By Carly Hall, UWO Peer Wellness Educator
Pollution surrounds us every day. Pollution can be defined as “the introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment.” It can be from something as small as throwing a piece of chewed gum out of a car window to something huge like a forest fire giving off smoke fumes for days or weeks. What is really scary about this is that the vast majority of pollution comes from anthropogenic sources, meaning that it comes from humans. We pollute the earth by using pesticides, smoking, throwing trash on the streets, and by burning resources that release carbon dioxide into the air.
National Geographic published an article titled Climate 101: Air Pollution. Here, they shared that carbon dioxide is the leading air pollutant. When we exhale we let out carbon dioxide because our bodies are primarily focused on using the oxygen we take in. Thankfully, plants love to breathe in, store, and utilize that gas for their benefit. Unfortunately, forests are being destroyed by humans for buildings, parking lots, infrastructure in general, and more. This means that all of the extra carbon dioxide trees and other forest plants would be consuming is now in our atmosphere, ultimately contributing to climate change and rising temperatures. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have a crisp cool autumn day rather than a seemingly endless summer in October.
DoSomething.org shared 11 facts about pollution. Here are some that I found to be the most interesting:
- Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. That’s comparable to global diseases like malaria and HIV.
- People who live in places with high levels of air pollutants have a 20% higher risk of death from lung cancer than people who live in less-polluted areas.
- While children make up 10% of the world’s population, over 40% of the global burden of disease falls on them. More than 3 million children under age five die annually from environmental factors.
- Recycling and composting prevented 85 million tons of material away from being disposed of in 2010, up from 18 million tons in 1980.
So how can we combat pollution? Companies like Eddie Bauer have partnered with The One Tree Initiative with the goal to expand an entire forest. Their plan is to start with one tree, which will expand to one acre, which will then expand to an entire forest. On their website, they share that with every one dollar donation, they are able to plant one tree. For $10, nearly 500 pounds of carbon dioxide can be absorbed, for twenty-five dollars nearly 1,000,000 gallons of water can be filtered, and with $100 an entire habitat for endangered or threatened species can be restored. Now, I understand how one-hundred dollars may seem like a lot of money for a poor college student, but just remember that it only takes one dollar to start rebuilding a forest.
Hopefully after reading this you aren’t feeling too frightened and overwhelmed by pollution. I ask that you use this information to make positive and meaningful change. Plant a little garden or have a few plants in your dorm or apartment. Be sure to recycle what you can, and do it right. Never, ever spit out gum on the floor or toss it out of your car window. Our generation has the profound ability to make beneficial changes, and remember that you are a part of that.