What Is Man Doing To The Earth Religion Essay
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THREE HUNDRED years ago, man lived much closer to nature. For the most part, he was not threatened by man-made changes to the global environment in the way he is today. The industrial revolution had not begun. There were no power stations, factories, automobiles, or other sources of widespread pollution. The thought of man's ruining the whole earth may have been hard for him to imagine.
Yet, even back then, a warning about global ruination was in wide circulation. That warning was found in the last book of the Bible, and it foretold a time when God would intervene in man's affairs to "bring to ruin those ruining the earth."-Revelation 11:17, 18.
How comforting for all who are concerned about modern man's mismanagement of the earth to know that the Creator of our magnificent planet will save it from ruin! 'But,' you may wonder, 'have we really reached such a critical situation that God's intervention is needed?' Well, consider some of the facts and judge for yourself.
Forests beautify the earth and provide food and shelter for several million different species. As trees grow and manufacture food, they perform other vital services, such as absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing precious oxygen. Thereby, National Geographic says, "they offer one antidote to the global warming that threatens life on earth as we know it."
But man is ruining his forest heritage. North American and European forests are dying from pollution. And the demands of industrial nations are decimating tropical forests. An African newspaper explained that in 1989, "66 million cubic metres [of tropical wood were] expected to be exported-48 percent to Japan, 40 percent to Europe."
Also, in some lands, farmers burn forests to create farmland. Soon the fragile forest soil becomes exhausted, and the farmers have to burn more forest. It is estimated that in this century alone, nearly half the world's forests have vanished.
Earth's oceans also play a vital role in cleaning the atmosphere, and man's activities are ruining them. Vast quantities of carbon dioxide are absorbed by the oceans. In turn, phytoplankton absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. Dr. George Small explains the importance of this life cycle: "70 percent of the oxygen added to the atmosphere each year comes from plankton in the sea." Yet, some scientists warn that phytoplankton could be seriously depleted because of ozone reduction in the atmosphere, which is believed to be caused by man.
Also, man dumps garbage, oil, and even toxic wastes into the ocean. While some countries agree to limit the wastes they allow to be dumped at sea, others refuse. One Western nation even reserves the right to dump nuclear wastes at sea. Famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau warns: "We must save the oceans if we want to save mankind."
Man is ruining even his drinking water! In poor lands, millions of people die each year because of contaminated water. In richer nations, water sources are contaminated by, among other things, fertilizers and pesticides that wash into rivers and seep into groundwater. In 1986 the world production of pesticides was 2.3 million tons, and the rate of increase is reported to be 12 percent per year.
Another source of pollution is chemical dumps. "The metal drums containing the chemicals," explains Scientific American, "are nothing less than time bombs that will go off when they rust through." This type of pollution, the journal adds, is happening "worldwide in thousands of chemical waste dumps."
The result? All over the earth, once pure rivers are being turned into industrial sewers. It is estimated that 20 million Europeans drink water from the Rhine, yet this river is so polluted that sludge dredged from its bed is too dangerous to use for landfill!
Alarmingly, man is even ruining his farmland. In the United States alone, 20 percent of the land set aside for irrigation has been damaged, according to Scientific American. Why? Because overirrigation adds too much salt to the soil. Many countries have ruined much valuable land in this way. "As much land is now being taken out of production due to salinization as is being brought into production through new irrigation projects," states The Earth Report. Another widespread problem is overgrazing, which may be contributing to the spread of deserts.
Too Many Motor Vehicles
So much for our planet's land and water. But what about its air? This too is being ruined, and the culprits are many. To mention just one, consider the automobile. Following are warnings from three influential scientific journals: "Motor vehicles generate more air pollution than any other single human activity." (New Scientist) "There are currently 500 million registered automobiles on the planet . . . Filling their tanks consumes about one third of the world's production of oil. . . . The number of automobiles is increasing more quickly than the population." (Scientific American) "Petrol [gasoline] in all phases of production, use and disposal is a major source of environmental degradation and disease."-The Ecologist.
Yes, our planet is being abused, ruined. Its seas, drinking water, farmlands, and even its atmosphere are being polluted to an enormous extent. Surely, this alone would suggest that the time is near for God to intervene and "bring to ruin those ruining the earth." (Revelation 11:18) However, there are other, even worse, ways in which the earth is being ruined. Let us see just what they are.
