We hear so much about climate change, global warming, CO2 concentration and extreme weather and the arguments about whether these things are true or not. President Trump has taken the words “climate change” off the agenda in the United States, and this makes many people angry. We don’t have to argue over these points and we can make everything simpler. Let’s stop arguing about what’s true and what’s not and let’s just agree that polluting is bad – we need to pollute less. Surely we can all agree that pollution is bad and that we need to stop polluting. Polluting less won’t hurt anybody. Let’s just focus on this and many other things will simply sort themselves out.
Examples of things we must stop polluting
Anything that we discard (knowingly or unknowingly) that does not get re-integrated adequately into Nature quickly, is pollution. It’s something that Nature can’t use but has to deal with. Something Nature doesn’t want but is stuck with. Let’s consider some forms of pollution that are prevalent today;
Emissions from burning oil and gas
This is one of the clearest images of pollution in the world today. Fumes coming from an exhaust pipe. Smog covering a city. The rising concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. The implications of this in global warming and climate change.
Using disposable plastic
Conventional plastics that are petroleum by-products do not decompose in anywhere near a reasonable timeframe. The world will have to deal with the plastics we dispose of long, long after our lifetime. This isn’t fair on the planet and it’s not fair on all the people coming after us. Even if we burn these plastics, we are not avoiding pollution as we are simply releasing the CO2 contained in them into the atmosphere.
People will say that their plastics are recyclable, but how much actually gets recycled? If everything was being recycled then all the plastic we buy would already have been recycled, but this is rarely the case. In the UK, about two-thirds of plastic waste ends up as landfill.
There are alternatives to conventional plastics that do decompose quickly, but I guess these are more expensive as most companies continue to use conventional plastics. There’s even plenty of debate on whether these biodegradable plastics degrade quickly enough, or even at all, unless they are in very special conditions (see the related links at the bottom of this post). It’s not advisable to get excited by “plant-based plastic” because it’s easy to make plastics just like conventional plastics from plant sources – remember that they extract ethanol from plants and use it in petroleum. We really have to look at the true biodegradability of these substances.
Governments can play a big part in eradicating plastic pollution and I’m very interested to see the moves by the UK Government recently. Changes in taxes and laws can have very quick effects but they will annoy some large, powerful companies and might be hard for governments to implement.
But even more so than governments, the real power is with the consumer. As much as we possibly can, let’s boycott any product that uses disposable plastic, especially single use conventional plastic. We can make all the difference.
Ever thought that your clothing could be a source of pollution? It sure is. First, have you ever thought about where your clothing comes from and how it gets to be the colour that it is? Often the fabrics are synthetic (read into this plastic or other petroleum based products) and even if they are made from natural sources, they are almost certainly coloured using toxic dyes that need to be managed and disposed of somewhere.
Ok, we all need clothes, but we don’t need to change our clothes every year because the fashion has changed. In fact, fashion changes are invented and sustained by the people who profit from selling us the clothes. Let’s not be fooled by this.
We call all live with less clothes. We don’t have to follow the fashions. We can use clothing from more environmentally friendly sources like hemp and bamboo, and we can wear naturally coloured items. Again, we have a lot of power and we can stop polluting.
Using nuclear energy
Nuclear energy is considered these days as a “clean” form of energy. But let’s not forget that nasty radioactive waste that needs to be dealt with. It’s easy to forget about this as long as the radioactive waste is stored somewhere else, but we certainly wouldn’t want it stored next to our home. This waste is polluting the world even if not as obvious as burning oil and gas.
Cleaning your home
“What?” I hear you say. How can cleaning your home cause pollution? Have you ever wondered where your cleaning products have come from and what’s in them? First of all, any aerosol can that you have has a propellent in it as that’s what’s needed to get the stuff out, and this propellent is almost always a petroleum product. Ah, oil and gas again and now we’re spraying it around our homes. In fact, when you spray an aerosol, most of what comes out is the propellent.
In addition, home cleaning products often have lots of synthetic chemicals, artificial colours and artificial fragrances (all to make you think the products are nice) and then we spray and smear these things all over the surfaces of our home. This is consistent low-level toxic pollution of our homes and our environment. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
We use electronics at a surprising rate these days. The big companies have used advertising to get us into the state where we want to change our electronics (to the latest model) even while they are working perfectly fine. What a great situation for these companies to profit from, and maybe we enjoy the new gadgets, but have we ever thought about where all the old electronics go? It’s a major pollution headache. There’s a good chance to recycle lots of the components but, at the very least, there are lots of small plastic parts that can’t be used again and these just become a horrible pollution issue.
If we decide to use our current electronics longer before we upgrade, we save money and create a little less pollution for the world too. What’s wrong with that? The consumer has the power to help stop polluting.
How do we stop polluting?
Here are three actions I believe could help us most quickly stop polluting.
Use less stuff so there’s less pollution
This is so easy, so obvious and has an effect immediately. Just use less stuff! That’s it. So simple. Just use less. If everyone in the world started using less right now, the world would be able to take a deep breath very soon. Even better, everyone would be saving some money too and we’d feel a little less stress. All good. The only people who wouldn’t be happy would be the big companies as their profits would drop until they found ways to work in the new world of less consumerism. But, if the big companies feel the pinch, that’s not bad because keeping the big companies happy is leading us to a world of ruin where not even those big companies can operate.
To use less stuff, you don’t have to change anything you do or stop doing anything. You can keep going, but just slow down a little and don’t use so much. Even using just 10% less can have a very profound impact.
Use less (or none) of the most polluting options
Even if you don’t want to use less stuff, you can decide to use less of the most polluting options. For example, you can switch your house onto renewable electricity so that, even if you keep doing everything just as you were before, you’ll be helping to stop polluting. Another example is to find alternative products that have less single-use plastic, use natural fabrics in their clothing or provide more natural cleaning products.
Only accept products that cause zero pollution
This option takes the most commitment as it means researching options and only buying products if we’re sure that the production of the product has not caused pollution and that its disposal will not cause pollution. Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world like this? Where all companies ensured they didn’t pollute and they provided evidence so the consumer could verify this. Also, the companies ensure that their products were fully degradable or recyclable. As consumers, we can bring about a change to a world like this. Find those companies that are blazing the trail in this direction and support them. Refuse to buy from other companies whose prime concern is the amount of profit they can make from us.
Why stop polluting?
Why should we stop polluting? I can hear some people saying “why does it matter?” and “why should I stop when others are polluting much more that me?”. And I can hear myself thinking “how can we pollute the planet that we share and pollute it so badly that it’s almost to the point of killing ourselves?”. Where do these views get reconciled?
It comes down to how much we love ourselves and how much we love our fellow humans. If we don’t care what happens to us and our neighbours, then nothing matters, just keep polluting as much as you like. However, if we care about ourselves (all of us) and hope that the life we’re living leads to collective progress rather than extinction, then we’d better stop polluting. We’d better start using less, being nicer to each other, being more accepting and more compassionate. Time is running out and there’s no time like the present. Our brothers and sisters are all around us and everything we want, they want too. And nobody can give it to them except us.
Let’s give the world some compassion and let’s stop polluting. Even if just a little, let’s stop polluting now.