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May 26, 2010

Essay on Environment

It is unfortunate that we, the inhabitants of earth, are unable to see the trials and tribulations we subject earth to on a daily basis. When discussions regarding the environment arise, most of us have the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. However, when farmers have no crops or when the sky cries acid or wild animals eat our live stock, then we become outraged. According, Genesis 1:27, we are to subdue the earth (not destroy the earth.)

We human are killing our mother earth and everything thing in it by not protecting our environment. We inflict harm on earth every day as if it has done something to us or performed unsatisfactory. It is most unfortunate that we cannot see first hand the destruction we are causing. We don’t see the rapid extinction of numerous species due to deforestation. It is pitiful that we can feel the warming due to the holes in the ozone layer but we still own and drive multiple cars daily. It’s sad how we see a plume of smog in the middle of the day that hangs over our city like a halo hangs over an angel and we still do nothing. Also, it is amazing is how we watch the discovery channel and see the people in third world countries taking bathes and drinking the same water that the animal bath in because that all they have but we still water our lawns and some wash their cars daily. What do you say to mountain lions killing or eating family pets tied up in the yard because they think it prey only because we have invaded their space? We don’t say anything, we get our gun and we kill the mountain lion, in the mountain. Also remaining is the fact that most people have never seen the trees of an entire valley cut down or the coastline blackened by spilled oil. We don’t care, we have got to have paper and we need the oil and there is more where it came from.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the earth’s ecosystem has experienced a rapid decline. People are using vast amounts of resources at rates that may be impossible to either maintain or replenish. There are also consequences to using and refining these resources: a lower quality of air, water, and life on earth; the extinction of various species; and the continued drastic decrease of finite resources in which our economy depends on.

Every year more forests are cut down, more chemicals pollute the air, and more toxins fill the waters. This trend has continued for almost two centuries and is showing not signs of slowing down. We can probably consider this the eve of environmental endangerment and we should not be able to look in the mirror because we caused it.

Let’s start by looking at one of the most prized and coveted resources on earth, oil. It is often referred to as “black gold” since it is shipped to and consumed all over the world. Oil is the greatest source of energy that we have. It is used as fuel for cars, trucks, airplanes, and many other vehicles as well as a major generator of electricity in many areas.

Oil is also used in and must also be shipped in vast quantities and the most economically efficient way to do this is by using what is known as a “supertankers.” Supertankers are huge, ocean faring vessels that transport oil in the tens of millions of gallons and when these supertankers have accidents, the accidents can be catastrophic to the environment. Such an accident occurred in March of 1978 when the Amoco Cadiz, an American supertanker, ran aground three miles off the coast of France, spilling more than 67 million gallons of petroleum. The majority of the oil spilled drifted toward France’s shore, covering 200 miles of shoreline. The spill was 18 miles wide and 80 miles long. However, due to stormy weather, cleanup was delayed for 2 weeks. This accident and the delayed cleanup caused the largest loss of marine life ever recorded after an oil spill.

In the cleaning process large amounts of debris accumulated, making recovery efforts very difficult. To cleanup the oil, many different types of recovery equipment was used. Things such as booms, skimmers, pumps and dispersants. Sometimes another supertanker is brought in to haul the spilt oil, which has been pumped out of the water.

You’d think that we would take the necessary precautions to keep such an accident from happening again. However, eleven years later another accident occurred. In March 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, one of the most biologically rich waters, and spilled 10.8 million gallons of oil. The Valdez was not far from the Exxon loading docks but the damage had already been done. Every time events like these occur, the quality of the environment declines a little more. However, what is more environmentally damaging, as a whole, is when the oil is transported and used correctly as an energy producer.

When oil is burned, it releases many harmful by-products. However, the most harmful by-product is carbon dioxide which is a colorless, odorless, non-toxic, and a slightly acidic-tasting gas. It is sometimes referred to as a carbonic acid gas whose molecules consist of one atom of carbon joined by two atoms of oxygen and it is distributed over the earth’s surface at a concentration of about 0.033%, or 330 parts per million.

Carbon dioxide has many roles on our planet today, from keeping the surface of the earth warm to cleaning clothes. It is known that life on earth is possible because the sun provides energy and warmth. The sun’s rays pass through the atmosphere and are absorbed by earth’s surface, which heats up and radiates energy back into space. Some of the gases in the atmosphere are captured and hold radiated energy, keeping the surface of the earth warm (much like the glass of a greenhouse keeps the plants inside warm.) Without these greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, all radiated heat would be lost in space and the surface of the earth would be cold and barren.

This natural phenomenon acts like a blanket around the earth, and is referred to as the greenhouse effect. It is essential for life. However, man-made emissions are leading to increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The increases in greenhouse gases are trapping more of the energy radiated from earth and are likely to lead to global warming and extreme weather conditions.