"A World Government"
The only way to combat the greenhouse effect and other emerging environmental disasters is a world government, says Dr. Kenneth Hare, renowned geographer and climate-change expert. Humanity is mounting a deadly assault on nature, Hare warned. The planet is threatened not just by a nuclear holocaust "but by ecological misuse," reports the Calgary Herald, a Canadian newspaper. Hare claims that three billion tons of carbon are spewed into the atmosphere annually by automobile exhausts and industrial smokestacks. Computer studies show that even with moderate economic growth, carbon-dioxide levels would double by the year 2075. "We've created a global problem," and without regulation of the environment on a global scale, "we'll be in trouble," said Hare.
What Dr. Hare recommends is indeed logical. Still, can man ever hope to establish a global government that would be able to do such things as regulate economic growth, develop nonpolluting energy sources, and convince humankind to embark on a program of worldwide environmental care?
Hardly! God's Word clearly says: "To earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." (Jeremiah 10:23) However, this does belong in the hands of God. As the "Prince of Peace," his Son, Jesus Christ, will administer a world government that will rule in justice and righteousness. Under his heavenly rulership, mankind will not imperil the environment.-Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:9; Daniel 2:44.
Oh, for Some Fresh Air!
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN BRITAIN
WHEN you breathe, do you inhale fresh air? Present-day air pollution is "a bigger enemy than smoking," claims a doctor quoted in The Times of London. In England and in Wales, contaminated air kills an estimated 10,000 people every year. Worldwide, especially in large cities, the situation is serious.
Many blame the automobile industry for polluting the atmosphere. To reduce dangerous exhaust, new vehicles in many countries now come fitted with catalytic converters, which reduce pollution. The hydrocarbons in exhaust gases have dropped to 12 percent of the 1970 levels, with similar reductions of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. Babies in strollers are particularly vulnerable because they ride at the level that cars spew out fumes. But air pollution threatens car occupants as well. Reportedly, the contamination is three times higher inside cars than outside. Further hazards come from inhaling benzene fumes from fuel as you fill your car's fuel tank.
Now the most prevalent form of air pollution worldwide is "Suspended Particulate Matter," says a 1993-94 United Nations environmental data report. Apparently, tiny bits of soot, or particulate matter, have the ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and there deposit damaging chemicals.
The depletion of the ozone layer high above the globe attracts much press comment. At ground level, however, sunlight acts on the nitrogen oxides and other volatile elements of air pollution to produce high levels of ozone. These levels have doubled in Britain during this century. These gases damage paint and other building materials, cause disease in trees, plants, and crops, and appear to trigger respiratory problems in some people. Although most of the ozone pollution occurs in towns, surprisingly it is the rural areas that suffer the worst effects. In the urban areas, nitrogen oxides mop up the excess ozone, but where these oxides are sparse, the ozone has free rein to wreak damage.
Additionally, air pollution is "up to 70 times higher inside homes than outdoors," reports The Times. Here the fumes from air fresheners, mothballs, and even dry-cleaned clothes pollute the air. Cigarette smoke likewise adds to health risks indoors.
What, then, can you do to protect your family? The Times of London offered the following suggestions.
â€¢ Reduce your use of the car. If possible, share transportation with others. Drive smoothly. If stuck in a traffic jam or otherwise stationary for more than a couple of minutes, switch off the engine. If possible, on hot days park your car in the shade to reduce pollution produced by fuel evaporation.
â€¢ Choose to exercise in the early mornings when ozone levels outdoors are generally low.
â€¢ Outlaw smoking in the home.
â€¢ Keep bedroom windows slightly open at night to lower humidity and move allergens outside.
No doubt you agree: Oh, for some fresh air!
Warning! This Water May Be Hazardous to Your Health
CAN you imagine turning on the water tap at your kitchen sink, holding a lighted match to the faucet, and witnessing a horrifying eruption of flames? Can you imagine a freshwater river that bursts into flames at the drop of a lighted cigarette? Would you be appalled if your bathwater was too thick to drink but too thin to plow and piling up in one end?
Does it boggle the mind to think of river water that can develop a picture from a negative before your eyes? What would be your reaction if your tap water came out with a head on it, looking like bock beer? Do you have to open the window at your sink so as not to stink up the house when water is drawn from the faucet? Does your marriage mate leave the morning pot of coffee untouched because of its unusual strength, only to discover later that no coffee had been added yet?
