising ocean levels with important changes in ocean circulation patterns. The redistribution of retained heat depends more on the oceans than on the atmosphere.
Pollution releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in global warming. Air pollution causes global warming through the greenhouse effect, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The greenhouse effect occurs when greenhouse gases trap heat energy from the sun and prevent it from escaping Earth’s atmosphere and entering space. Since the late 1800s, Earth’s atmosphere has gotten between 0.4 and 0.8 degrees Celsius warmer, according to NASA.
The first stage of the greenhouse effect is when solar radiation passes through Earth’s atmosphere, according to the EPA. The majority of this radiation is absorbed by Earth’s surface in the form of heat.
Some of this absorbed heat is released back into Earth’s atmosphere. Some of this heat escapes into space, while some is contained by greenhouse gases and warms Earth’s atmosphere.
Too many greenhouse gases result in the warming of Earth’s atmosphere.
The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and water vapour, according to the EPA.
Without the presence of greenhouse gases, our atmosphere would be 60 degrees Fahrenheit colder. However, too many greenhouses gases in our atmosphere result in temperature increases worldwide.
Cars are a major source of greenhouse gases. Cars emit more than 333 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). That’s one-fifth of the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions. The EDF states that any major solution to global warming would need to include finding a way to cut auto emissions.
Coal burning power plants are another major source of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the United States Department of Energy. Clean coal technology is one way to reduce global warming because it significantly reduces the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere from coal burning power plants.
The melting of ice caps is resulting in higher sea levels. One of the main effects of global warming is the melting of ice worldwide, especially at the North and South poles, according to National Geographic. This has resulted in the decline of Adéliepenguins that live in Antarctica over the last 30 years, whose population has dropped from 32,000 to 11,000.
Sea levels around the world are also beginning to increase as a result of global warming. Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches by the end of the century, according to National Geographic.
In addition, hurricanes are likely to become stronger and occur more frequently, and floods and droughts are predicted to occur more frequently and with increased severity. Also, there will be less fresh water because of global warming.
If the Quelccaya Ice Cap in Peru continues melting at its current rate, it will disappear by 2100, leaving thousands of people without drinking water, according to National Geographic.
Dramatic weather patterns in the past few years are convincing even determined skeptics that something is happening to global climates. Humans have changed planet earth. One of our accomplishments is to extract and burn much of the fossil fuel deposits on the planet.
We have increased the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and are now observing the changes in weather patterns and climate that are a result of our actions.
Complex Systems: The attempt to understand complex systems has taken a quantum leap in recent years. We have gone beyond naïve linear models and now appreciate that if complex systems such as the atmosphere, the oceans, and land ecosystems change, they may become unstable and more unfriendly.
Extra heat will cause more turbulence, and weather patterns will change in unpredictable ways.
Unfortunately nature changes in abrupt ways and catastrophes are natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, storms, floods, earthquakes, avalanches all represent basic patterns of nature. We have to understand that our actions contribute to weather events.
The issues loom large when you consider recent climate changes as adverse consequences of human activities that could be improved if humans agreed on a proper course of action. Of course, human have great difficulty reaching agreements and greater difficulty sustaining agreements they have achieved.
The deepest problem for humans is that we cannot predict the future with any accuracy: Even the best informed scientist with the most recent data cannot know what is going to happen next.
When we talk about prudence we refer to our best methods of minimizing risk and preparing to deal with events beyond our control which can injure or kill us.
Preparation for accidents and illness consumes a large chunk of our resources. Smart humans notice adverse changes and take action to minimize the risk of adverse consequences. But not all human are smart or prudent.
Differential Effects Most Important: Too much attention has been paid to estimating and predicting the average temperature increase of the atmosphere as a whole. Long-term predictions are guesses that may be misleading.
The main concern is the effect of extra heat on local climates right now. If you track anomalous and destructive weather over the whole planet, there is already substantial evidence of climate change; there may be some benefits, but, overall, the changes look unpleasant and costly.
So far, increasingly anomalous weather and increasing loss of life and property from greenhouse gas accumulation are occurring with small changes in the average temperature of the planet. You can increase the temperature in some areas and decrease in others and you can alternate – the differential effect will drive storms and precipitation in unusual ways.
