Air Pollution

Air pollution refers to the contamination of air through the release of harmful dust particles, smoke or gases from factories, households, vehicles etc into the atmosphere. This occurs when the air in the atmosphere is altered, chemically, physically or biologically. The alteration makes the air dirty and unfit for humans, plants and animals.

Causes

Mining

During mining, various equipment are used to carry out different activities like drilling, excavating, blasting of rocks, among others. These activities release dust, smoke and even chemicals into the atmosphere, causing massive air pollution. These pollutants affect the health of miners and people living around mines.

Burning of Fossil Fuels

When fossil fuels, such as petroleum and coal are burned, sulfur dioxide, which is a harmful gas, is emitted into the atmosphere, causing air pollution. Polluted gas and smoke emitted from cars, trains, trucks and airplanes that we often use as our means of transport also contribute to air pollution. Other gases like carbon monoxide released as a result of incomplete fuel combustion and nitrogen oxides produced during our daily activities, such as when burning garbage and from untreated waste materials released from factories also cause air pollution.

Agricultural Activities

Hazardous gases like ammonia are often released from fertilizers used in agriculture. The frequent use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and other farm chemicals also pollute the air. These products also cause water pollution when they are washed into water bodies during rainy seasons.

Exhaust from Factories and Industries

Manufacturing is one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors in the world. Large amounts of untreated gases that are released into the atmosphere like carbon monoxide, nitrogen, and sulfur are very dangerous to human and plant life. Chemical wastes, organic compounds, and hydrocarbons that are emitted from factories and industries also affect the quality of air.

Effects of Air Pollution

Respiratory and Heart Problems

Air pollution affects millions of people. Studies have linked numerous respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia and asthma, to air pollution. Increased cases of cancer and heart conditions have also been reported across the world to have affected and even cost millions of lives thanks to air pollution.

Global Warming

The adverse effects of global warming are felt in various countries, ranging from increased temperature and severe drought to increased cases of flooding, melting of icebergs and loss of natural flora. The polluted air eats up the ozone layer, exposing lives to harmful heat radiation.

Acid Rain

Acid rain forms when water droplets combine with air pollutants, such as sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere. The mixture cools, condenses and falls as acidic rain. Acidic rain is known to be corrosive in nature and causes damage to iron surfaces. It also causes serious health problems if the water is consumed by people and animals.

Vietnam’s 1971 Red River Delta Flood

Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia. It experiences a monsoonal climate season in the north. The season is always hot and rainy and runs from May to September. The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi and it’s located in the Red River Delta of North Vietnam. The river has three major tributaries, namely, Thao, Lo and Da. Flooding occurs from June to October in Red River Delta, although serious flooding occurs in August when water levels are between 13-20-feet high above the ground.

Vietnam’s capital is protected from flooding by the dikes, which were built 1000 years ago. The dikes were regularly maintained to ensure they remained in good condition. Reservoirs were also built upstream in order to establish flood retention and diversion to help prevent the capital from flooding. However, the 1971 Red River Delta flood occurred at a time when Vietnam War was taking place, and the country was under US military action. Although the flood was overshadowed by the military action in the country, it was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Vietnam. The floods affected the North Vietnam community and killed at least 100,000 people. Heavy rains likely caused the dikes to overload resulting in flooding.

The Chinese Floods of 1931

China is one of the oldest civilizations built near rivers. This was mainly because the rivers provided food (especially fish), fresh drinking water, hiding places during war attacks and water used for farm irrigation. Flooding was common in many of China’s oldest cities, and this has been happening throughout the Chinese history. However, there came a year when the floods were a wonder. That year was 1931. China’s three biggest rivers, the Yangtze, Huai and Yellow, all flooded that year. This was one of the worst floods ever recorded in history, since it killed between 1 to 4 million people in the country.

Causes

People have lived along the Yangtze, Yellow and Huai rivers for many centuries. Several reasons led to the flooding of these rivers. Starting with the weather, the long drought that occurred from 1928-1930 greatly affected China. The lack of rain during that period caused soils to dry up and made the rivers shallower. Winter then followed in 1930, which saw big snowstorms hit the country. It was then followed by extremely heavy rains in that filled the the country’s three rivers, during the spring. These rains caused the remaining snow to melt and the water volume increased in the rivers. To top it all, the Pacific Ocean currents occurred in the same year, causing 2 strong cyclones to hit China. In July 1931, China was again hit by another series of cyclones, and this month was unprecedentedly, since a total of 7 catastrophic cyclones were experienced a span of one month.

The radical changes in weather partially contributed to the flooding, but before the floods, modern farming techniques had been embraced in China so as to increase agricultural production. There was political instability in the country, thanks to wars and rebellions. This hindered the process of monitoring the rivers since the government programs were responsible for this task. As a result, the land close to the rivers was overused. Forests and wetlands were destroyed. The dams and dikes that were supposed to control the water in the rivers were wrongly built. All these caused the raging waters to break dams and river banks, leading to flooding.

