Pollution is bad. There cannot be anything good about pollution, yet we often take it for granted. Big cities now measure a pollution index everyday and report it as part of the news, almost like it’s a weather phenomenon. We need a pollution rethink.
All of this is very sad. We have such a beautiful planet, such a beautiful place to live, but we’re destroying it in many ways including amazingly high levels of pollution.
How can we go about a pollution rethink? Let’s have a look at one type of pollution, the gases emitted when we burn oil.
How much oil do we burn every day?
It might surprise you that we burn about 94 million barrels of oil and related products every day (as reported by the IEA for January 2015). That’s 94,000,000 barrels of oil per day. It’s a huge number, but it’s hard to visualise what it really means and it’seasy to say “yes, but that’s spread all over the world so it’s not a problem”. Let’s start our pollution rethink to better understand what we’re doing.
Football Field Reference – Pollution Rethink
What if we put all the 94,000,000 barrels of oil on a single football field and, just to make it interesting, let’s say we put them all on a football field near to your house.
How high would this pile of barrels be?
Evenly covering the football field and just piling barrel on top of barrel, the 94,000,000 barrels would reach a height of 6.1 kilometres! That’s higher than Mount Kilimanjaro (Mount Everest is 8.8 kms high).
Par-5 Golf Hole Reference – Pollution Rethink
A 6 kilometre stack of barrels on a football field is a bit hard to imagine. So let’s try putting the 94,000,000 barrels on a golf hole and let’s choose a large one, a par-5 hole that’s 520 metres long. If we stacked the barrels all along this golf hole, covering the whole fairway, the 94,000,000 barrels would still be stacked up over a kilometre in the air. That’s crazy high still. It’s three and half Eiffel Towers high.
Up in Smoke
All of the 94,000,000 barrels have now been stacked on a par-5 golf hole near to where you live. It’s an imposing sight because it’s over a kilometre high. It can be seen from all around.
Imagine the immensity of this.
Now imagine that it’s all going to be burnt in one huge bonfire. It would be like the hugest disaster there has ever been. The heat it would give off would melt everything nearby. The plume of smoke would be incredible. Depending on the wind direction, they’d have to warn cities nearby. Commercial air traffic would have to be diverted. The plume of smoke would most probably be seen from space.
This would be a major calamity and it would take your local area quite a while to recover.
Now the bad news is that we have one of these bonfires to burn every day. The following day we have another bonfire, just the same, but near a different city in another country. And another bonfire the day after that. 365 locations are affected each year.
This would be pretty close to a living hell.
This is how the Earth feels
Today, because we burn these 94,000,000 barrels all over the Earth, we don’t notice any major problem in any one location. So it’s easy for us to think everything is ok. But from the reference point of the Earth, it just sees the 94,000,000 barrels of pollution entering its ecosystem every day. The Earth is horrified. It doesn’t know what to do. Humans are digging up 94,000,000 of oil every day and burning it. One of the ways the Earth can deal with the CO2 pollution is via its trees, but humans are also cutting down forests at the same time. Humans are creating so much pollution and it has nowhere to go. It just sits in our atmosphere and is beginning to irreparably damage Nature’s cycle of life.
If you can imagine that burning 94,000,000 barrels of oil in a huge bonfire next to a different city every day is a bad idea, then you can imagine how the Earth feels about what we’re doing every day right now.
Use Less and Reduce Pollution
It’s time for a pollution rethink.
It seems like the problem is just impossible to solve, but the answer is easy. Real easy. Humans just need to use less.
There’s no doubt that we are, in general, wasteful and greedy, and we’re often tricked into this state by people who profit directly from our wastefulness and greed.
But there’s also no doubt that we could instantly reduce our consumption by 10% (see Use 10 Percent Less). Less fuel, electricity, plastic, water, batteries, flying, everything! Using 10% less isn’t hard and it would have a huge impact on the world. It would create a huge reduction in pollution. Just imagine that the 94,000,000 barrels of oil per day could be reduced to 84,600,000 barrels of oil per day overnight? That would get us back to 2005 levels immediately. What a great start that would be. Then, after a few months of getting used to the new habit of using less, we could look into ways to reduce usage by another 10% and another. If we just started using less, we could completely correct our pollution problem.
If the average human began to just use less, it would be a tremendous pollution rethink. It would cause a lot of rethinking and consternation from those who profit from our greed and consumerism. It would send world markets into turmoil temporarily. And, it would be the kindest, simplest thing we could do for our planet, our home.
The power is in our hands.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are you prepared to use 10% less?