The Advance of Technology and Pollution
Here is a quote that I believe tells the entire story of mankind”s existence: “Man’s long adventure with knowledge has, to a very marked degree, been a climb up the heat ladder….Today the flames grow hotter in the furnaces….The creature that crept furred through the glitter of blue glacial nights lives surrounded by the hiss of steam, the roar of engines, and the bubbling of vats….
And he is himself a flame — a great, roaring, wasteful furnace devouring irreplaceable substances of the earth.” –Loren Eiseley, anthropologist and essayist (1907-1977), Man the Firemaker
As this quote from Loren Eisely suggests the relationship between the advancement of technology and the increase in pollution has gone hand in hand throughout the ages of mankind. Humans are very much responsible for their actions and have and will continue to feel the impact of the carelessness that they have shown toward mother earth.
Studies of temperature records preserved deep in the underground rocks show that the Earth has been gradually warming over at least the last 500 years. These studies, done by scientists in the US and Canada, show that the trend of the increase in climate has increased on an increasing pace during the 20th century, which was the warmest of the past five centuries. Since 1500, the Earth”s temperature has increased by about one degree Celsius, with eighty percent of that increase during the last century. In the northern hemisphere, the five-century long change has been 1.1 degrees, with 0.6 occurring since 1900.
There have been numerous extreme changes in the climate throughout the world that have had astonishing effects on the people, wildlife, and environment. Many of these events have led to people having to vastly change their lifestyle or have to move out the area due to the fact that living conditions are unsafe. In the summer of 1998, Dallas, Texas recorded a deadly heat wave.
Heat claimed more than 100 lives in the region, as temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 straight days. Waimea Bay, Hawaii is has also seen its share of misfortune. Along with costal development, sea levels have risen contributing to considerable beach loss over the past 90 years. In October of 1998, Hurricane Mitch dumped between three and six feet of rain within 48 hours over most of Central America. Mitch killed more than 10,000 people in mudslides and floods, triggered a cholera epidemic, and virtually wiped out the economies of Honduras and Nicaragua.
Several days after the horrendous hurricane in Central America, a large meeting in Buenos Aires met at the fourth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Many at the conference pointed to Hurricane Mitch as an example of the catastrophes that will await our world if we do not act immediately to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other so called greenhouse gasses.
Various experts blame many different sources of technological change and events for this vast change in temperature throughout the world. The fact is, not just one major event or area is the sole cause of this. Fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide when burned, are used to generate electricity, heat and light homes and workplaces, power factories and run cars. Experts suggest that unless we reduce population growth and use of fossil fuels, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will double by sometime in the middle of the next century.
Starting in the mid-1700s, human activities began to alter the composition of the atmosphere. Vast supplies of charcoal, and later coal and oil, fed the growing fires of the Industrial Revolution. The carbon stored in these fuels was released to the air as carbon dioxide, which is a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Today, for every one of the more than 5.8 billion people on Earth, nearly six tons of carbon dioxide are spewed into the air annually. As a result of our activities, the atmospheric concentration of this heat-trapping gas has risen by more than 30 percent in the last 250 years. The future of Earth’s climate will depend partly on the buildup of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere.
One of the major problems of global warming is that it exists as an environmental issue only because of science. People can”t directly sense global warming, the way they can see a clear-cut forest or inhale the urban smog in their lungs. This is an enormous issue to overcome if anything is going to be done. New information is now being presented to the public”s eye everyday, giving them new and more accurate facts on such issues. People are starting to become aware of the consequences of their actions.
However, even though the facts are present, very little is being done. Only in the most affected areas are people trying to fix the problem. It seems like no one really cares about it, until it happens to them. To me this seems like it could be the largest feat for us as humans to overcome in the prevention of man-made global warming. What sort of astronomical disaster must happen to get us to pay attention to what we are doing in our lives? Is it going to take a major flood across the US that destroys numerous states? What about miles of coastline to be taken by rising sea levels? These are the issues that scare me the most. I truly believe that something must be done, and it must be done now.
Another large area of pollution due to technological advancement is water pollution. This pollution takes place by three different types of activities: agricultural, municipal, and industrial. The worst part of this pollution is the fact the actual pollution is a form called non-point source pollution. This is where the source of the actual pollution may be hard to identify and it possibly doesn”t even affect the areas around the point, but possibly downstream or scattered over a wide area. Due to this it makes the pollution extremely hard to regulate.
The advancement in agricultural activities of the US and other developed countries, such as new and stronger types insecticides, herbicides, pesticides, along with the large-scale cattle and hog lots provide large amounts run-off. This run-off contains a high content of fertilizers, animal wastes, and silt which go in to the surface waters. This results in an increase in the nutrients in the water called eutrophication. Eutrophication causes rapid growth in algae and bacteria in the water. This is tragic to the fish and other things because the algae use up all of the oxygen in the water and the fish suffocate. The run-off of the silt causes water to become very unattractive for recreation and also covers up fish spawning sites.
Many theories and ideas have been developed in an effort to help control the major productive source of these agricultural activities. The success or failure of any agricultural non-point source pollution control project depends on the participation of the many landowners and farm operators. These producers must install or utilize land-based treatments, or best management practices (BMPs), that minimize the movement of agricultural pollutants such as sediments, nutrients, and pesticides to water resources. One of such is organic farming. Organic farming avoids the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Another is to avoid large concentrations of animals, which can reduce nutrient pollution, and their waste can be used as fertilizer for crops. Also, other certain cropping methods can reduce the erosion of sediment from the land.
As our municipal wants and needs advance, more, and more municipal pollution occurs. The salt from snow removal activities increases the cost of purification. As we consume more, we also throw more away, as the increase in landfills needed throughout the country has been rapidly increasing. These landfills allow large amounts of chemicals to enter into the ground water, which in turn also increases the cost of purification. Inadequate sewer water treatment facilities lead to the possible outbreak of enteric diseases.
The last source of water pollution is that of the industrial activities. As the times change, so do that of the modern industry. Companies are always trying to find ways to decrease their costs, in turn to increase their profit margins. Many times these costs are converted into the pollution of water. Industrial pollution of water comes in many different shapes and forms.
The chemicals that industries use get into the water supply by various means. These chemicals increase the existence of numerous diseases and the cost of the purification of the water for drinking. One of the sources of water pollution one rarely thinks of, as pollution, is one called thermal pollution. Thermal pollution is from the warm water discharges that an industry emits into various bodies of water. This kills coldwater fish and also increases the costs of water treatment.
Overall, there is much to be done in this world in an effort to help control the increased pollution by technological advancement. In my opinion, I believe that the answers to the prevention in pollution are ironically a part of our technological advancement. As we learn of what types of things are really making a significant impact on the environment, we will be able to develop steps to counter the effects of the harmful pollutants that we are causing.