Aftermath

When the three rivers flooded, 145,000 people died, according to Chinese sources. Western sources, on the other hand, recorded the death toll to be between 3.7- 4 million. The hazardous floods caused people to die due to waterborne diseases like typhus and cholera. Many others died due to starvation. On August 19, at Hankou town in Wuhan, the water level exceeded 16 meters. This was the climax of the floods, and 200,000 people drowned at night. This occurred near lake Gaoyou when water rushed through the Grand Canal and washed away dikes.

The 1975 Banqiao Dam Failure

In early August 1975, a Pacific hurricane passed on the coast of South China through Fujian Province, all the way to the north of Henan province. The warm, humid air of the typhoon met the cooler air of the north, causing a series of storms. This was due to the change in weather patterns. Three sets of storms that ensued dropped a meter of water in just three days. On the August 5, the first storm dropped 0.448 meters; this was 40% greater than the previous record. The second storm occurred on August 6, and the downpour lasted 16 hours. Later, on August 7, the third storm lasted 13 hours. China’s Shimantan and Banqiao dams were constructed along rivers and could only handle a maximum of 0.5 meters of water over three days.

The three storms caused water to fill the 2 dam reservoirs to capacity; hence, the excess runoff exceeded the rate at which water could be expelled from the dams. To begin with, the Shimantan dam reservoir on the Hong River collapsed at midnight when water rose 40 centimeters above the crest of the dam. Within five hours, its 120 million cubic meters of water was emptied.

Shortly after 1am, the Banqiao dam on the Ru River crested. Some brave people tried working in the storm to save the embankment, but their efforts were only futile. The dam’s walls crumbled, and the 600 million cubic meters of water that was behind the 6-meter high and 12-kilometer wide walls came raging like a dragon.

A total of 62 dams broke in the process. The flood diversions and dikes could not withstand the force of the water downstream; they all broke. This caused flooding of 2.5 million acres of farm land across 29 counties and municipalities. The predicaments at Huaibin city where the waters from rivers Hong and Ru met were terrible. More than 85,000 people died. This was so unfortunate because the dams collapsed without sending any warning signs. Besides that, the walls of water was travelling at about 50 kilometers per hour and telephone communication had been affected by the floods. Those who survived the flood ordeal were trapped on trees, and they went for days without food, so they had to die. Many were affected by water-borne diseases also, and they succumbed.

Environmental Issues in Ireland and the UK

When it comes to the environment in most parts of the world, there are no shortages of things to be concerned about. Although many of the challenges which each country will face will be similar, there will also be some that are more of a priority than others. This is undoubtedly because there are so many components that have to be factored in.

What Are Ireland’s Main Environmental Concerns?

To sustain the environment of Ireland, it means not only identifying environmental issues which are having an impact now, but learning to forecast the future. The current problems that apply to both for Ireland include:

  • Global warming
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Waste conditions
  • Biodiversity loss

Then, on the positive side environmental efforts which have been in the works for a while, are now beginning to show the benefits. Such as:

  • Irish swimming sites are meeting excellent standards.
  • Renewal energy is making good headway,
  • Irish soil is classed as being in good condition, which shows that efforts in this area are making progress.

The Environmental Responsibilities

No one party, group or government can take on the sole responsibility for the environment in Ireland, or any other part of the world. It takes a collective effort on the part of every person. Every individual should keep themselves informed ” with good resources like those that are found here that produce newsworthy” information.

Both within the respective countries and outside of them. Often, as a human society, we forget that everyone owns a piece of this earth and as a possession, it comes with responsibility.

Personal Assessments

If each person did their assessment as to how they could support the economy, then it would lessen the workload for those who must expend the resources to attend to the environmental needs. This would be at the government level.

Extended Government Responsibilities

The responsibility for Ireland’s environmental needs goes beyond the interior of the country and finances. Every country’s environment can affect their neighbours and even have a global effect. This means governments of all nations must work towards one common goal. This is a more critical task than any of the others.

Getting every country on the same page is monumental. They all want to deal with their immediate issues. So, what may be a problem for Ireland, may not be for Canada or the USA, at least not as a priority. However, just having an agreement to acknowledge the need for environmental dialogue is good.

The Repercussions

If countries do not work together on environmental changes, then the efforts of those which do, get seriously downgraded. A prime example of this is the very term “global warming”. It is not just one country that is contributing to this, yet every country needs to work towards the solution.

Noise Pollution

Loud sound from music, our phones, television sets, traffic or crowds of people pollutes the environment. For many of us, pollution is limited to resources and nature. However, any sound that tampers with our normal rhythm of life is pollution.

Causes of Noise Pollution

Construction Activities

During construction of bridges, roads, buildings, dams, among other structures, the equipment used are noisy. For instance, rocks are blasted using very loud explosives during construction of roads and dams. This contributes to noise pollution.

Industrialization

Industries and factories use big machines that produce a lot of noise. They include exhaust fans, grinding mills, compressors, and generators. The environment is so noisy that workers are advised to wear earplugs to reduce the effects of noise and minimize the chances of developing hearing loss among other side effects.

Poor Urban Planning

Poor urban planning causes congestion in towns and cities. This is worsened by the large population that scrambles for employment. The number of automobiles in urban areas is also high, meaning that vehicle noise is common in these areas – not to mention frequent fights over basic amenities and loud music done by companies promoting their products.