Or is your water crystal clear, pure in taste, but your family repeatedly suffers from headaches, dizziness, dysentery, or skin rashes after drinking it? Or would the suffering of tremors, blindness, and impairment of the central nervous system best describe the symptoms?
Did you know that not long ago one third of humanity was in a perpetual state of illness because of impure water and that ten million people were dying each year, not for the lack of it, but because of it? Can all of this be the figment of a wild imagination-the stuff of science-fiction movies? Unfortunately, the scenarios are true.
It has become obvious that man today has the awesome genius to poison completely every living thing on the face of the earth and in the waters below. Most of this has come about through his efforts to make life easier-mitigating pain and disease, bringing the world closer to his living room through communication, pursuing his quest into outer space, and making destructive implements of war.
Most of this is caused by man's creation of new but deadly chemical compounds. Six years ago, over 60,000 such chemical concoctions were on the market-35,000 of which were classified as either deadly or extremely hazardous to our health, with thousands more being formulated each year. From these chemical cocktails have come equally dangerous and highly toxic wastes that are disposed of by dumping them into the earth, rivers, and streams, with little thought of the consequences it would have on people or environment.
A Boon to Farmers, a Bomb to Earth's Waters
Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers have been a boon to the world's farmers, but they have been a bomb to earth's waters. For years farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley sprayed their grapes, fruit, and tomatoes with the pesticide DBCP, only to discover in recent years that it can cause cancer and sterility in humans. Although the spraying has stopped, the poison hasn't stopped percolating through the layers of the earth and into the underground water system. "Thirty-five percent of the wells in the valley have DBCP," said a spokesman for the health department. In one county in California, 250,000 people run the risk of DBCP contamination, reported Newsweek magazine. Other pesticides affect the nervous system. Still others are suspected of causing various other illnesses. Some herbicides have been discovered to have serious effects on the brain, rendering the victim immobile. In many agricultural areas, fertilizers have raised nitrate concentrations above health standards set out in some countries. These chemicals, too, have infiltrated aquifers.
Detergents, solvents, dry-cleaning fluids, septic-tank cleaners, to mention a few, have been highly developed through chemistry's progression. The result has been marvelous benefits to mankind. However, as these products percolate through the earth, the result has been a contamination of earth's pure waters for generations to come. "We are poisoning ourselves and our posterity," said one environmentalist.
Many of the millions of underground gasoline storage tanks at the service stations dotting the highways and city streets leak, as reports show, and their highly explosive contents seep into the ground and percolate through the well-water systems. They can cause houses and barns to burst into flames when the fumes reach a lighted match. Flames from a water faucet are all too common as a result of this underground witches' brew of death-dealing chemicals oozing into the water system.
It was thought that the earth itself would purify these chemicals as they trickled through the layers of the earth, rendering them harmless. In the past decade, however, it has been discovered that many of these dangerous chemicals have not been filtered out but go right through to the aquifers, contaminating them for generations to come. "Ground-water contamination is the result of sins committed a long time ago," said James Groff of the American Water Works Association. "Nobody had the foresight to predict it."
The sins, however, continue to be committed to this date. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the United States alone 1.5 trillion gallons of hazardous waste leak into the underground water system each year. Much of it is deliberately dumped by unscrupulous and greedy men without regard to the terrible, terrible damage to man's water and health. "Just 1 gallon of solvent will contaminate 20 million gallons of ground water to exceed safe levels set by most states," said one scientist. When one thinks in terms of a trillion gallons of waste, then the expression, 'water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink,' looms up as being a potentially frightful reality.
A "Time Bomb, Slowly Ticking Away"
"Ground water and its contaminants," said the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources, "represent a potential time bomb, slowly ticking away. There's a growing belief that this problem will be the next great crisis of the 1980s." The New York Times reported: "There is wide agreement, however, that the contamination of ground water is by far the most serious and difficult problem affecting the quality of drinking water and now constitutes a subterranean time bomb." "There's no doubt we have a time bomb on our hands," warned a University of Arizona scientist. "The question is how big the bang will be."
