Understanding Pollution: The Benefits of Water Power

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Water is the most precious resource on the planet, but it doesn’t just sustain our lives; it can also give us power.  That’s right, water, of which 71% of the planet is covered[i], can be a source of electric power.  In fact, water was one of the earliest sources of power in use by civilization.  If we truly needed another reason to worry about our world’s water supply, I think the fact that it keeps the lights on should definitely be considered.  Water power, or hydroelectric power as it’s called today, is one of the oldest forms of power generation in the world, it is a sustainable form of power, and it is an economically beneficial form of power.

Water power 1

The water mill is the earliest form of water based power generation in the world.  It was first created in the first century B.C., and by the 19th century it is estimated that there were over 20,000 mills in Europe alone.[ii]  How water mills work is very simple.  The flow of water turns a large water wheel which is connected to a wooden or metal shaft.  As the water turns the wheel, the shaft is moved and powers whatever machinery it is connected to.[iii]  Water mills have been used to grind grain, and power timber cutting saws in the 1800s, and the first hydroelectric power plant was created at Niagara Falls in 1879.[iv]  In the 2000 plus years since the invention of the water mill, there has been no reason to change how the water mill works, and in fact that is basically how hydroelectric power plants function.  Water runs through a turbine forcing it to turn, and as the turbine turns the shaft connected to the turbine is moved which, you guessed it, generates electrical power.[v]  Today, just as in the past, people recognize the simplistic beauty of hydroelectric power, and it accounts for roughly 1/5 of the world’s entire electricity production.[vi]  Hydroelectric power truly fits the old adage that “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”  For something that is so simple, so common, and so useful you would think that more people would be aware of its existence as a viable source of alternate energy.

Aside from the availability of water to power hydroelectric plants, there are a host of other benefits associated with it.  The first major advantage of hydroelectric power is that it is renewable.  As mentioned earlier, 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and all you need is water and a turbine in the right place to create power.  As long as there is water, there could be power if the right infrastructure was created, and in fact some of that infrastructure already exists.  65.9% of renewable energy production in the United States is from hydroelectric plants.[vii]  All told, it accounts for 7% of all electricity generation in the United States, and 20% worldwide.[viii] Something unique about this type of power generation is that the amount of power created can be varied simply by changing the speed at which water is run through the turbine.[ix]  Oh, and how could I forget the two biggest benefits of hydroelectric?  Number one is that it doesn’t use fossil fuels which means there is no greenhouse gas emission.  Number two, there is no pollution created whatsoever from the use of this form of electricity generation![x]

Water power 2

There are also economic benefits, other than cheaper electricity, that come from hydroelectric power.  First, the industry currently employs 300,000 people, and it is estimated that it could employ 1.4 million people by 2025 if the industry continues to expand.[xi]  Remember that most of the dams and hydroelectric power stations in the country were built in 1930 under the New Deal.[xii]  Perhaps it’s time to upgrade and expand that infrastructure.  Another benefit is that hydroelectric power plants, which are normally in dams, double as a water supply!  Then, there’s the fact that the construction of a Dam is a massive undertaking in terms of money, workers, and supplies, and that the construction of a dam generally leads to other development projects in the region.[xiii]

Ultimately, hydroelectric power is just one more way that mankind could advance its needs for power and water both in a responsible way.  It is both a sustainable and renewable form of energy production that does not adversely affect the environment.  It has the potential to put people back to work in a way that will both boost the economy, and give a boost to the environment.  No one denies that the developed, and developing nations of the world need electric power if we are to continue to advance as a society and a species.  That does not mean that we should strip mine our planet for fossil fuels to burn to supply that need.  There are alternatives, and they are alternatives that are not ridiculously expensive in the long run.  Throughout history man has recognized the power of water, but now that we truly need that power we’re not going to fully utilize it?  Let’s take a page from the history books, and put the water that we need to survive to work.  It will secure both our electric future, and our future need for clean, clear drinking water.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “How Much Water Is There On, In, and above the Earth?” How Much Water Is There on Earth, from the USGS Water Science School. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html&gt;.

[ii] “History and Tchnology Fo Watermills.” History and Tchnology Fo Watermills. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jesmonddeneoldmill.org.uk/mill/technology.html&gt;.

[iii] “History and Tchnology Fo Watermills.” History and Tchnology Fo Watermills. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jesmonddeneoldmill.org.uk/mill/technology.html&gt;.

[iv] “Hydroelectric Power.” Renewable Energy, , Benefits and Cons of Hydro Energy. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.altenergy.org/renewables/hydroelectric.html&gt;.

[v] “Hydroelectric Power: How It Works.” Hydroelectric Power: How It Works, USGS Water-Science School. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/hyhowworks.html&gt;.

[vi] “History and Tchnology Fo Watermills.” History and Tchnology Fo Watermills. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jesmonddeneoldmill.org.uk/mill/technology.html&gt;.

[vii] “Why Hydro | National Hydropower Association.” National Hydropower Association Why Hydro Comments. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.hydro.org/why-hydro/&gt;.

[viii] “Hydroelectric Power Water Use.” Hydroelectric Power and Water. Basic Information about Hydroelectricity, USGS Water Science for Schools. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/wuhy.html&gt;.

[ix] “Advantages Of Hydro Power.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Advantages_HydroPower.php&gt;.

[x] “Advantages Of Hydro Power.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Advantages_HydroPower.php&gt;.

[xi] “Job Creation | National Hydropower Association.” National Hydropower Association Job Creation Comments. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.hydro.org/why-hydro/job-creation/&gt;.

[xii] “Hydroelectric Energy.” – National Geographic Education. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/hydroelectric-energy/?ar_a=1&gt;.

