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Essay/Term paper: Study of environmental issues associated with industrialization

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Society Term Papers

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Study of Environmental Issues Associated with Industrialization


Although our industrial ways seem to be a very progressive step into the
future, there are many flaws to the way many things are today. Things have
definitely changed over the past century, as we can currently do things much
more efficiently then before. The cost of this efficiency may seem inexpensive
in many ways, however we do not realize that the cost of these new technologies
do not just include money, time and labour, but it also costs us our well being
as well as the beauty and comfort of our own home, earth. Ozone depletion,
climate change as well as the direct effects of chemicals from industrial
emissions and fuel combustion are a great threat to our planet and if nothing is
done to resolve this problem soon, the results may be disastrous.
There is a layer of chemicals twenty kilometers up in the stratosphere
called the ozone layer. This layer protects the inhabitants of earth by
reflecting much of the suns harmful ultra violet (UV) rays. Without this layer
above us, many living things including humans could not survive. The ozone
layer is currently depleting and the reason for this is believed to be caused by
a few things. Deforestation, fertilizer use and fuel combustion are minor
contributors to this problem while chemicals such as chloroflourocarbons (CFCs),
halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, methyl bromide and
hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs) are the major contributors to the deterioration
of the ozone layer. These chemicals have industrial halocarbons that break up
into chlorine and bromine in the upper stratosphere when they react with the
sun's rays. Chlorine eats up the ozone layer while bromine acts as a catalyst
and speeds up the process. Often found in Antarctica, there are frozen chemical
clouds in the upper stratosphere called polar stratospheric clouds. These polar
stratospheric clouds destroy the ozone layer at a much faster pace then the
industrial halocarbons. The depletion of the ozone layer is a great threat to
mankind and all other living things on earth because without this layer of
chemicals, we will be exposed to excess UV rays. This excess exposure can lead
to many things such as malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, damage
to eyes by means such as snow blindness and cataracts, which is the clouding of
the eye that can eventually lead to blindness. Above all this, excessive UV
exposure can lead to symptoms similar to AIDS as prolonged exposure could weaken
the human immune system. As far as plants and animals go, plants may die or may
not be as healthy as a result of too much UV exposure and animals will suffer
similar symptoms as humans. So if the ozone layer that we depend very much on
is destroyed, it could be concluded that we as inhabitants of the world are also
destroyed.
It is believed but not yet proven that we are altering the world climate
by releasing chemicals into the atmosphere by a process called "global warming"
or the "greenhouse effect". Some of the chemicals that are believed to
contribute to the greenhouse effect are carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide,
halogen gases and CFCs. These chemicals cause the climate of the world to
increase by trapping the suns heat in the atmosphere and can last anywhere from
one decade to one century. Although chemicals released by man only account for
one third of the greenhouse effect, it is our contribution to this problem that
will set the world off balance. It seems now that by the year 2100, carbon
dioxide will double, causing global temperatures to rise to anywhere in between
one point five to four point five degrees Celsius. Many people may wonder why
global warming is such a problem as humans can easily adapt to their environment.
If this global warming causes global temperatures to rise, we as humans will be
able to cope with this change, however plants and animals may not be able to
adapt to this change and as a result they may die and become extinct, resulting
in a break in the food chain. The ocean levels will also continue to rise as
they have been at a pace of two to eight centimeters a decade for several more
decades. In fact, if Antarctica melts slightly the ocean level can rise up to
sixty meters. As the global temperatures rise, the world will become drier and
therefore there will be more droughts, and heat waves possibly causing more
fires and again producing more CO2 and further contributing to the problem.
Ocean temperatures, currents and fish habitats will also change with the climate
of the world. Chemicals however, are not only believed to heat up the world in
the process of global warming, chemicals are also the probable cause of an
unexplained coolness in some parts of the world. Sulfur dioxide is a chemical
that reflects sunlight and because it reflects sunlight it is assumed that
sulfur dioxide cools specific areas of the earth that should be warmer.
Chemicals cause a lot of indirect damage to all living things on earth,
however, it is possible and most frequent that chemicals endanger the lives of
living things directly. Unintentionally inhaling chemicals is one way these
chemicals can harm us directly. Carbon monoxide, when inhaled, binds to the
blood's hemoglobin and prevents the necessary oxygen from reaching tissues.
When inhaled, carbon monoxide can also dull mental acuity. A deadly chemical
cloud at ground level called smog also endangers the health of living things.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from vehicle exhaust
and industrial emissions combine to form ozone at ground level. When the sun
reacts with this ozone layer at ground level, it produces smog. Every year the
ozone layer at ground level has increased by one percent. As carbon dioxide
emissions increase throughout the world, some plants may benefit from this
increase and so this excess carbon dioxide may act as a fertilizer, but to other
plants, too much carbon dioxide may be a bad thing, causing the plant to die and
possibly become extinct. The St. Claire River is now known as "Chemical Valley"
because of an accident that had occurred there several years ago. An industrial
company near the river had spilled sixty different chemicals mixed together into
the river. This accident had sterilized the river and had effected much of the
agriculture around it. The Great Lakes is another example of the direct effect
of chemicals on living things. There are chemicals in our body today that there
not present back in the early 90's, the polluted Great Lakes that we locals
depend on, are believed to be the cause. Animals reproducing near the great
lakes and that rely on the great lakes are more frequently unsuccessful then
before, female birds are growing crossed bills, males are either immune to this
or die in the shell, fish are being feminized because the do not have secondary
sex steroids which chemicals from the pulp and paper industry are believed to be
responsible for. For humans, the sperm count in men has decreased fifty percent
in the last fifty years, breast cancer has become an epidemic, males experience
genetile disorders and children have problems learning.
Chemicals released into the atmosphere by industry, vehicles, fertilizer
use, etc. can harm plant, animal and even human health, so therefore if this
problem is not resolved quickly, the world we live in now could soon turn into a
world of chaos. If a species of any animal becomes extinct the food chain will
collapse, if any species of plants become extinct the food chain again will
collapse and if that species of plants is used for any type of medication, the
people who depend on that medication may also die. There are some organizations
in the world that are trying to turn things around, however there are not enough
people to support these groups. The general public doesn't seem to care much
about this problem or is not yet aware of this issue. Even the government of
Canada doesn't not want to take action against pollution more then likely
because of budget limitations. It was concluded by Dr. Gordon McBean that
"Humans have already radically altered the composition of the atmosphere and
hence it's radiative properties. In other words, we have quite unintentionally
started a long-term, global-scale geophysical experiment with the life-support
system of this planet - an experiment that we do not control and, as yet, poorly
understand. That, in itself, is cause for concern."

 

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