A person does not have to put his ear to the ground to know "how big the bang will be." Already the world shudders in fear of the coming explosion. For example, it has been estimated that by the year 2000 a fourth of the world's water supply could be unsafe for drinking.
A third of the water in China's major rivers is polluted beyond safe limits for human consumption, said Worldwatch Institute. According to Thane Gustafson, a specialist on Soviet Union affairs, that country will face a greater demand for water by the year 2000 than its waters can supply because of water pollution today. South America faces a similar crisis-a water supply too contaminated for its people to drink. "Either we manage to limit the waste of water or by the year 2000 we shall be dying of thirst," proclaimed the United Nations World Conference on water. "Without being guilty of exaggeration it is easy to foresee that in the very near future the world will be literally dying of thirst, either as a result of pollution or present wasteful usage," the conference said.
People in all parts of the earth experience the devastating effects of the time bomb that appears to have exploded on the world scene already. When one considers, for example, that 70 percent of India's drinking water is polluted and is the cause of much of the country's illness, it becomes no exaggeration to say that its waters and all life dependent on them cry out for a cure. And what can be said of the Third World countries and the dying people looking for clean water? Truly, the world faces a dilemma of unprecedented proportions.
Water-borne diseases kill 30,000 people every day, said Swiss water-treatment expert Dr. Maarten Schalekamp. Only a third of mankind possesses what he called "irreproachable" drinking-water facilities, while another third of earth's inhabitants is drinking contaminated water. The remaining third has very little water of any kind.
And so it goes. Poisoned waters percolating through the earth, rushing through its rivers, meandering down its streams, cascading over its falls, while a great portion of mankind inevitably drinks to its death. Truly, a time bomb of man's own making!
Jehovah God, the Creator of earth, man, and all life-giving waters, has set ticking his own time bomb by which he will "bring to ruin those ruining the earth." (Revelation 11:18) It is set to go off at his appointed time, and those who have ruined the earth, the air, and the water will not be able to defuse it or to escape its destructive forces. The year 2000 continues to be pointed to by man as being a critical time. Whether the guilty live to see that feared year remains to be seen. Only Jehovah knows. Following the destruction of those whom God now holds accountable, the earth will be restored to a paradise, and rivers of waters of life, clean and pure, will be abundant for every living thing.
Our Beautiful Earth-How Much of It Will We Leave Our Children?
ACCORDING to published reports, 1.7 billion children have been born into the world since the year 1970. If they constituted a nation, it would be the world's largest. Is it not fair to ask, What kind of world are we leaving them?
Over 25 years ago a prominent doctor of the U.S. Public Health Service observed: "We all live under the haunting fear that something may corrupt the environment to the point where man joins the dinosaurs as an obsolete form of life."
In the intervening years, that fear has intensified. Last year a national forum, addressed by nearly a hundred biologists, warned that coming was a wave of mass extinctions such as wiped out the dinosaurs, only this time it would not be by a natural development but "by human activities."
This year Worldwatch Institute released its report State of the World 1987. It said: "A sustainable society satisfies its needs without diminishing the prospects of the next generation. By many measures, contemporary society fails to meet this criterion. Questions of ecological sustainability are arising on every continent. The scale of human activities has begun to threaten the habitability of the earth itself."
The Institute's report said that the demands of over 5 billion people-and their numbers are increasing by 83 million a year-are overwhelming the regenerative capacities of earth's biological systems.
Chemical pollution is thinning the atmospheric ozone and may lead to "causing more skin cancers, impairing human immune systems, and retarding crop growth."
If acid rain continues, not only will more lakes and forests die but soils will acidify further and "may take decades, if not centuries, to recover."
Intensified farming practices "have pushed the rate of topsoil loss beyond that of new soil formation."
Deforestation reduces the amount of carbon dioxide used from the atmosphere, and the burning of fossil fuels releases more carbon dioxide than the remaining plants and the oceans can take in. The result is an increase in the warming greenhouse effect that may ultimately melt glaciers and flood coastal cities.
The loss of tropical forests means less recycling of water for rainfall and may lead to the creation of deserts.
Toxic chemicals, raw sewage, crude oil, nuclear accidents, radon, microwaves, asbestos-on and on could go the listing of man's sins against the environment.