[xiii] “The Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts of Hydroelectric Dams in Turkish Kurdistan.” Http://rudar.ruc.dk/. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://rudar.ruc.dk/bitstream/1800/403/1/The_Environmental_and.pdf&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: The Wonders of Wind Energy

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One of the biggest contributors to pollution worldwide is the need to burn fossil fuels to power our society. Over 70% of electricity in the United States is generated through the burning of fossil fuels, and that accounts for roughly 1/3 of Green House Gas emissions.[i]  Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was another way that we could power our society?  Well, in fact there already are several, and one of them is one of the oldest forms of power generation:  Wind Energy.  People have been saying for years that we need to move to greener forms of energy if we are going to continue to live in a sustainable world, and for years there have been arguments over the value of green energy; including wind energy.   Wind energy offers a number of benefits to the environment, is not more expensive than fossil fuels, and is beneficial to the economy.

The wonder of wind 1

The biggest, and most obvious, reason that wind energy is good for the environment is that it creates no pollution.  Windmills have been in use since 500 A.D., and they have generated zero pollution since their invention and use.[ii]  That’s a 1514 year track record, and wind turbines are basically big wind mills.  The other important thing to remember about wind energy is that it is a sustainable form of energy.  The only thing necessary, aside from the turbines, is wind.  That means, that if the necessary infrastructure is in place, power from wind turbines could last indefinitely.  Over the past decade in the United States wind power capabilities have grown by 30%, which is actually more than the average for the rest of the world.[iii]  Other countries aren’t being left behind though.  By 2020 Denmark plans to provide 70% of its power needs through renewable energy, and they don’t plan on stopping there.  They want 100% of their energy needs to be met solely through renewable means like wind power by 2050.[iv]  Also, wind turbines actually act to decrease air pollution by removing carbon dioxide.  In fact, one 1-megawatt wind turbine does as much good for air pollution as planting 1 square mile of forests.[v]  Also, one turbine can generate enough electricity to power 500 homes.[vi]

One of the most common misconceptions about wind energy is that it is expensive.  The opposite is actually true.  The Department of Energy estimates the average monthly cost to consumers who use wind energy is $40 a month.[vii]  To put that into some perspective, the average monthly electric bill in the United States in 2012 was $107 a month.[viii]  That is over a sixty dollar difference in cost.  Wind Energy is so cheap for several reasons.  Number one is that it there is no fuel cost for the generation of wind power, and the maintenance costs associated with wind energy are very low because of that fact. [ix]  The only real cost associated with wind energy is the construction of the turbines and the infrastructure necessary to get the energy from the turbines to the cities where it is most needed. The best part is that the United States just happens to be a very windy place.  It is estimated that if we fully utilized our potential for wind energy we would have enough power for 10x the current electric energy consumption of the whole of the United States.[x]

The wonder of wind 2

Europe is, in some ways ahead of the game when it comes to wind energy.  Today, Denmark meets 43% of all of its energy needs from renewable sources of energy like wind power.[xi]  The best part is that they don’t plan on stopping there.  Their goal is to provide 100% of all their energy needs through renewable energy by 2050.[xii]  In fact, most of the countries who are producing the most wind energy worldwide are European.  They include Germany with 7.9% of electricity generated from wind, Spain with 21%, Portugal with ¼ of all their power generated form wind, and Ireland with just under 18%.[xiii]  Why is Europe so gung-ho on wind power?  Well, for one because a recent report by the European Union established that wind power is roughly 1/3 cheaper than gas or coal based energy.[xiv]  Also, and I can’t stress this enough, wind power generates no pollution!

The wonder of wind 3

As mentioned before wind energy is not only beneficial to the environment, and your wallet, but also the economy as a whole.  In 2010 alone, over $10 billion was invested into the U.S. economy by the wind energy sector, and roughly 75000 people were employed for that sector.[xv]  Also during that time over thirty one manufacturing centers devoted to the wind energy sector were opened employing over 20000 people.  In addition, it is estimated that if the United States could reach the point where just 20% of our energy came from wind power that an additional $8 billion would be added to the economy.[xvi]  It is estimated that the U.S. spends roughly $37.5 billion dollars a year on subsidizing oil to keep the power flowing.[xvii]  Imagine if that money could be kept in country; if the U.S. was not dependent on oil to keep it running.

There is no quick and easy solutions to the many global problems that we face today.  Pollution is something that has been added to over centuries, and fossil fuels have been the go to source of energy for almost as long.  While it is difficult to fix the problems of centuries, it is not impossible.  It simply requires the will to look for solutions.  One possible solution for fossil fuel use, and air pollution is wind energy.  It would take time and energy to set up the necessary infrastructure to truly make wind energy viable, but the benefits are there for all to see.  The problem is that this cannot happen by simple chance or coincidence.  It requires action by people.  It requires a will to accomplish something that will help not just humanity, but the very earth that we call home.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Sources.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html&gt;.

[ii] “Third Planet Windpower.” Third Planet Windpower. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.thirdplanetwind.com/energy/history.aspx&gt;.

[iii] “Energy.gov.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy&gt;.

[iv] “Denmark Leads the Charge in Renewable Energy | European Elections 2014 | DW.DE | 02.05.2014.” DW.DE. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dw.de/denmark-leads-the-charge-in-renewable-energy/a-17603695&gt;.

[v] “Wind Energy Benefits.” Eere.energy.gov/. U.S. Department of Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/49053.pdf&gt;.

[vi] “Interesting Wind Energy Facts | Wind Energy Foundation.” Interesting Wind Energy Facts | Wind Energy Foundation. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.windenergyfoundation.org/interesting-wind-energy-facts&gt;.

[vii] “The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S.” The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S. American Wind Energy Association. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.awea.org/Resources/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=5547&gt;.

[viii] “2012 Average Monthly Bill- Residential.” 2012 Average Monthly Bill- Residential. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.eia.gov/electricity/sales_revenue_price/pdf/table5_a.pdf&gt;.

[ix] “Energy.gov.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy&gt;.

[x] “The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S.” The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S. American Wind Energy Association. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.awea.org/Resources/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=5547&gt;.

