Comprising over 70% of the Earth’s surface, water is undoubtedly the most precious natural resource that exists on our planet. Without the seemingly invaluable compound comprised of hydrogen and oxygen, life on Earth would be nonexistent: it is essential for everything on our planet to grow and prosper. Although we as humans recognize this fact, we disregard it by polluting our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Subsequently, we are slowly but surely harming our planet to the point where organisms are dying at a very alarming rate. In addition to innocent organisms dying off, our drinking water has become greatly affected as is our ability to use water for recreational purposes.
The world's oceans and rivers have never been under more pressure from pollution. One kind of water pollution, which is usually the most common, is called “Conventional” and is made up of conventional pollutants. Conventional pollutants are solid particles and matter found in our water. Most of the pollution we can see is conventional. Cans, bottles, paper, just about anything, can be a conventional pollutant. Conventional pollutants cause a wide variety of environmental problems. The solids suspended in the water can block the sun's rays, and this blocking disrupts the carbon dioxide/oxygen conversion process. This process is vital to an aquatic food chain. Sometimes the solid pollution is so bad, the water becomes unusable to humans and animals. The best way to remove conventional pollutants is to run the water through a treatment plant. In treatment plants the water is skimmed, run through several filters, and settled. This removes about 60 percent of the pollutants. The remaining pollution is decomposed by tiny pollution-eating microorganisms.
Another type of pollution is called Non-conventional and is made up of non-conventional pollutants. Non-conventional pollutants are more dangerous to the environment than conventional pollutants. Non-conventional pollutants are dissolved metals, both toxic (harmful) and nontoxic (not harmful). Many factories dump these pollutants into the water as byproducts of their production process. The most devastating type of non-conventional pollution is an oil spill. More than 13,000 oil spills occur each year in the United States alone. Motor oil can damage or kill aquatic vegetation and animal life. An oil slick - contaminating two million gallons of drinking water - can develop from one quart of oil. Massive oil drilling mishaps are responsible for serious water pollution. For example, a 1979 accident at Ixtoc2, an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, spilled 140 million gallons, covering 10 percent of the Gulf.
Transporting oil is also dangerous. In an average year, accidents dump about 120 million gallons of oil into the sea. But “roughly six times more oil gets into the ocean simply through routine flushing of carrier tanks, runoff from streets, and other everyday consequences of motor vehicle use,” says Marcia D. Lowe of the World Watch Institute.
Another major pollution contributors are the meat-packing industry and many manufacturing industries. Estimates suggest that nearly 1.5 billion people lack safe drinking water and that at least 5 million deaths per year can be attributed to waterborne diseases. This phenomenon is not confined to the Third World. Even many of the municipal water supplies in developed countries can present health risks. The water in European nations such as Germany is also found to be contaminated with dangerous amounts of residues from the chemical, pharmaceutical, and metal-working industries. In 1992, Germany experienced 1,825 documented accidents involving releases of water-polluting substances.
In Japan, during 1953-60, there was a water borne epidemic called Minimata epidemic. It was a case of mercury poisoning caused by consumption of fish from the Minimata Bay of Japan which was heavily contaminated by mercury compounds discharged by a nearby plastic industry. It was characterized by severe damage to the nervous system leading to ataxia, paraesthesia (abnormal pricking sensations), loss of vision and hearing and ultimately death.
Another case of mercury poisoning was the epidemic of consumption of fish from polluted Kalu River in the Thana district of Bombay, India. The major symptom was paralysis. Such incidents are too numerous to mention.
Most of us do not realize that our air consumption is more than 10000 times than that of water in terms of volume. Motor vehicles and industries are the world’s biggest source of air pollution.
The air we breathe in many cities is being polluted by driving cars and trucks; burning coal, oil, and other fossil fuels; and manufacturing chemicals. Millions of people live in areas where urban smog, very small particles, and toxic pollutants pose serious health concerns.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas and is formed when the carbon in fuels does not completely burn. Vehicle exhaust contributes roughly 60 percent of all carbon monoxide emissions nationwide, and up to 95 percent in cities. Other sources include fuel combustion in industrial processes and natural sources such as wildfires.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average adult breathes over 3,000 gallons of air every day. Children breathe even more air per pound of body weight and are more susceptible to air pollution.