State of the World 1987 warns: "Never have so many systems vital to the earth's habitability been out of equilibrium simultaneously. New environmental problems also span time periods and geographic areas that stretch beyond the authority of existing political and social institutions. No single nation can stabilize the earth's climate, protect the ozone layer, preserve the planet's mantle of forests and soils, or reverse the acidification of lakes and streams. Only a sustained international commitment will suffice."
This commitment is dragging its feet, and time is running out. Hundreds of billions are spent in the arms race; a mere pittance is spent on preserving the environment that sustains us and the neglect of which can kill us. Since 1983 the United States alone has committed $9 billion to the Strategic Defense Initiative research and wants $33 billion more for it from 1986 to 1991-but turns stingy on the environment. The other industrialized nations do likewise. The State of the World 1987 puts the crisis in a nutshell: "The time has come to make peace with each other so that we can make peace with the earth."
"A sustainable future," this report states, "calls upon us simultaneously to arrest the carbon dioxide buildup, protect the ozone layer, restore forests and soils, stop population growth, boost energy efficiency, and develop renewable energy sources. No generation has ever faced such a complex set of issues requiring immediate attention. Preceding generations have always been concerned about the future, but we are the first to be faced with decisions that will determine whether the earth our children inherit will be habitable."
The following article shows the crisis developing over toxic chemicals.
The Ugly Side of Industrial Chemicals
IT WAS just after midnight on a cool December evening in 1984 that the worst industrial accident in history happened. A world away from the Republic of India, few people were familiar with the name Bhopal, an industrial city with a population of more than 800,000, located almost at the center of the country. Its sleeping residents were unaware of the death-dealing events developing a stone's throw away.
At the U.S. Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, a storage tank holding 45 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC), a deadly chemical used in making pesticides, began building up dangerously high pressure. Suddenly, from a malfunctioning valve, a cloud of poisonous gas began spreading death and agony over the quiet city. It snuffed out the lives of more than 2,500 men, women, and children. It maimed more than a hundred thousand others.
The death of thousands of animals-water buffalo, cattle, and dogs-caused the countryside to be littered with dead bodies that clogged the roads and city streets. Bhopal became a giant makeshift crematory, burning the dead around the clock. Seventy funeral pyres, with bodies stacked 25 high, consumed the dead in their flames. Others were buried in hurriedly dug mass graves-scores of bodies at a time.
Later another catastrophe hit Europe and was called "Bhopal on the Rhine." A chemical spill from an industrial plant above Basel, Switzerland, dumped 40 tons of poisonous waste into the Rhine. It killed hundreds of thousands of fish and eels as it "drifted downstream along the German-French border, into the Rhineland and then through the Netherlands to the North Sea." One newspaper editorialized: "The Swiss used to be considered clean, their industry safe, and that included the chemical industry. That is all past now."
The residents of Bhopal and communities along the Rhine River had become the victims of a technological age that boasts the compounding of more than 66,000 chemical concoctions. Many are formulated to make life easier for man, yet, ironically, a vast number are highly toxic and can cause fatal and devastating side effects, both to humans and to the entire biological system. One expert classified these chemicals as "biocides."
Many are the chemicals with long names that few people can pronounce and that for convenience bear letters such as PCB, DDT, PCDD, PCDF, TCDD. This alphabet soup of toxic chemicals is a deadly hazard both to humans and to earth's resources on which man must rely to live. "Thousands upon thousands of releases of toxic substances into the environment" occur each year, said a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Such releases pose a threat to the quality of air, surface water, and underground drinking supplies, and poison the soil for decades to come.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the United States alone, 1.5 trillion gallons of hazardous chemical wastes find their way into the underground water systems each year. Knowing that just one gallon of solvent will contaminate 20 million gallons of groundwater to exceed safe levels, it is staggering to compute what catastrophic damage 1.5 trillion gallons of poisonous chemicals are doing.
Because of hazardous chemicals and wastes and the careless dumping of them, rivers and streams are being polluted. Fish are dying. As the rivers and streams enter the oceans, the death-dealing chemicals pour with them, and in some places where ocean life was once plentiful, today, according to famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, fish can no longer be found.
Bird and animal life is also threatened by the contamination. Even wildlife sanctuaries prove to be no haven. "Ten national wildlife refuges are contaminated by toxic chemicals and another 74 may be in danger. . . . Agricultural runoff containing selenium and other chemicals has killed large numbers of waterfowl in the refuge," reported The New York Times of February 4, 1986.