Increased adverse weather events can be explained as an exaggerated differential effect. We built a greenhouse with gases over much of the Pacific Ocean, for example, and put up heat shields in other areas – smoke, other particles and water vapor.
The temperature differences increase, followed by more weather extremes that cause loss of life and property from adverse weather increases. There is no need to wait until 2050 to find out what is going to happen.
Weather: in its simplest form is the expression of heating and cooling effects. When wind blows the roof off a house or a flood carries the house downstream, the energy required was supplied by the sun. The energy may have been stored briefly in the water of a lake or ocean and then expressed through heating of the water and air and evaporation of water. Air moves when there is a pressure gradient, another result of heating and cooling.
The water vapor content of the atmosphere will increase in a warmer world. With more water vapor in the atmosphere and an increase in sea surface temperatures, there will be increased precipitation at times and more vigorous storms and floods.
Water is in constant motion in the oceans. Air and water vapor are in constant motion in the atmosphere. When patterns of distribution change, ecosystems change. Humans experience these changes as threats to their comfort and security and ultimately to their survival.
A model of heat dynamics: that has emerged from a high technology, multidisciplinary study of the planet is complex. Important players in atmospheric dynamics are:
The sun supplies all the energy.
The atmosphere regulates input and output of the sun’s energy
Oceans store and distribute heat while supplying water to the atmosphere.
The green biomass in the ocean and on land supplies oxygen and consumes carbon dioxide.
Ice fields subtract water from the oceans and store it below 0 degrees Celsius (0oC).
Humans change all the variables except the sun.
Green Developments: in the media made “green” the slogan for action to limit the adverse effects of human degradations of the environment. The media often suggested that this is a relatively new consensus that there is an environmental crisis.
They excused people who have ignored the effect of greenhouse gases on climates global warming over the past 30 years. Some know what is really going on out there, but most people do not know or know but deny the obvious for selfish reasons.
Green refers to the color of chlorophyll in plants. Human action destroys plants and replaces healthy ecosystems with concrete and asphalt.
Another slogan that emerged was “save planet earth.” Humans will not save the planet. The task for humans is to stop destroying the environments that sustain humans. If we fail, the planet will be fine without us.
Greenhouse Gases: are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These gases act like the glass covering a greenhouse, letting sunlight in but blocking some of the infrared radiation from the earth’s surface that carries heat back into space.
The gases act like a blanket wherever their concentration increases. Local concentrations increase local heat and increased differences between hotter and colder regions drives weather events into more extreme ranges.
Over many years, the total amount of greenhouse gases accumulates and the average temperature of the whole planet is increasing. The planet’s thermostat had been set at a pleasant average temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (59oF) for the last 10 thousand years or so and is now rising.
UV Radiation: The reduction in forest biomass and reduction of ocean plankton from heat and exposure to increased UV radiation are also concerns. Ocean phytoplankton supplies 70 per cent of the oxygen we breathe and is a major consumer of carbon dioxide.
Plankton do best in cold water. If ocean temperatures increase and other problems such as increased UV radiation from ozone holes kill phytoplankton, the problems we are predicting will accelerate.
Ecosystems: are precariously balanced around temperature, pH, oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations.
The adaptive range for many organisms is tight and small changes can have big results. It may be that we can adapt to the changes that have occurred so far but we may have already gone too far and will encounter the big avalanche. The negative consequences of our actions may escalate beyond our control.
Living on the Edge: People in California are specially adapted to the uncertainty of nature – earthquakes have always taken their toll; however when you add the toxicity of air pollution and agricultural chemicals, to soil erosion, floods, fires, failing economy and social unrest you have the formula for an unstable ecosystem that will become less habitable rather than more as the years proceed.
Other comfortable and affluent North Americans are having trouble realizing that they are living on an ecological edge. More of them are seeing homes and businesses under water, on-fire, blown away, crushed by heavy snow or deprived of a supportive infrastructure. We will have more water at times dumped on the land and the consequences can be severe and cumulative.