[xi] “Denmark Leads the Charge in Renewable Energy | European Elections 2014 | DW.DE | 02.05.2014.” DW.DE. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dw.de/denmark-leads-the-charge-in-renewable-energy/a-17603695&gt;.

[xii] “Denmark Leads the Charge in Renewable Energy | European Elections 2014 | DW.DE | 02.05.2014.” DW.DE. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dw.de/denmark-leads-the-charge-in-renewable-energy/a-17603695&gt;.

[xiii] “Europe Dominates World Wind Power Share, But Trails in Capacity [CHART].” Mashable. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://mashable.com/2014/08/23/wind-power-share/&gt;.

[xiv] “Wind Power Is Cheapest Energy, EU Analysis Finds.” The Guardian. The Guardian. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/13/wind-power-is-cheapest-energy-unpublished-eu-analysis-finds&gt;.

[xv] “Energy.gov.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy&gt;.

[xvi] “Energy.gov.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy&gt;.

[xvii] “Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Overview – Oil Change International.” Oil Change International. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Solar Energy, the More Environmentally Friendly Approach to Powered Houses

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There is a great argument taking place within our society over one of the most important resources man has: Power.  No, I’m not talking politics or economics, though they certainly have their place in the argument.  I am talking about electrical power.  Up to this point in history electrical power has been generated through the burning of fossil fuels.  As technology has advanced other alternatives have arisen.  One of the most talked about is solar power.  Like anything new there are both pros and cons to implementing solar power generation on a truly industrial scale.  There are benefits, and there are challenges.  There is also man’s inherent fear of change.

Power of the Sun 1

The benefits of solar power are many and varied.  To begin with enough solar energy hits the earth every day to supply our power needs 10000 times over.[i]  Yes, you read that right.  There is enough energy from sunlight for more than ten thousand times our power requirements.  Another benefit of solar power is that it is renewable.  It is estimated that our sun will not die for another 2.8 billion years.[ii]  So, that means that for almost 3 billion years the sun will be pumping a continuous stream of energy to our planet.  Now, I don’t know about you but a 3 billion year power supply sounds pretty sustainable to me.  Also, solar power is not like traditional methods of power generation in that it requires scarce natural resources to power it.  It’s powered by sunlight which is freely available in most parts of the world!  True, there are certain areas where there is little to no sunlight for parts of the year, but you have to walk before you can run, and solar technology is still advancing.  It is almost estimated that money invested into solar energy creates 2-3 times more jobs than money invested into natural gas or coal.[iii]   In fact, the solar panel manufacturing companies in the United States employ roughly 27000 people.[iv]

Power of the Sun 3

Now, as many benefits as there are to solar energy there are a few downsides.  One of the most obvious problems with solar energy is what happens on a cloudy day?  Absence on direct sunlight does not mean absence of solar energy. Because the sun’s rays are blocked by clouds less energy is generated by solar panels.[v]   However, if we used solar energy along with other renewable energy sources such as wind power that would not be a serious issue.  This leads us into the second problem with solar energy which is energy storage.  As solar power is a newish technology scientists and researchers are still trying to discover the best way to store solar power, and make it available to those who need it.[vi]  Another issue with solar energy is the necessary space for panels.  A single home can easily place panels on their roof, and generate enough power.  However, the more energy that is needed the more panels that must be installed, and for larger companies that could equal a great deal of space.[vii]  Finally, while solar power is a pollution free form of energy, the manufacturing of solar panels themselves are not.[viii]  However, there is give and take in every situation, and the pollution generated in the construction of solar panels is nothing compared to the pollution generated every day with the burning of fossil fuels.  Ultimately, there are negatives to everything in existence.  The disadvantages associated with solar energy production do exist.  Despite that, it is a cleaner form of energy that is still in its infancy.  As technology continues to advance, and solar energy becomes more and more used these disadvantages will become minimized.

Power of the Sun 5

As with anything that is new and unknown there is always pushback.  Solar energy is no different.  People fear what they do not understand, and are comfortable with what is familiar.  Even if what is familiar is doing possible irreparable damage to the planet and its inhabitants.  In November of 2014 a group of power companies, anti-tax activists, and billionaires pushed state governments to roll back their support of solar energy as a viable option.[ix]  They argue that solar energy offers unfair advantages to those who have solar panels equipped on their homes.  What should not be surprising however is that most of the pushback against solar energy is coming from utilities and power companies.[x]  Despite this pushback, there is also innovation.  A company in the United States has developed a prototype of a solar roadway that will allow not just solar generation, but the ability to upgrade our nation’s road systems.[xi]  In fact, the Netherlands have already created a 70 meter solar bike lane, which has the capability to power three homes.[xii]  That’s the Netherlands which at most gets access to 45% of the sun’s rays because of their weather.[xiii]   There will always be pushback against new ideas, and innovations.  It is how society as a whole deals with new ideas that truly matters.

Ultimately, I don’t know what will happen with solar energy.  Like any new technology it could take off or it could go the way of Betamax.  For those who don’t know, Betamax was VHS competitor format.  You probably don’t know about it because VHS became the popular format.  That being said, can we really afford to ignore the possibilities associated with our own sun?  The world is constantly changing and evolving, and mankind has a great deal to do with that change.  We seek to become masters of our environment, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  However, we must also understand the need to be responsible masters.  Do we truly wish to continue to pollute our land, air, and seas with the burning of fossil fuels?  Or do we wish to pursue options that could propel the human race into a golden age?  The choice is down to each and every one of us.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “The Case for & Against Solar Energy.” Science. Opposing Views. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://science.opposingviews.com/case-against-solar-energy-19638.html&gt;.

[ii] Fazekas, Andrew. “Study: Sun Will End Earthly Life in 2.8 Billion Years.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131028-earth-biosignature-doomsday-space-science/&gt;.

[iii] “Advantages & Disadvantages Of Solar Power.” CleanTechnica. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/08/advantages-disadvantages-solar-power/&gt;.