World experts do not paint a promising picture for the future. The rapid diminishment of earth's resources does not end with the loss of soil and the pollution of air and water. What about earth's great tropical rain forests that for millenniums have raised their leafy arms hundreds of feet into the air? Are these too in danger of going the way of other resources that are diminishing before our eyes? Whether we realize it or not, our lives are affected by these luxuriant handiworks of Jehovah, as the next article will show.
What Future for Us and Our Children?
A FAMILY cannot spend more than it makes and remain solvent. A nation cannot pay out more than it takes in and still prosper; nor can we continue our deficit spending of the environment. We cannot squander more soil than is formed, create more carbon dioxide than plants can use, cut down more trees than we replace, pollute more air and water than earth can recycle. Environmental deficits, like national deficits, will demand an accounting. They will be paid, either in money and international cooperation or in lives-ours and our children's.
Modern technology has made the ruining of the earth possible. It could be used to prevent it. Why isn't it? Love of money. It would cost billions. This world cannot see-or in its selfishness will not see-beyond its own shortsighted materialistic desires. Since it refuses to pay in money, it will pay in loss of topsoil, loss of forests, loss of aquifers, hothouse atmosphere, poisoned water, mounting sickness, human lives. And to hold onto its money, this world is selling off its children's future.
Will it wake up in time? History's answer is not reassuring, but God's answer is. Jehovah God himself says that he will step in and "bring to ruin those ruining the earth." (Revelation 11:18) He will remove from earth those ruining its environment and destroying its beauty, for he created it to be life-sustaining and beautiful. "The heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool," he says, and: "I shall glorify the very place of my feet."-Isaiah 66:1; 60:13.
He created it to be inhabited by people who love righteousness-and it will be, by millions who once lived in the past, by millions who are living now, and by millions of children yet to be born. This he has recorded in his Word, the Bible, and you can read it for yourself at Isaiah 45:18 and John 5:28, 29.
Then, cared for by those who love it, the earth will regenerate itself into the beauty with which our Creator originally endowed it. Then righteously disposed persons and their children will have a future, a glorious one: "Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it."-Psalm 37:10, 11, 29.
And never die? And never die! "God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:3, 4) Too good to be true? No, this present wicked world is too bad to remain.-Daniel 2:44.
But you and your children can remain. Jehovah God makes it possible through the sacrifice of his Son. To learn of Jehovah and of his Son will mean everlasting life for you and your children-life in a new world wherein righteousness is to dwell. (John 3:16; 17:3; 2 Peter 3:13) This can be the happy future for you and your children. Whether it is or not is up to you.
Pollution-Who Causes It?
"THIS island is government property under experiment. The ground is contaminated with anthrax and dangerous. Landing is prohibited." This sign posted on the Scottish mainland opposite Gruinard Island warns off would-be visitors. For the past 47 years, since an experimental explosion of biological weapons during the second world war, this beautiful island has been contaminated by the disease agents of anthrax.
Gruinard Island is an extreme example of pollution. But milder forms of ground pollution are a problem that is widespread and growing.
Ground Pollution on the Increase
One cause of this ground pollution is garbage. For example, the average British family of four, according to The Times of London, throws away 112 pounds [51 kg] of metal and 90 pounds [41 kg] of plastic each year, "much of which will further disfigure streets, roadside verges, beaches and leisure areas."
The French magazine GEO reported that at one point the vast Entressen garbage dump outside Marseilles, France, had reached a height of 200 feet [60 m] and attracted an estimated 145,000 gulls. A wire perimeter fence around the dump did not prevent the wind from blowing away paper and plastic rubbish. As a result, the local authorities bought up 74 acres [30 ha] of adjacent agricultural land in an attempt to contain the litter problem.
It is little wonder that in organizing the European Year of the Environment-which ended in March 1988-EEC Commissioner Stanley Clinton Davis found the list of pollution troubles "infinite." Consequently, a campaign to encourage the reuse of waste was planned with the aim of recycling 80 percent of the Community's 2,200,000,000 tons of garbage every year.