Air pollution threatens the health of human beings and other living things on our planet. While often invisible, pollutants in the air create smog and acid rain, cause cancer or other serious health effects, diminish the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, and contribute to the potential for world climate change.
A study by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program shows that two thirds of the world’s urban population live with polluted air.
Breathing the air for a day in Mumbai, India, pollutes your lungs as much as smoking ten cigarettes.
Air is the ocean we breathe. Air supplies us with oxygen which is essential for our bodies to live. Air is 99.9% nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Human activities can release substances into the air, some of which can cause problems for humans, plants, and animals.
There are several main types of pollution and well-known effects of pollution which are commonly discussed. These include smog, acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and "holes" in the ozone layer. Each of these problems has serious implications for our health and well-being as well as for the whole environment.
One type of air pollution is the release of particles into the air from burning fuel for energy. Diesel smoke is a good example of this particulate matter . The particles are very small pieces of matter measuring about 2.5 microns or about .0001 inches. This type of pollution is sometimes referred to as "black carbon" pollution.
Another type of pollution is the release of noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and chemical vapors. These can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, forming smog and acid rain.
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment as a result of human activity (can be both intentional and unintentional). The term often refers to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters. Oil can refer to many different materials, including crude oil, refined petroleum products (such as gasoline or diesel fuel) or by-products, ships' bunkers, oily refuse or oil mixed in waste. Spills take months or even years to clean up. Of course, chemicals used in cleaning further poison the environment and all of the oil can never really be cleared.
Between 1978 and 1991, prior to the Persian Gulf War, five major oil spills had occurred in the Gulf, each involving more than a quarter of a million barrels of crude oil and each being larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. The largest of these spills was associated with a well at Nowruz, Iran that resulted in 1.9 million barrels of oil being dumped in the northern section of the Gulf. Also, a considerable amount of industrial spillage and natural oil seepage occurs in the Gulf each year. Estimates range from 250,000 to 3 million barrels per year (DeSouza, 1991;Ackleson et al., 1992). This is the environmental price, which the Gulf must pay to be the world's major oil highway.
The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, which occurred on 24 March 1989, is considered one of the most devastating man-made environmental disasters ever to occur at sea. As significant as the Exxon Valdez spill was, it ranks well down on the list of the world's largest oil spills in terms of volume released. The region was a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals, sea birds and the great white shark. The vessel spilled 10.8 million gallons of unrefined Alaskan crude oil into the sea.
In an average year, accidents dump about 120 million gallons of oil into the sea. But “roughly six times more oil gets into the ocean simply through routine flushing of carrier tanks, runoff from streets, and other everyday consequences of motor vehicle use,” says Marcia D. Lowe of the World Watch Institute.
Acid rain is a result of air pollution. When any type of fuel is burnt, lots of different chemicals are produced. The smoke that comes from a fire or the fumes that come out of a car exhaust don't just contain the sooty grey particles that you can see - they also contains lots of invisible gases that can be even more harmful to our environment.
Power stations, factories and cars all burn fuels and therefore they all produce polluting gases. Some of these gases (especially nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide) react with the tiny droplets of water in clouds to form sulphuric and nitric acids. The rain from these clouds then falls as very weak acid - which is why it is known as "acid rain".
Acidity is measured using a scale called the pH scale. This scale goes from 0 to 14. 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline (opposite of acidic). Something with a pH value of 7, we call neutral, this means that it is neither acidic nor alkaline.
Very strong acids will burn if they touch your skin and can even destroy metals. Acid rain is much weaker than this, never acidic enough to burn your skin.
Rain is always slightly acidic because it mixes with naturally occurring oxides in the air. Unpolluted rain would have a pH value of between 5 and 6. When the air becomes more polluted with nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide the acidity can increase to a pH value of 4. Some rain has even been recorded as being pH2.
Vinegar has a pH value of 2.2 and lemon juice has a value of pH2.3. Sometimes acid rain is as acidic as lemon juice or vinegar. Acid rain can be carried great distances in the atmosphere, not just between countries but also from continent to continent. The acid can also take the form of snow, mists and dry dusts. The rain sometimes falls many miles from the source of pollution but wherever it falls it can have a serious effect on soil, trees, buildings and water.
