What Legacy Are We Leaving?
A Legacy of Pollution and Waste
Often when I moved out of a place where I have lived, I tried to make it look better than I originally found it. I would like to do that when I take my final breath, but I am realizing that that might be an arduous task.
When we burn fossil fuels, we release a variety of chemicals into the atmosphere. Since we have to breath air to live, the air that we breathe affects our health. The polluted air we breath puts us at higher risk of respiratory diseases including asthma. Scientific evidence shows that 6-7 hours of exposure to ground ozone, a healthy person’s lung function decreases. Air pollution is mostly carcinogens, therefore, living with pollution increases our risk of cancer. Air pollution also damages the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems. It has also been associated with higher incidents of heart problems.
Toxic chemicals are released into the air and settle on plants and pollutes water sources. Animals eat the contaminated plants and drink the water. The pollution harms our food chain. One of the worst culprits is plastic. Since the 1950s over 800 billion tons of plastic has been created worldwide and only about 9% of it has been recycled. 73% of the beach pollution is plastic and 1.1 million birds and animals are killed annually by plastic. You are eating about 70,000 microplastics every year.
Rainwater and snow can cause water pollution if it is contaminated by chemicals on rooftops and lawns Not only does air pollution affect water, but also sewers empty into rivers, chemicals from farms run down into water, and factories dump hazardous waste into waterways. Dumping trash into waterways has a negative impact on the health of the water and the creatures and plants that rely on it.
The same sources also pollute the land. In addition, in order to artificially increase production, farmers are encouraged to pump chemicals into their fields often at detriment of their bottom line and their own health. These same chemicals erode soils draining it of nutrients. In many cases, modern agriculture has caused the food we eat to have half the nutritional value of the food that our own grandparents ate.
Desertification is a type of land degradation involving loss of biological productivity induced by human activities. Deserts emerge due to the rampant and unchecked depletion of nutrients in soil that are essential for it to remain arable. In just about every case, soil death occurs which traces its cause back to human overexploitation. Desertification is a significant global ecological and environmental problem with far reaching consequences on socio-economic and political conditions and has been the cause of the fall of every major civilization. Today’s forestry and agricultural systems are such that these forms of desertification are accelerated.
The way we plow the ground destroys microbial soil life and creates a hardpan just a few inches beneath the surface. We pump irrigation water from deep aquafers that cannot be readily recharged and will eventually run dry if we continue at our current rates of removal. In addition, the water we bring up is rich in alkaline mineral salts which get trapped in the hardpan creating a toxic layer that will eventually render the soil unproductive.
Animals are kept in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) spew toxic wastes This manure became toxic only because humans mismanage it.
There’s Still Time to Save the Planet, Save Your Family, and Even Save Money Doing It
Even if our government is more interested in serving the desires of special interest groups, we can all make a difference on the grassroots level. The first thing we have to do is be willing to educate ourselves and educate our families about the problems we face.
Second, we need to protect our families from the effects of the problems we face. We need decrease (or eliminate!) our use of plastics. We need to recycle everything else. We can filter our drinking water. We can get our food locally or grow it ourselves.
In addition to reducing our use of plastics (which are made from fossil fuels), we can reduce fossil fuel usage by learning to conserve energy. Some ways cost considerable amounts of money, but a lot of them just require a little human ingenuity. Doing things like turning off lights when you leave the room, batching errands you run when using a car or using mass transit, air drying dishes in the dishwasher rather than using the drying cycle, using bulk beans and cooking at home, or buying local fruits and vegetables in season, if done by the major population, will do a lot toward reducing air and water pollution.
Decreasing pollution in the air and water in these ways will save us money, who wouldn’t want that? There’s nothing like a grassroots movement to make a difference, especially in our day of the world wide web, but our biggest tool in our “save our planet, save our legacy” is in education. There are so many more things that we can do on a larger scale.
Did you know that it takes ten times less energy to raise cows on grass than it does on grain? Did you know that plowing puts more carbon into the atmosphere every spring than any other source and you can see it on NASA satellite imagery? https://climate.nasa.gov/interactives/climate-time-machine
Did you know that there are people who are fighting desertification in some of the driest places on earth (Saudi Arabia, China) and they are actually changing those climates? These and so many more ways can be used to repair the damage that our society has caused our planet. In fact, any one of two or three approaches on a large scale can make enough difference that they can reverse in just ten years all the damage done to the air and water since the beginning of the industrial revolution! Wouldn’t you like to give your posterity a future that includes clean air, clean water, and soil health?
It is possible if we decide to take action now. Research what you can do today! I’ll help in any way I can!
The older I get the more I am concerned with my legacy. I suppose that is normal. We as a species have work to do. Articles like this one help to raise awareness and plant a seed of action.
Thank you, Bill! If we all work together, we can make a difference.