[iv] “Solar Energy.” NRDC: Renewable Energy for America: Solar. National Resource Defence Council. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/energy/renewables/solar.asp&gt;.

[v] “Solar Energy Pros and Cons – Energy Informative.” Energy Informative. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://energyinformative.org/solar-energy-pros-and-cons/#expensive&gt;.

[vi] “The Case for & Against Solar Energy.” Science. Opposing Views. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://science.opposingviews.com/case-against-solar-energy-19638.html&gt;.

[vii] “Disadvantages Of Solar Energy.” Conserve Energy Future. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Disadvantages_SolarEnergy.php&gt;.

[viii] “Disadvantages Of Solar Energy.” Conserve Energy Future. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Disadvantages_SolarEnergy.php&gt;.

[ix] Benen, Steve. “Kochs, Conservative Allies Align against Solar.” Msnbc.com. NBC News Digital, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/kochs-conservative-allies-align-against&gt;.

[x] “Utilities Push Back Against Increasing Popularity, Reduced Costs of Solar Power.” Rocky Mountain PBS INews. Public Broadcasting Service, 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://inewsnetwork.org/2014/09/01/utilities-push-back-against-increasing-popularity-lower-costs-of-solar-power/&gt;.

[xi]“Introduction.” Solar Roadways –. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml&gt;.

[xii] “Netherlands Unveils World’s First Solar Bike Lane.” – Protection Now. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/capital/specials/protection-now/environment/netherlands-unveils-world-s-first-solar-bike-lane_a-35-334.html&gt;.

[xiii] “Average Weather in The Hague, Netherlands.” Weather and Climate: The Hague, Netherlands, Average Monthly , Rainfall (millimeter), Sunshine, Temperatures (celsius), Sunshine, Humidity, Wind Speed. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,the-hague,Netherlands&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Why Global Warming is Not a Myth

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Global Warming.  Two very simple words that have started a debate that is consuming the world.  Many people will argue that global warming is a myth, and that there is no way that man could so completely alter the balance of the entire planet’s ecology.  We have the power to level mountains, dam rivers, destroy miles of forests and other wilderness to fuel our population, construct marvels that will last for centuries if not millennia, and split the atom, but altering the world in which we live is too farfetched an idea to contemplate.  Even as the United Nations is releasing a report claiming that they are 95% certain that climate change is caused by man,[i] still there are people who argue it.  People are entitled to their opinion, and here’s mine:  Climate change is a man-made problem, has dangerous effects on the world and human health, and no simple solutions.

Global Warming 1

Climate change is caused by the trapping of gases, with the biggest being carbon dioxide, in the earth’s atmosphere which ensnare the heat from the sun rays on earth, and as a result cause the world to heat up.[ii]  In fact, the world has been heating up faster over the last 50 years than in all of recorded history.[iii]  One of the biggest causes of global warming is the release of so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide has many sources such as electricity.  Over 75% of all electricity produced worldwide is created through the burning of fossil fuels which release carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases.[iv]  In fact, roughly 87% of all human created carbon dioxide is from the burning of fossil fuels, and other sources of carbon dioxide include any industry that uses fossil fuels and account for 4% of carbon dioxide, and the destruction of forests which accounts for 9%.[v]  Fossil fuel use in 2011 released 33.2 billion tons of CO2 worldwide, with coal accounting for 43% of that number, 36% coming from oil, and 20% from natural gas.[vi]  To provide some perspective, the moon is estimated to weigh 81 billion tons.[vii]  So, the amount of CO2 that was released in 2011 was equal to over 1/3 the weight of the moon.  That’s a lot of gas.

Global Warming 2

The effects of global warming are many and varied, but many of them have something to do with water, or the lack there of.  Water which makes up 65% of the human body[viii], and is essential for life is one of the most affected by almost all of Global Warming’s effects.  It is estimated that by 2050 over 1/3 of all counties in the United States will face water shortages.[ix]  Think about that for a moment.  One third of all counties in the United States won’t have access to water in less than 40 years.  Global warming is also having a dramatic effect on the polar ice caps, where temperatures are increasing twice as rapidly as in the rest of the world.[x]  Images from NASA satellites show that the ice caps are shrinking 9% every 10 years.[xi]  This means that in less than a century the polar ice caps could be gone.  Which leads us into the next effect of global warming: rising sea levels.  Over the past twenty years global sea levels have been rising twice as quickly as they did over the past century.[xii]  What does that mean?  It means that wetlands are more likely to flood, beaches to be eroded, inland water supplies to be contaminated by saltwater, more powerful waves when storms hit coastal areas, and of course, an increased chance of coastal cities flooding.[xiii]  Think back to 2012, and the damage that Hurricane Sandy inflicted on New York City alone.  Certain parts of the city were flooded by over 17 feet of water.[xiv]  Sandy caused the death of 117 United States citizens, 53 of whom were in New York.[xv]  That’s just one storm.  In 2004 a tsunami that is considered one of the deadliest in human history hit Thailand and permanently submerged several small islands, as well as wreaking havoc on thousands of miles of coastline.[xvi]  As the ocean level rises, there is legitimate fear that these storms will get worse.  These are just some of the effects that global warming is having on our world, and if scientists are right as to the dangers of global warming things will only get worse.  Do we really want to wait until whole islands are disappearing beneath the waves and entire cities are starved of water before we’ll stop arguing over whether it’s real?

Global Warming 3

There are things that you can do to help diminish, if not stop, the effects of global warming.  As mentioned earlier, electricity production accounts for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, so conserve energy.  Turn off your lights when you’re not using them.  It helps the world, and it saves you money which sounds like a win/win.  Also, drive less, use energy efficient products, and use your heater and air conditioner less often.[xvii]  You can also recycle which helps reduce waste, and allows recyclable products to be reused thus reducing some of the need for fossil fuels in manufacturing.[xviii]  You can also reevaluate your food choices, and choose to shop at farmers´ markets instead of supermarkets. You´ll not only get healthier and cleaner produce but also limit the amount of plastic packaging and wrapping waste. Take a shopping bag and use less plastic bags. Reuse containers or use some for crafts with your children.  If you really want to help, lobby your state representatives, and tell them you want to see real action taken to help ensure that you have a home that you are happy to call such in 50 years.  Global warming is a global problem, and so that means every man, woman, and child has a responsibility to help.