At other times in other places, there will be less water and drought and winds will blow away more top soil.
More of the forest biomass will be lost and erosion will continue at accelerated rates.
Food-growing lands are in jeopardy; it may be difficult to sustain the level of agricultural productivity we enjoyed in the 20th century.
New health hazards will emerge – some predicable; others will be unpleasant surprises. After hurricanes, fires and floods – things are never really the same again.
Insurance Companies: are either increasing, out of business, worried, or refusing coverage for properties at risk. Hurricane Andrew was the worst weather disaster in US history causing 16.5 billion dollars in insured losses and bankrupting some smaller insurance companies.
The UN panel on climate change has estimated that windstorm damage increased from $500 million in the 60’s to over $11 billion in the 90’s and the annual bill in the 21st century may be hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
Before 1987, storms had never caused insured losses exceeding $1 billion. Hurricane Andrew destroyed over 28,000 homes. Hurricanes Jeanne, Ivan, Frances and Charley in 2004 destroyed 27,500 housing units.
The Southern US was attacked by 17 major storms during the 2005 hurricane season. Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage on 19th September, 2005 to the Gulf coast of the US. Early damage cost was estimated at $200 billion, the worst natural disaster in US history.
Hurricane Rita soon followed on 24thSeptember and became the most intense hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico but caused less damage, because it made landfall in less populated areas – no consolation to the people in Texas and Louisiana who suffered a direct hit. Damage estimate was $10 billion.
Political Action: should swift and definitive, but of course, it is not. Politicians are short-term administrators who tend to be inexperienced and poorly informed. In all fairness to politicians, some of them began their careers with high hopes of improving the world, but discovered as they matured in politics that they could only court the favor of those with vested interests, power, money and influence.
The realist might say that the politician can only do what is political expedient and this usually means what is in his or her best interest in the next two to four years. The task of leading fellow Homo sapiens from a self-destructive path requires an intelligent consensus and leadership from compassionate superheroes who think in terms of centuries, even millennia.
According to Maurice Strong who headed the 1992 Rio Earth Summit stated; “Overall we haven’t made the fundamental course of change promised in Rio. The process of deterioration has continued and the forces that drive that deterioration have continued “. At that summit 153 nations signed treaties to reduce global warming, save endangered species and foster sustainable development.
Kyoto 1997: The Kyoto meeting to determine emissions policy for the countries of the world has been a great disappointment and only confirmed our basic understanding that governments are not going to act responsibly. Man-made climate problems are going to be with us for decades to come. Disruptions in ecosystems, economic systems, and political systems are inevitable.
ICC Dec. 2007 NUSA DUA, Indonesia. At the international climate conference, the world‘s nations committed to negotiating a new accord by 2009 that cut in half emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2050. While the commitment is welcome, humans remain critical of each other, disputatious and focused on self-interest.
The negotiations that might lead to an accord will not be a smooth path and even if an accord is achieved, compliance with its terms will not be enforceable.
The climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009 involved 200 nations who failed to achieve enforceable agreements to reduce carbon emissions. If you were an optimist you might value the Accord that was achieved, a five-page document that represented another tentative step toward global action to reduce atmospheric pollution and climate change.
A realist would restate our understanding of human nature – that local interests always trump global concerns and local interests are divergent and divisive.
US President Obama stated: ―I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen.
The science says that we‘ve got to significantly reduce emissions over the next 40 years. There‘s nothing in the Copenhagen agreement that ensures that will happen.
Limitations of Human Nature
Changes in human behavior must come from all people who sense danger, seek to understand their options and change spontaneously. The same issues come up in personal and public health concerns – constructive change is required.
Ignorance and denial obstruct constructive change; wishful thinking and fantasy solutions become more popular. Self-interest and greed dominate the political process. Mother earth shudders and complains looks like we are staying on the edge.
In conclusion, the world is concerned about the current trends in pollution and the obvious consequences expressed in global warming, climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Human health is also another serious consequence which cannot be quantified. In an event the planet earth losses all its support capacities for the sojourn of man, where does man go? The solution to this problem lies with our efforts in sustainable development.