Pollution by garbage is by no means confined to Western Europe. It is now global. According to New Scientist magazine, it has even been necessary to clean up the remote continent of Antarctica. Australian research scientists gathered more than 40 tons of discarded machinery and building materials that were scattered near their base. The New York Times (December 19, 1989) reports that Americans at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, are cleaning up 30 years of accumulated trash, including a 77,000-pound [35,000 kg] tractor that sank in 80 feet [24 m] of water.
Yes, on dry land, pollution and contamination abound. But what of earth's water?
Dirty Water-Unfit for Life
"Britain's rivers are getting dirtier for the first time in more than a quarter of a century," said The Observer. "The Kattegat [sea between Sweden and Denmark] is dying. It is rapidly becoming unable to support fish life because it is so polluted and starved of oxygen," reported The Times of London. "Poland's rivers are fast becoming open sewers and little improvement is in sight."-The Guardian.
November 1986 saw a pollution catastrophe described by London's Daily Telegraph as "the rape of Western Europe's greatest and most charismatic waterway." A serious fire in a Basel, Switzerland, chemical plant brought in firefighters who hosed down the blaze. Unwittingly, they washed from 10 to 30 tons of chemicals and pesticides into the Rhine, bringing about the "Chernobyl of the water industry." This event hit the headlines. What is not usually reported, however, is the fact that toxic wastes are regularly dumped into the Rhine on a less dramatic scale.
Water-borne pollution is not confined to the area around its source. Miles away, its effects can be deadly. Europe's rivers that flow into the North Sea transport paint, toothpaste whiteners, toxic waste, and manure in such quantities that the Dutch Institute for the Investigation of Fishery now labels North Sea flatfish as unfit to be eaten. Surveys show that 40 percent of the flounder from the shallow areas have skin diseases or cancerous tumors.
Who is to blame for such contamination? Most point the finger at industry, whose greed for profits far exceeds concern for the environment. Yet, farmers too are guilty of polluting streams and rivers near their land. Their growing use of nitrate fertilizers can now render the runoff from silage lethal.
Individuals also use rivers as a dumping ground for junk. The river Mersey, with a catchment area in the northwest region of England, is claimed to be the filthiest in Europe. "Now, only the foolish or unaware would swim in the Mersey," commented Liverpool's Daily Post, adding: "Anyone unlucky enough to fall into the river is likely to be taken sick to hospital."
Raw sewage also figures prominently among the ingredients of marine pollution. The sea along one popular English holiday beach reportedly contained the equivalent of "a cupful of raw sewage in the average household bath," exceeding the EEC limit fourfold.
Then there is another danger; this one falls from the sky.
Acid Rain-A Worrisome Threat
At one time, people in England used to die because of breathing the air-or, rather, the smog. Today, deaths from such pollution are rare. London's smog, which killed an estimated 4,000 in 1952, is no longer a threat. Some coal-burning power stations that contributed to the smog have been transferred to the countryside and equipped with high chimneys and, in some cases, scrubbers to remove a large percentage of the most deadly gases.
This has not, however, stopped the polluting of the atmosphere. Tall chimneys may have eliminated the danger from the immediate area. But now, prevailing winds transport the pollutants far afield-often to other countries. As a result, Scandinavia suffers from British pollution, and many people refer to Britain as the "Dirty Old Man of Europe." In a similar way, Midwestern industry in the United States causes much of Canada's acid rain problem.
For years, scientists have pointed an accusing finger at sulfur dioxide as the main culprit responsible for the air pollution that causes acid rain. In 1985 Drew Lewis, a U.S. presidential envoy on Canadian-American concerns about acid rain, claimed: "Saying that sulphates do not cause acid rain is the same as saying that smoking does not cause lung cancer." Seemingly, when it comes in contact with water vapor, sulfur dioxide produces sulfuric acid, which may acidify the rain or collect in the droplets of clouds, thus bathing upland forests with deadly moisture.
As the acid rain falls or, worse, as the acid snow melts, the soil beneath is affected. Swedish scientists who repeated a 1927 study concluded that at a depth of 28 inches [70 cm], the acidity of forest soil had risen tenfold. This chemical change seriously affects a plant's ability to take up vital minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.
What effect does all of this have on man? He suffers when lakes and rivers formerly teeming with life become acidic and lifeless. Moreover, Norwegian scientists conclude from their studies that the increased acidity of the water, whether in lakes or soil, dissolves aluminum. This poses a definite health hazard. Scientists have noted "a clear relationship between higher mortality statistics and increasing aluminum concentrations" in the water. Possible links between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease and other ailments of the aged continue to cause alarm.