Ultimately, I can’t force you to do anything.  I can’t force you to believe in global warming and its effects.  I can’t force you to do anything to help avert it, and I can’t force you to want to help.  But, I can try.  That’s what I am doing.  I am trying to make people see that we stand on the edge of a cliff.  We can continue to blindly walk along the edge and deal with the consequences.  What will happen when people don’t have enough water to quench their thirst?  I can think of a few things are most of them are bloody.  I don’t want to live in that world, and I don’t think you do either.  So, let’s not.  Let’s do what we can now to try and save the world we’re in before it morphs into something unrecognizable.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Human Cause of Global Warming Is near Certainty, UN Reports.” UN News Center. UN, 30 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47047#.VGsD2fmUdg8&gt;.

[ii] “An Introduction to Climate Change.” Climate Change Facts. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/climatebasics.asp&gt;.

[iii] “An Introduction to Climate Change.” Climate Change Facts. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/climatebasics.asp&gt;.

[iv] “Causes Of Global Warming.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/GlobalWarmingCauses.php&gt;.

[v] “What Are the Main Sources of Carbon Dioxide Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/carbon-dioxide-sources&gt;.

[vi] [vi] “What Are the Main Sources of Carbon Dioxide Emissions?” What’s Your Impact. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/carbon-dioxide-sources&gt;.

[vii] “Moon’s Weight.” Moon’s Weight. US Department of Energy. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/ast99/ast99487.htm&gt;.

[viii] “The Water in You.” Water Properties: (Water Science for Schools). Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html&gt;.

[ix] “Climate Change, Water, and Risk.” Water Sustainability. National Resource Defence Council. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/watersustainability/index.asp&gt;.

[x] “Global Warming Puts the Arctic on Thin Ice.” Arctic Sea Ice. National Resource Defence Council. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/qthinice.asp&gt;.

[xi] “Global Warming Puts the Arctic on Thin Ice.” Arctic Sea Ice. National Resource Defence Council. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/qthinice.asp&gt;.

[xii] “Sea Level Rise — National Geographic.” National Geographic. National Geographic. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/&gt;.

[xiii] “Sea Level Rise — National Geographic.” National Geographic. National Geographic. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/&gt;.

[xiv] “Sandy Survey of the Flooding in New York After the Hurricane.” New York Times. New York Times. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2012/1120-sandy/survey-of-the-flooding-in-new-york-after-the-hurricane.html&gt;.

[xv] “Hurricane Sandy Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/13/world/americas/hurricane-sandy-fast-facts/&gt;.

[xvi] “The Deadliest Tsunami in History?” National Geographic. National Geographic Society. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/12/1227_041226_tsunami_2.html&gt;.

[xvii]  10 Things You Can Do to Slow Climate Change.” About. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://environment.about.com/od/globalwarming/tp/globalwarmtips.htm&gt;.

[xviii] 10 Things You Can Do to Slow Climate Change.” About. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://environment.about.com/od/globalwarming/tp/globalwarmtips.htm&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: How Safe is Our Soil?

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Pollution affects many things in the world in which we live, but one thing that is not often talked about is the contamination of soil.  One of the reasons that soil pollution is not often talked about is the old saying “out of sight, out of mind.”  We live in a concrete jungle.  Sidewalks, roads, highways, houses, skyscrapers, and office buildings cover the soil that our ancestors were so familiar with.  The problem is that pretending a problem does not exist doesn’t make it go away.  There are many dangers to both the environment, our food supply, and ultimately us that are caused by soil contamination, and it has a myriad of sources from industry to products that we use without even thinking about it.

Soil contamination 1

Soil contamination is defined as “the presence of man-made chemicals or other alteration to the natural soil environment.”[i]  As you can imagine there are a great many manmade chemicals, and a large number of those chemicals have detrimental effects humans.  Since our food is grown is soil, if that soil is contaminated then the contaminants will find their way into whatever food in grown there  Just a few of the more common chemicals that are contaminating our soil are asbestos, heavy metals, such as lead, and finally pesticides.  Asbestos can cause scarring of the lungs in humans which in turn causes shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and coughing; all of which worsen as time passes, and it has also been labeled as a human carcinogen which means it can cause cancers.[ii]  Because asbestos particles are so small and invisible to the naked eye, and are so difficult to break up they spread invisibly through water, air, and soil.[iii]  Lead is quite possibly one of the most dangerous of soil contaminants.  In adults lead poisoning causes a loss of coordination, nerve damage to sensory organs, loss of hearing and vision, increased blood pressure, and problems with our reproductive systems.[iv]  In children the effects of exposure to lead are even worse.  Damage to the brain and nervous system, vision and hearing loss, liver damage, kidney damage, and even death are possible in children who have been exposed to lead.  Finally, we come to pesticides.  Because pesticides can be created from many different compounds there are many different effects that they can have on human health.  Some pesticides will increase the likelihood of cancer in humans, others will attack the endocrine system which is responsible for the secretion of hormones, and still others will attack the nervous system and our very ability to think and function.[v]