With this said, carbon dioxide emissions have reached a new high of 23,900 million tons in 1996; nearly four times what it was in 1950 Cunningham & Cunningham. One of the largest carbon dioxide producing entities is the automobile. The total number of vehicles in the world is growing at an amazing rate. In 1980 there were 391.1 million vehicles in the world and in 1996 there were 676.2 million Cunningham & Cunningham. The United States alone uses 35 percent of the world’s transport energy and is responsible for 25 percent of the world’s output of carbon dioxide Amstutz.

Since the late nineteenth century, the content of carbon dioxide in the air has increased by 25 percent or 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit Amstutz. This may not sound like much, but a climate change of 6 degrees could raise the sea level by 3 feet, submerging many parts of the world. This trend shows no sign of slowing down. Carbon dioxide is essential for life on earth. This will continue to result in a dramatic increase of carbon dioxide levels and further endangerment to our environment if we, as a whole, do not begin to use an environmentally cleaner and safer source of energy.

Another factor that contributes to rising carbon dioxide levels is the destruction of tropical forests. It has been estimated that deforestation in tropical regions contributes 7 to 31 percent of total carbon dioxide levels each year. Tropical forests contain a large variety of plants and animals. When the trees are destroyed, it changes the habitat. This results in the extinction of many other species. Natural beauty is also lost when tropical forests die. It is estimated that only 55 percent of the original tropical forest survives today, and an area of over 31 million square miles are cut every year. By destroying the tropical forests, we are destroying the very agents needed to reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, further assuring the climax of a doomed planet.

Not only must we cease to destroy tropical forests, but we must also lean towards major reforestation to recover all the damage we have caused as well as cleanse our atmosphere of all the pollutants that resulted. A forest of young, vigorously growing trees will remove 5 to 7 tons more carbon dioxide per acre per year than old growth and thus, be a major asset towards the recovery process. However, the future does not bode well for tropical forests. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, says, “Short of a miraculous transformation in the attitude of people and governments, the Earth’s remaining close-canopy forests and their associated bio-diversity are destined to disappear in the coming decades.” The disappearance of tropical forests will most definitely worsen environmental degradation.

These things are only a few of the ways in which we are destroying earth. There are so many ways that we do not have enough paper to continue. However, visit the World Wide Web and do a search on “saving the environment” or ‘destruction of the earth” or any type of environmental search and you will find many resources. While you search, you will also see many recommendations as to how to stop the destruction.

For instance, to reduce the hole in the ozone layer we must reduce the gases being emitted into the air. This also creates “acid rain” and the smog. One way to do that is to ride public transportation. It is not being suggested that you stop driving your cars daily but maybe one day a week. Try carpooling or working from home. . It is a known fact that the hole is the ozone layer is shrinking but we need to prevent this from happening again.

What about water pollution and conservation? When you wash your cars or clean your house, or change your oil, don’t pour the chemicals down the storm drain. When you go to the beach, don’t throw your unwanted liquid into the ocean. Water has a very balance ecosystem and any foreign agents have the potential to throw the entire balance out of order. Also, must you have the greenest lawn on the block or can it be green? Watering your lawn is not of wasteful but it is very expensive so why not let the rain do what it does best? Remember, we may have to drink this water one day.

Lastly, deforestation can be eliminated if we start buying older homes. Do we really need to have a brand new house? Also, this may sound immoral, but what about a law restricting a family to no more than 2 children (it worked for Japan or China). Families continue to get bigger and homes continue to grow. There are more mouths to feed and more resources that are used. Remember, there are many species on this earth and we must all learn to co-exist. This means we must all learn to live together and protect each others environment. If you every have the opportunity to regenerate a forest, please take the time to go out and plant a tree. Perform this gift to earth in your own back yard. It will produce a place for the an animal or animals, help disseminate the earth, provide oxygen, produce shade for your home and lower your energy bill all at the same time. Just look at the number of ways you are helping the environment by planting a tree.

Lastly, the most valuable thing that you as an individual can do for the earth is educate your children. Remember, they will be the ones trying to live in a world that was destroyed. Tell them about the potential lung and breathing health problems they may have due to the lack of clean air. Tell them that they may have to boil all their water because the water has become so polluted. Tell them that cars may be banned. Tell them how there may be know wild animal and the only thing they have to look at are the pictures or bones in a museum. It a serious matter and we need to educate our kids and get laws and policies passed. Because we can talk until we are blue in the face but until these things become law, it will remain “out of sight, out of mind.”

In closing, the world environment is degrading at an extraordinary rate. This is partially due to reoccurring oil spills, increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the ongoing disappearance of tropical forests. We may not witness these monstrosities in our everyday lives, but it is happening. We may not be able to visit the blackened Prince William Sound nor see our lush, green forests being pillaged even as you read, but it is occurring. We cannot see carbon dioxide or the effect it will have on future generations to come, but a crisis is developing. When we have no more forests, no more clean air nor clean water, then we will all notice. We must take action before this occurs. Even if the process is gradual and burdensome, any step towards serious environmental consideration is a step in the right direction.

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