True, in areas like Britain's Mersey River and France's Entressen garbage dump, efforts have been made to improve the situation. However, this type of problem does not go away. It reappears all over the world. But there is yet another kind of pollution-invisible.
Ozone-The Unseen Enemy
Burning fossil fuels, whether in power stations or in domestic furnaces, produces other pollutants in addition to sulfur dioxide. These include oxides of nitrogen and unburned hydrocarbons.
Scientific opinion now places increasing blame for air pollution on these nitrogen oxides. Under the effect of sunlight, they help produce a deadly gas, ozone. "Ozone is the most important air pollutant affecting vegetation in the US," stated David Tingey of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He estimated that this was costing his country $1,000 million a year in 1986. Europe's loss was then put at $400 million annually.
Hence, while acid rain is killing waterways, many feel that ozone, linked ultimately to automobile exhausts, is more to blame than acid rain for the death of trees. The Economist stated: "Trees [in Germany] are being prematurely killed not by acid rain but by ozone. Though the death blow may be delivered by frost, acid mist or disease, it is ozone that makes the trees vulnerable." And what is happening in Europe merely mirrors the conditions on other continents. "Trees in the national parks of California are being damaged by air pollution that may be coming from as far away as Los Angeles," reported New Scientist.
There is, however, a worse kind of pollution defiling the earth. It is a fundamental causative factor in the physical polluting of the land, water, and air of our planet.
It is easy to be deceived by people's appearance. Jesus Christ graphically illustrated this. Addressing the religious leaders of his day, he said: "Woe to you . . . because you resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of . . . every sort of uncleanness." (Matthew 23:27) Yes, a person may look clean-cut, even attractive, outside, but his speech and conduct may reveal his true degraded personality. Sad to say, such moral pollution is widespread today.
Moral pollution includes drug abuse, which is more widespread than ever. Pop stars, stage and screen idols, and even apparently respectable businessmen, have become the objects of scandal due to their dependence on drugs. Moral pollution also includes sexual immorality, which can be the cause of broken families, divorce, abortions, as well as burgeoning epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, including the sinister scourge of AIDS.
At the root of this moral pollution lies selfishness, which also lies at the root of much of the physical pollution afflicting mankind. Tereza Kliemann, involved in AIDS treatment in São Paulo State, Brazil, identified the problem: "Prevention [of AIDS] implies a change in behaviour among high-risk groups and that is difficult." The vast majority of people insist on doing what they want to do, rather than taking into consideration how their actions affect others. As a result, literature, entertainment, and virtually the whole of human culture are riddled with moral pollution.
To thinking people, most present-day efforts at a physical and moral cleanup appear as no more than a cover-up. You may well wonder, then, whether there is any reliable hope for an earth that is clean both physically and morally. Do not be disheartened. The Bible tells us that the end of pollution is in sight!
Anthrax is an infectious disease of animals that causes ulcerous skin nodules or lung infections in man.
EEC stands for European Economic Community, or Common Market.
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Worse Than the Ravages of Time
After years of exposure to the elements, this carved stone face presented a mere death mask. Worse than the ravages of time are the corrosive effects of air pollution. Old buildings throughout the world suffer the gnawing erosion of the acidic rain that washes them, from the City Hall in Schenectady, United States, to the famous edifices of Venice, Italy. Rome's monuments reportedly crumble away at a touch. Greece's famed Parthenon is believed to have suffered more damage in the last 30 years than in the preceding 2,000. Such damage is often compounded by a mixture of environmental factors including temperature, wind, and humidity, as well as by bacteria living on the building's walls. With these consequences for inanimate objects, what must be the effect of pollution on living creatures?
Threat of global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is possible that temperatures could rise by as much as 6.3 degrees [3.5°C] Fahrenheit within this century. This may be too fast a jump for some species to survive. According to researchers, it appears that a contributing cause of the death of coral reefs (anchors of much of marine biodiversity) is warming water.
Scientists say that a three-foot [1 m] rise in sea levels could eliminate a large portion of the world's coastal wetlands, the home of abundant biodiversity. It is believed by some that global warming may be affecting the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. If these were to melt, environmental catastrophe could follow.
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