Soil contamination 2

One of the biggest problems of pesticides specifically, and other contaminants in general, is that they do not just kill their intended victims, but also any other small organisms which may be in the soil.[vi]  This is a bad thing because the soil requires those organisms in order to remain fertile ground for plants and more importantly the crops upon which we rely on for a stable supply of food.[vii]  If the soil is contaminated by any contaminant the possible yield, or amount of crops able to be grown, in a given area will go down.  This obviously is worrying because it affects the size of our food supply.  The food supply that has allowed us to settle down and build society as we know it as the dominant species on the planet.  When the contaminant is first introduced into the soil it will begin to kill off local fungi and bacteria.[viii]   That may seem like a good thing, but on a micro-organism level fungi and bacteria are the symbiotic glues that hold soil ecosystems together, and as they are destroyed the soil begins to erode.  Over time, the fertility of the soil will continue to go down further decreasing the size of the crops being grown there.  In addition, many plants that are grown in contaminated soil will be smaller than plants grown in non-contaminated soil.[ix]

Soil contamination 3

The sources of soil contamination are many and varied. One of the major causes of soil contamination is actually our famers.  As the world’s population has grown, and more and more food is needed to feed that population, farmers have begun to overuse fertilizers and pesticides and they are having a detrimental effect on the land upon which they are used.[x]  Another major contributor is the waste water from industrial plants and factories.[xi]  As that waste water is released into the environment it will contaminate not just the soil, but also any other water source that it comes into contact with.  A third major source is our sewage.  Think of what’s in the sewer.  Now, think about where our sewage ends up.  It at any point that sewage comes into contact with fertile soil it will leave something behind, and that soil will not be as fertile as it once was.  Then there is contamination from the waste produced by nuclear power plants, which are dumped underground, and leak and spread through the soil they are dumped into.[xii]

Soil contamination is a serious issue that affects not just the environment and human health, but also strikes at the backbone of civilization: agriculture.  The fact that we willfully use items such as pesticides, lead paints, and nuclear power shows that our society has reached a dangerous point where we must decide if we care about consequences.  It is not our children or our grandchildren who will have to deal with the problem of soil pollution.  That is, it is not them who will have to deal with it unless we decide that it is not worth our time.  The world in which we live has many problems, but there are solutions out there.  The solutions can begin to be found it just one thing is accomplish:  Making people care.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Soil Contamination.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/s/soil_contamination.htm&gt;.

[ii] “Asbestos.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/hlthef/asbestos.html&gt;.

[iii]“Asbestos Ecological Impacts: The Affects of Asbestos on the Environment on Human Health.” Bright Hub. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/86213.aspx&gt;.

[iv] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[v] “Human Health Issues | Pesticides | US EPA.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/human.htm&gt;.

[vi] “Pesticides and Pollution.” Pesticides and Pollution. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.greenfootsteps.com/pesticides-and-pollution.html#sthash.LBwsNQax.dpbs&gt;.

[vii] “Pesticides and Pollution.” Pesticides and Pollution. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.greenfootsteps.com/pesticides-and-pollution.html#sthash.LBwsNQax.dpbs&gt;.

[viii] “Causes and Effects of Soil Pollution – Conserve Energy Future.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-soil-pollution.php&gt;.

[ix] “Causes and Effects of Soil Pollution – Conserve Energy Future.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-soil-pollution.php&gt;.

[x] “Causes and Effects of Soil Pollution – Conserve Energy Future.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-soil-pollution.php&gt;.

[xi] “What Is Soil Contamination.” What Is Soil Contamination. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://eschooltoday.com/pollution/land-pollution/what-is-soil-contamination.html&gt;.

[xii] “Causes and Effects of Soil Pollution – Conserve Energy Future.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 23 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-soil-pollution.php&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: The True Impact of Pesticides

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Pesticides are a chemical that is designed to kill insects, and it is doing its job; sadly it is wiping out entire populations of animals and insects, and its effects on human health are quite severe as well.[i]   Pesticides are quite common, and you most likely have some in your home unless you buy only organically grown food. All food, unless it´s organically grown, is sprayed with pesticides, meaning that most fruit or vegetables you have are covered with a layer of pesticides which does not go away after a quick rinse. Apples, lettuce, potatoes and strawberries are some of the foods with the highest pesticide content.  Imagine spraying your food with insect spray before eating, that’s kind of what it´s like.  Also, if you’re a pet owner and your dog or cat has a flea collar, or you use bug spray you are using a pesticide.[ii] Every year, 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United States alone, and 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide; and it is estimated that worldwide 25 million agricultural workers are poisoned a year.[iii]  Pesticides are damaging not just human health, but are wiping out entire species.

Pesticides 1

Pesticides, for all of their supposed benefits to humanity, are made of extremely dangerous chemicals that have debilitating effects on humans.  In the United States alone 67000 people a year are hospitalized, and 27 die a year from pesticide poisoning.[iv]  There are three stages of pesticide poisoning, and they include Mild, Moderate, and Severe.[v]  Symptoms of mild pesticide poison are irritation of the nose, throat, eyes or skin, a headache, dizziness, a loss of appetite, thirst, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, a feeling of weakness or fatigue, a sense of restlessness and nervousness, unexplained changes in mood, and insomnia.[vi]  Those, as mentioned previously, are the MILD effects.  It’s quite a list, and things only get worse I’m afraid.  Moderate pesticide poisoning includes such effects as vomiting, excessive salivation, coughing, a feeling of constriction in the throat and chest, cramps in your abdomen, a blurring of your vision, rapidly increased pulse, excessive sweating, trembling throughout your body, a loss of muscle coordination, becoming confused, and a sense of extreme weakness throughout your body.[vii]  Still, we are not done. The severe effects of pesticides are an inability to breathe, a buildup of excessive mucous in your air passageways, pinpoint pupils, the appearance of chemicals burns on your skin, an increased rate of breathing, a loss of reflexes, the twitching of your muscles, unconsciousness, and ultimately, death.[viii]  The above effects are just the noticeable effects of pesticide poisoning.  Other, long term effects include an increased rate of cancer, the possibility of birth defects, the chance of damage to your genetic code, liver failure, and injury to the reproductive systems including sterility, and nerve damage.[ix]  We use pesticides in our yards, parks, and on our food supply…I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a good idea.