Forests all over the world are dying, fish are dying. In Scandinavia there are dead lakes, which are crystal clear and contain no living creatures or plant life. Many of Britain's freshwater fish are threatened, there have been reports of deformed fish being hatched. This leads to fish-eating birds and animals being affected also.
Since the Industrial Revolution, emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere have increased. Acid rain was first found in Manchester, England. In 1852, Robert Angus Smith found the relationship between acid rain and atmospheric pollution. Though acid rain was discovered in 1852, it wasn't until the late 1960s that scientists began widely observing and studying the phenomenon.
In western Europe, millions of hectares of forests have minor or major damage from acid rain.
Lakes and rivers can have powdered limestone added to them to neutralize the water - this is called "liming". Liming, however, is expensive and its effects are only temporary - it needs to be continued until the acid rain stops. The people of Norway and Sweden have successfully used liming to help restore lakes and streams in their countries.
Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation.
Carbon dioxide makes up only .03 percent of the atmosphere, but it is extremely important. Scientists say it traps heat that otherwise would escape into space. This greenhouse effect keeps the earth’s climate from becoming uncomfortably cold.
Carbon dioxide is a natural product of organic decay and animal respiration. But industry has poured additional carbon dioxide into the air, causing potentially dangerous increases in the earth’s temperature.
The global average air temperature near the Earth's surface rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the 100 years ending in 2005. Climate model projections summarized by the IPCC indicate that average global surface temperature will likely rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the 21st century.
About 75 percent of the carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year comes from the burning of fossil fuels in factories and motor vehicles.
Another 20 percent comes from the deliberate burning of forests to clear land.
United Nations studies show that a warming climate could raise sea levels, which are already rising, by 1.5 to 6.5 feet over the next century. If sea levels rise 1 meter, this could submerge 5 million square kilometers of lowlands. These lowlands are now inhabited by 1 billion people and include one third of the world’s cropland.
Not everyone may agree with such doomsday scenarios but among the scientists who have deliberated on the issue for years and have drawn different conclusions from their respective studies, have one thing in common that global warming is a fact and that rising sea levels remain a potential source of worry.
Ozone Layer Destruction
Ozone is a form of oxygen that forms high up in the atmosphere when sunlight breaks apart oxygen atoms. Most ozone in the atmosphere is found between 19 and 30 km above the Earth's surface where it forms the ozone layer. The ozone layer acts as the planet's sunscreen, filtering out harmful UV rays coming from the Sun, which have many impacts at the surface, including damage to our health, wildlife and certain materials.
Since the 1970s we have realised that CFCs, man-made chemicals used in refrigeration have been depleting ozone and damaging the ozone layer. The damage is worst over Antarctica, where a large ozone hole forms every spring in September and October.
The ozone layer filters out incoming radiation in the "cell-damaging" ultraviolet (UV) part of the spectrum. Without ozone, life on Earth would not have been the way it is. The discovery of a large ozone hole over Antarctica and its association with man-made CFCs led the world to take action to protect the ozone layer.
CFC is short for chlorofluorcarbon, a man-made chemical made up of carbon, chlorine and fluorine atoms. There are many different types of CFCs. They were first developed in the 1930s, and since then have been widely used in refrigerators, aerosol cans and fire extinguishers. Man-made CFCs have been the main cause of ozone depletion high up in the atmosphere. One CFC molecule can destroy up to 100,000 ozone molecules. To date, they have accounted for roughly 80% of the total ozone depletion that has been observed. Other man-made chemicals like halons have accounted for the rest. Fortunately, the use of new CFCs has been banned since 1995.
UV rays are damaging to our health. Prolonged exposure to the Sun causes sunburn, which over many years can develop into skin cancer. UV rays can also damage eyesight. UV rays are also harmful to other forms of wildlife, particularly small plants and animals living in the sea called plankton. Plankton are not protected from the Sun's rays, which can penetrate water to a depth of many meters. Plankton form the base of the ocean food chain. UV rays can damage certain crops, like rice, which many people in the world rely on for food. Finally, UV rays can damage paint, clothing and other materials.
Any decrease in the amount of ozone in the ozone layer will increase the amount of UV rays reaching the Earth's surface, and worsen the impacts due to UV exposure.