Effects of Noise Pollution

Simple as it looks, noise pollution has far-reaching effects on human life. The effects include:

Hearing problems: Constant exposure to loud noise reduces our sensitivity to sounds that our ears pick up in order to regulate our body’s rhythm. It damages our eardrums leading to loss of hearing.

Trouble Communicating: Loud noise causes misunderstanding when people are talking. It is even difficult to get what someone else is saying when the environment is too noisy.

Sleep disturbance: Sleeping in a noisy environment is difficult.

Light Pollution

About a century a ago, millions of children in the world could stare at the sky at night to see the Milky Way. But as of today, the spectacular view of the universe has been impaired by the use of artificial light at night. The widespread use of artificial light has increased across the globe, especially in urban areas. Thanks to this, light pollution has never been higher.

Light Pollution Types

Skyglow – brightening of the night sky, especially in towns and cities

Glare – excessive artificial brightness, which causes visual discomfort

Clutter – excessively bright and confusing groupings of light sources

Light trespass – light falling where it is not needed</p>

Prevention Tips

While other types types of pollution are hurdle when it comes prevention, light pollution is easily reversible. This can be done through:

Cut-off – cutting off ensures that light is only directed to where it is needed. Choosing proper exterior light fixtures with cut-off angles helps minimize lighting, improves visibility, and reduces high angle brightness.

Warm-up – this can be done by using LED bulbs and fluorescent lamps, which often produce white warm lighting.

Shielding – Ensure your exterior light fixtures are shielded to prevent directing light to the sky

The 1950s Texas Drought

For seven years, Texas experienced the worst droughts ever, which lasted from 1950-1957. Its effects were massive compared to when the Dust Bowl: occurred. The agricultural sector collapsed leading to huge losses. Furthermore, water supply planning in the state became ineffective and failed since there was no water to be supplied to homes.

As years passed, Texas people stared at the clouds hoping to see any signs of rain but none was there for seven years. Cracks were evident on the ground as the soil dried. The long dry spell forced farmers to sell their animals and move to urban centers hoping for a better life.

The Drought Effects

Some sources claim that the drought started in 1947. This is the year when the amount of rain received in Central Texas was greatly low. Those who owned cattle relocated to North Kansas to evade the harsh effects of the drought, in the 1952 summer. Unfortunately, the devastating drought quickly spread to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and the amount of rainfall received was 75% below normal. More than half of Texas received significantly little rainfall. The drought was felt all over, from the Great Plains to the south of New Mexico to Deep South. The Midwest was not spared either. By 1954, a total of 10 states had been affected by the biting drought.

Lack of water was not the only problem, as environment was also severely affected by juniper and mesquite. The overgrazed land was left bare and farmers lacked food for their animals. Besides that, the weak top soils had been eroded away by wind storms that occurred during the Dust Bowl period. Thus, this drought was one of the worst in the American history.

The 1983 Drought

The United States is not new to drought. The country has been one of the most hit in history. The drought that occurred in the United States in 1983 was one of the country’s worst natural calamities. Accompanied by heat waves, the US Drought of 1983 affected various parts of the country, especially the Great Plains and the Midwest. The drought started hitting the country in late spring. Starting from June 1983, the states in the affected regions experienced intense heat, which lasted for months. The temperatures rose well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of the dangerous and prolonged heat spells, the drought was declared a disaster in some of the affected states, such as Illinois and Indiana. In Kentucky, the drought was only second to the 20th century’s worst. Uncountable shrubs and trees hibernated into dormancy, and you the vegetation was nowhere to be seen. Hundreds of deaths were reported in various parts of Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri as a result of severe heat. The effects of the drought were also felt in Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic areas, such as the New York City. Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska also became victims.

The 1887 Yellow River Flood

Huang He River, which is also called the Yellow River, is responsible for most hazardous floods in China. The river is three thousand miles long, running from Qinghai province in the northern mountain to the Yellow Sea, which is situated between China and Korea. Thanks to the massive property destruction and the loss of live it has caused, the river has been dubbed ‘’China’s Sorrow’’ by westerners. In 1887 alone, 900,000 people died in the floods. It did not end there as close to four million people died in the 1931 floods and almost one million died in 1938.

The Yellow river is prone to flooding due to its elevated nature. Before the 1931 floods, the 1887 floods was had emerged as the worst ever natural disaster in history. Over the centuries, dikes had been built along the river by farmers to regulate the rising waters caused by the building up of silt on the riverbed. Despite measures being taken by farmers near the river, the heavy rains overcame the dikes and caused flooding that had never been seen before.

Due to the low lying nature of plains near the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province, the waters of the Yellow River are thought to have broken the dikes in Huayankou. This made it possible for the floods to spread quickly in the entire Northern China. The floods covered an area of about 50,000 square miles and destroyed farms, homes, commercial centers and other property whose accurate value is still not known to date. A total of 2 million people were left homeless and without basic amenities. So far, the Yellow River has killed close to 4 million people due to flooding. What a curse!