Pesticides 3

Pesticides effects on animal wildlife are even worse than those on humans, at least in terms of the long term effects on animal populations, and some 7 out of 10 biologists believe that we are in the middle of a great extinction of animals, partly due to pesticides.[x]  One of the most common pesticides in known as Atrazine, and more than 75 million pounds of it are used every year on farms in the United States.[xi]  Atrazine it is having a devastating effect on frog populations.  Did you ever see Jurassic Park?  In the movie they use frog DNA to complete the genetic chain of the dinosaurs.  All of the dinosaurs in the park were supposed to be female, but because of the frog DNA the dinosaurs were able to change their sex into males.  Well, atrazine is forcing a similar change on frogs; except atrazine is really making many of the frogs turn into females, and this is obviously having an effect on their population size.[xii]  Atrazine is banned in Switzerland, and the Environmental Protection Agency is currently conducting a review of the pesticide.[xiii]  You may be thinking, so what they’re frogs.  Well, frogs, like every other animal, have an effect on their ecosystems.  With the decline of the frog population the level of algae in rivers and streams is rising, and this is impacting the other organisms who call those rivers and streams home.[xiv]

Pesticides 2

Another animal species that is being devastated by pesticides is honey bees.  Since 2006 bee populations have fallen roughly 30% a year, and while scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what is causing this death rate, many are convinced that pesticides are, at least partly, to blame.[xv]  In fact, certain countries such as France, Germany, and Italy have banned what are called neonicotinoids, a pesticide which is less harmful to animals, but more harmful to insects than regular pesticides.[xvi]  Bees in those countries are beginning to recover to some extent.  Now, I’m not personally a fan of bees, but they are the great pollinators.  Roughly 1/3 of all food grown worldwide relies upon bees to pollinate.[xvii]  Just a sample of some of the foods and other products that bees are essential for include peaches, apples, strawberries, onions, cherries, coffee, cotton, vanilla, and cocoa.[xviii]  Needless to say, bees are a very important part of the ecosystem, our food supply, and since food is sold, the world’s economy.  30% of the population a year dying means that something is seriously wrong, and if we don’t want to lose our apples, chocolate, coffee, and many other foods then we need to do something.

Pesticides are used primarily to protect our crops from insects and other pests as they grow.  It’s a commendable goal as our food supply is very important, and insects have been known to devastate crops in the past.  However, sometimes the solution to a problem causes more and bigger problems that what it was trying to solve.  That is the case with pesticides, but its use will not stop without more of a push.  As long as people are not complaining what reason do agricultural firms have to stop the use of pesticides?  Not much.  People need to be informed about what is being done to, and for, their food supply.  We don’t live in a perfect world, and problems will always exist.  Are insects a threat to crops?  Yes, but that doesn’t mean that insects don’t serve a purpose as is the case with bees.  Without bees there are many crops that we wouldn’t have.  The solution to the problem presented by pesticides will not be an easy one to find, but if people inform themselves, and if people show that they are concerned then change is possible.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Learn About Chemicals Around Your House.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/kidshometour/pest.htm&gt;.

[ii] “Learn About Chemicals Around Your House.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/kidshometour/pest.htm&gt;.

[iii] Pesticides Use and Exposure Extensive Worldwide. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946087/&gt;.

[iv] “Public Health Risks Associated with Pesticides and Natural Toxins in Foods.” Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://ipmworld.umn.edu/chapters/pimentel.htm&gt;.

[v] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[vi] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[vii] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[viii] “What Kinds of Health Effects Are Associated with Pesticides?” Pesticides. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/pesticides/health_effects.html&gt;.

[ix] “FAQs – Signs & Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning.” FAQs – Signs & Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.headlice.org/faq/treatments/signs-symptoms.htm&gt;.

[x] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xi] “Atrazine Updates.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/reregistration/atrazine/atrazine_update.htm&gt;.

[xii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xiii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xiv] “UGA Today.” UGA Study Reveals Ecosystem-level Consequences of Frog Extinctions. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/uga-study-reveals-ecosystem-level-consequences-of-frog-extinctions/&gt;.

[xv] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xvi] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xvii] “Environmental Impacts.” Pesticide Action Network. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.panna.org/issues/persistent-poisons/environmental-impacts&gt;.

[xviii] “List of Foods We Will Lose If We Don’t Save the Bees.” Natural Society. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://naturalsociety.com/list-of-foods-we-will-lose-if-we-dont-save-the-bees/&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Are We in Danger of Famine?

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When looking at history there is one thing that allowed mankind to stop their nomadic lifestyle, and begin to construct civilization as we know it.  That is agriculture.  A reliable and steady food supply has allowed us to construct cities, build wonders that will endure for centuries, and even reach for the stars themselves.  Without that consistent food supply man would never have experienced such a population boom that made us the dominant animal on this planet.  Yet despite the importance of agriculture to our successes, we are allowing our food supply to be placed in danger by pollution.  The most dangerous threats to our food supply come from air pollution, water pollution, and global warming.

polluted food supply 1

Air is everywhere, and thus whatever is in the air affects everything. One of the biggest dangers to agriculture from air pollution is ozone.  Ozone is the main component of smog that is created by the burning of fossil fuels.[i]  Ozone can have varying effects on agriculture.  To begin with ozone is absorbed by crops through the undersides of leaves, and cause a loss of color, molting, bronzing, and/or stunted growth of the plant.[ii]  Here’s where things get complicated.  Ozone can cause both visible injury to plants, and reduce the size of the crop as a whole, or it can cause no visible injury while still reducing the cop size, or visible injury but without reducing the crop size.[iii]  Ozone damage is simply one factor.  You must also consider the type of plant, and other environmental effects that are acting at a given time.  Another air pollutant dangerous to agriculture is fluoride.  Fluoride can be absorbed by plants through the tips of their leaves, but that is not where damage is visible.  The damage is done to the youngest leaves on the plant, and it can drastically effect the size of the plant.[iv]  Needless to say, there are entirely too many air pollutants to list all of them, and their effects on every type of agricultural crop out there.  As long as the air that humans, plants, and other animals rely on is polluted there will continue to be a growing number of consequences.