Environmental warfare is defined as the intentional modification of a system of the natural ecology, such as climate and weather systems to cause intentional economic, psycho-social or physical destruction of an intended target, geophysical or population location, as part of strategic or tactical war.
Environmental warfare consists of the deliberate and illegal destruction, exploitation, or modification of the environment as a strategy of war or in times of armed conflict (including civil conflict within states). Modification of the environment that occurs during armed conflict and is likely to have widespread, long-lasting, or severe effects is proscribed by the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1976. Nevertheless, such destruction has occurred with some regularity. In the 1960s and '70s, the U.S. military used the defoliant Agent Orange to destroy forest cover in Vietnam, and in 1991 Iraqi military forces retreating during the Persian Gulf War set fire to Kuwaiti oil wells, causing significant environmental damage. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted in 1998, defines such modification or destruction as a war crime.
In the Gulf War of 1991, Iraq, it appears, resorted to environmental warfare, deliberately releasing millions of gallons of oil from Kuwaiti fields into the Persian Gulf, perhaps as a defense against amphibious assault, or perhaps as a means of crippling Saudi Arabia’s water desalinization plants. Also, Iraq apparently set hundreds of oil wells ablaze, releasing clouds of black smoke that turned day into night over much of Kuwait.
Environmental warfare may sound new to some, but it has been researched extensively in military circles for years. The first public description of weather modification techniques as a weapon of war was made on 20 March, 1974. At that time the Pentagon revealed a seven-year cloud seeding effort in Vietnam and Cambodia, costing $21.6 million. The objective was to increase rainfall in target areas, thereby causing landslides and making unpaved roads muddy, hindering the movement of supplies. (Science, "Weather Warfare: Pentagon Cencedes 7-Year Vietnam Effort," Deborah Shapley, June 7, 1974.) But interest in the exploitation of the environment for military purposes did not end there.
Air University, located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, describes itself as a "center for advanced education" that "plays a vital role in fulfilling the mission of the United States Air Force" and whose "service members must place the nation's defense above self." The Chief of Staff of the US Air Force tasked Air University to "look 30 years into the future to identify the concepts, capabilities and technologies the United States will require to remain the dominant air and space force in the 21st century." The study, completed in 1996, was titled ‘Air Force 2025’. One component of the study was a paper titled ‘Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025.’ It is a chilling document. It is evident that the authors regard our environment as nothing more than a resource to be exploited for military purposes. They claim that by 2025 US forces can "own the weather" by "capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies to warfighting applications." The authors describe weather modification as having "tremendous military capabilities" which "can provide battlespace dominance to a degree never before imagined," claiming the project would be "not unlike the splitting of the atom." The paper goes on to discuss how ionospheric research (The ionosphere is a region of the earth’s atmosphere ranging from about 30 – 1200 miles above the surface of the earth.) is necessary to achieve goals in both enhancing US communication capabilities and as a method of disabling enemy communications. "By 2025, it may be possible to modify the ionosphere and near space, creating a variety of potential applications."
Dr. Bernard Eastlund, while working as a consultant for Advanced Power Technologies Inc. (APTI) in the 1980s, patented devices that are described as capable of "causing…total disruption of communications over a very large portion of the Earth…missile or aircraft destruction, deflection or confusion…weather modification…" (From the book ‘Angels Don’t Play This HAARP’) These patents were based on the ideas and fundamental research of Nicola Tesla (many of his ideas were stolen by US corporations). Some of Eastlund's patents were temporarily sealed under a US Secrecy Order. APTI and Eastlund’s patents were quickly purchased by E-Systems, a company that is home to many retired and currently employed CIA agents. In 1993 E-Systems received $1.8 billion in classified contracts. Raytheon, the fourth largest US defense contractor and third largest aerospace company, currently holds the patents.
In light of the above, it is significant to know that since the early 1990s, the US Air Force has been sponsoring the world’s largest ionospheric modification project called HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program). HAARP, located in the remote bush country of Gakona, Alaska.The military was interested because, in the event of a Russian nuclear attack on the United States, an Alaskan site would be under the path of the incoming warheads." HAARP is currently a part of the ongoing Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), popularly known as "Star Wars". ("Natural Disasters and Meteorological War?" by Vera Vratusa)