Presently, people around the world are on the edge of their seats watching the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. There are many people being blamed and there is no consensus about who is liable. Worse yet, no one can figure out how to stop the oil spill or how to clean it up. What is society’s role in this unfolding event? How does society contribute to environmental disasters? How bad is water pollution really? Can society take ownership in stopping future water pollution from taking place? If society can, why haven’t they done so already? This article will attempt to answer these questions.
What are the Causes and Facts?
Land activities (“Water Pollution Facts – In Numbers and Stats,” scipeeps.com/May 8,2009) are considered 80% of the problem when it comes to water pollution. Society can’t blame beachgoers and water activities for the majority of water pollution. Water pollution is caused by everyone in their daily activities and routines.
It has been discovered that discarding plastic and other similar types of litter accounts for the annual deaths of 100,000 marine animals like porpoises and sea otters and at least a million sea birds like pelicans and gulls (“Water Pollution Facts,”). When people throw away plastic containers, they often end up in water sources like oceans in a variety of different ways. When marine animals hunt for food, they get caught in these discarded plastics or swallow them, almost always dying a slow, grueling death. The food sources for these marine animals may have also consumed small plastic items, which are then ingested by the predators.
Polluted groundwater is blamed for 250 million cases of diseases including cholera, typhoid, and dysentery; about 8 million cases result in death. Groundwater pollution is caused by farmers who use chemicals on their crops; the construction industry haphazardly discarding cement, lubricants, plastics, and metals; and sewage cited as above being discarded in inappropriate ways. Algae proliferates in water contaminated with sewage, creating “red or brown tides”. (“Groundwater Pollution and How to Prevent It” scipeeps.com/May 5,2009)
What are the Effects of Water Pollution?
The effects of water pollution are evident everywhere. Sometimes these obvious effects don’t show up for months or even years. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will likely linger for decades. A short synopsis of the effects water pollution (“Water Pollution Facts”) has on its environment are as follows:
- Acid rain
- Disease spread by water
- Chemicals spread by water
- Damage to the food chain
- Marine food sources contaminated or eliminated
- Altered water temperatures
Since people eat marine animals, humanity is directly affected by what is done to marine life. The specific effects oil has on water pollution can be found in “The Effects of Oil on Wildlife”(amsa.gov.au/June 1,2009). It is important to realize that oil doesn’t have to be sticky in order to hurt marine animals. Lighter crude and/or refined petroleum products may be more dangerous than the stickier oil pollutants.
As oil evaporates, its toxic fumes are breathed in by marine animals, human, and the like. Water pollution isn’t a simple cause and effect phenomenon. It’s quite complex. In fact, according to W. Corbett Dabbs, water pollution, particularly with oil spills, has been associated with military aggression (“Oil Production and Environmental Damage,”American.edu,December 1996/Retrieved May 29, 2010)
How Can Society Take Part in Reducing Water Pollution?
There are plenty of resources available to educate society about taking ownership over reducing water pollution. Here are some simple ways that can make a huge impact on reducing water pollution:
- Report dumping of toxic wastes.
- Dispose hazardous waste at hazardous waste collection centers.
- Repair car leaks.
- Dispose of chemical household cleaners properly.
- Use household products that are environmentally safe.
- Make a home “green-friendly” by using energy-saving technology.
- Drive a hybrid car.
- Don’t litter.
- Buy organic foods. They use little or no pesticides.
- Plant trees, the more the better.
Why Isn’t Society Acting on This Information About Reducing Water Pollution?
Research shows that there are three reasons why people don’t act on this information, simple as it may be (“Why Society Doesn’t Act on Information about Reducing Water Pollution,” ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com, May 29,2010/ Retrieved May 31,2010) . With knowledge comes behavioral change, many scientists agree. These three reasons are:
- Strategic realism
- Technological utopianism
This research explains in beautiful detail about what these three reasons mean. First, strategic realism is when society believes that oil production is wonderful because of its economic implications. It provides jobs and money for the country, makes Wall Street secure, and keeps one country not so dependent on an enemy country’s source of oil.
Eco-apocalypse is exactly as it implies. Society is paralyzed by the overwhelming disasters on the environment unfolding before them. They don’t know how to respond, or feel that the information that they have on preventing environmental pollution won’t be enough to help. Society lacks the capacity to act on behavioral changes on its own in order to save the environment.
Lastly, technological utopianism is explained by faith in the government, British Petroleum, or some other corporation to overcome and fix the environmental disasters. Though there is no scientific evidence that this occurs, it is likely that this will be explored much more in the future due to recent events with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.
What Can We Learn From Environmental Pollution Disasters?
The overall take home message is this: society needs to take notice that environmental pollution is a growing problem. It requires real solutions. The solutions can come from government and big corporations, but most importantly, they come from behavioral changes in society. Society comprises the majority, the biggest body of people. They can make the greatest and most influential changes. These changes are simple to incorporate into daily life. Without taking these important steps to reduce environmental pollution, society as a whole will be greatly affected both negatively and directly.