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Environmental pollution – in gas, solid, and liquid form – has been a fact of life for many centuries but it became a real problem since the start of the industrial revolution. It is the contamination of the physical and biological components of the earth/atmosphere system to such an extent that normal environmental processes are adversely affected.
Environmental pollution takes place when the environment cannot process and neutralize harmful by-products of human activities (for example, poisonous gas emissions) in due course without any structural or functional damage to its system. Pollution occurs, on the one hand, because the natural environment does not know how to decompose the unnaturally generated elements and, on the other, there is a lack of knowledge on the part of humans on how to decompose these pollutants artificially. It matters first and foremost because it has negative impacts on crucial environmental services such as provision of clean air and clean water without which life on Earth as we know it would not exist.
Environmental pollution is a problem both in developed and developing countries. Factors such as population growth and urbanization invariably place greater demands on the planet and stretch the use of natural resources to the maximum. It has been argued that the carrying capacity of Earth is significantly smaller than the demands placed on it by large numbers of human populations. And overuse of natural resources often results in nature’s degradation.
Environmental pollution effects can be truly damaging. Some of the effects of air pollution are well known. They include asthma, reduced energy levels, irritation of eyes, disruption of the immune system, malfunction of the central nervous system, cancer. Water pollution can cause skin rashes, allergies, and all sorts of water-borne infections, vomiting, stomach aches, malfunction of the central nervous system and so on. Soil pollution is, in a way connected to water pollution and may cause cancer, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes and so on.
Environmental pollution is causing a lot of distress not only to humans but also animals, driving many animal species to endangerment and even extinction. The transboundary nature of environmental pollution makes it even more difficult to manage it – governments cannot build brick walls along the borders of a country or put customs cabins at every point of entry to regulate its flows. Everything on our planet is interconnected, and while the nature supplies us with valuable environmental services without which we cannot exist, we all depend on each other’s actions and the way we treat natural resources. A collective effort has the best reach.
Unfortunately, it’s widely recognized that the United States is hugely overspending its current budget of natural resources – at the existing rates of its exploitation, there is no way for the environment to recover in good time and continue “performing” well in the future. The nation should adopt a radically holistic view of nature – nature is not an entity that exists separately from us. Instead, nature is us, we are an inalienable part of it, and we should care for it in the most appropriate manner. Only then can we possibly solve the significant problem of environmental pollution.
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