polluted food supply 2

Water is vital to every organism on this planet.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that water affects agriculture from the time a seed is planted until it enters our mouths.  Fruits and vegetables come into contact with water throughout their, for lack of a better word, lives.  To begin with irrigation is used to water crops as they are grown.  If the water used in irrigation is contaminated then that contaminant is being absorbed by the crops along with the water.  Fresh water can be contaminated by heavy metals, dirt and rocks, chemicals, and industrial pollutants.  Some of the heavy metals that are commonly found in fresh water are arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, lead and mercury.[v]  I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to eat anything that has absorbed lead, which has been linked to neurological impairment in children, let alone all of the other chemicals.[vi]  Just a few more examples are Cadmium which weakens your bones, can cause kidney damage, and even lead to death in high enough levels.[vii]  Then there is arsenic which has been linked to several forms of cancer.[viii]  Aside from metals you also have different chemicals that are either dumped into water, or found there naturally.  Think of the pesticides that are used on lawns, and then carried off into the nearest water supply when it rains, or the chemicals that people use to wash their cars.  Then think about the chemicals from industrial plants, runoff water from manure, and runoff from septic systems.[ix]  All of those chemicals end up in our water supply.  Water is connected to literally everything, and because of that literally anything can find its way into our water supply which then goes on to water the crops upon which we rely for food.

polluted food supply 3

There is another effect that pollution is causing that is effecting our water supply, and that is global warming.  I won’t go fully into the whys and wherefores of global warming here, as that has been covered in another article, but global warming’s effect on agriculture must be mentioned.  As mentioned earlier crop growth relies upon a variety of factors in order to produce the optimal sized crop, and one of the most important factors is the weather.  Global warming is beginning to alter weather patterns around the globe.[x]  Since certain crops do better in different environments if the weather of that environment changes it will have an impact on the crops grown there.  Desertification is the most obviously severe examples of this.  Desertification is occurring as global warming is drying up water supplies, and literally turning once arable land into deserts.[xi]  This is obviously effecting what can and cannot be grown in a given area, since many crops cannot be grown in a desert environment. Another problem is that the majority of Americans are predominantly meat eaters, and a significantly larger area is required to raise crops that feed the livestock used for food. It is estimated that about 800 million people in the US could be fed with the grain required to feed the animals we eventually eat.[xii] That is only the most extreme example, and while it is true that some crops will be able to adapt to changing climate, it is estimated that by the middle of the century most crops will have reached their capacity for adaptation.[xiii]  What that means is that although we shouldn’t have to worry about our food supply too much for the next fifty years, we might have some serious problems in a few decades.  For those of us who are under thirty that means that we will definitely run into problems at the latest by the time we’re ready to retire.  Do you really want to spend your retirement worrying about if you’ll have enough food?  I don’t, which means that something must be done now to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Agriculture is probably one of the greatest innovations that ever happened to the human race.  It allowed us to move out of our nomadic lifestyle and to develop science, art, music, philosophy, literature, and other technologies and forms of leisure because we didn’t have to worry about literally running down enough food to keep us from starvation.  For the past couple millennia we have relied upon agriculture to allow us to explore the world around us, as well as our own minds, and other planets.  Can we really allow the advancements of the new generations turn our food from nourishment and medicine into poison?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could run down a gazelle for its meat, and while picking berries can be fun, I would need a lot of berries to feed my family.  Plus, if technology continues to advance and feed pollution, will the berries be safe to eat and will there even be gazelles left?  We have to do something if we are to continue to enjoy living the lives that we want.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops.” Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/01-015.htm&gt;.

[ii] “The Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops.” Home Guides. San Francisco Gate. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://homeguides.sfgate.com/effects-air-pollution-agricultural-crops-79226.html&gt;.

[iii] “The Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops.” Home Guides. San Francisco Gate. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://homeguides.sfgate.com/effects-air-pollution-agricultural-crops-79226.html&gt;.

[iv] “Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops.” Effects of Air Pollution on Agricultural Crops. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/01-015.htm&gt;.

[v] “Metals in Aquatic Freshwater.” Metals Occuring in Aquatic Freshwater. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.lenntech.com/aquatic/metals.htm&gt;.

[vi] “Human Health and Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm&gt;.

[vii] “Department of Medicine.” Cadmium Toxicity. NYU Langone Medical Center. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://medicine.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/cadmium-toxicity&gt;.

[viii] “Arsenic.” Arsenic. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/intheworkplace/arsenic&gt;.

[ix] “Pollutants » Explore More: Water Quality.” Pollutants » Explore More: Water Quality. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.iptv.org/exploremore/water/pollutants/pollutants.cfm&gt;.

[x] “Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture | Climate Education Modules for K-12.” Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture | Climate Education Modules for K-12. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nc-climate.ncsu.edu/edu/k12/ClimateChange-Ag&gt;.

[xi] “Desertification.” World Preservation Foundation. World Preservation Foundation. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.worldpreservationfoundation.org/topic.php?cat=climateChange&vid=23#.VGYlPfmUdg8&gt;.

[xii] “U.S. Could Feed 800 Million People with Grain That Livestock Eat, Cornell Ecologist Advises Animal Scientists | Cornell Chronicle.” U.S. Could Feed 800 Million People with Grain That Livestock Eat, Cornell Ecologist Advises Animal Scientists | Cornell Chronicle. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/1997/08/us-could-feed-800-million-people-grain-livestock-eat&gt;.

[xiii] “Report: Climate Change Could Devastate Agriculture.” USA Today. USA Today. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.usdahttp://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/05/climate-change-agriculture-study/1893455/.gov/oce/climate_change/effects_2012/CC and Agriculture Report (02-04-2013)b.pdf>.