Facts about the State of the Environment
Each year, humanity pours 5.7 billion tons (and rising) of pollutants into the atmosphere from industrial stacks, automobiles, and the burning of forests. The greenhouse effect is causing a rate of climate change 100 times faster than at any time in human history. The warmest years on record have occurred in the last decade. Earth’s surface and atmosphere are warming; oceans are expanding and currents are slowing; ocean levels are rising; ice shelves are melting faster than projected; spring is coming ever sooner; storms are more intense and longer-lasting; rainfall patterns are changing, which will shift growing belts; North American migratory birds are ranging further north; the ability of the earth to self-regulate to resist warming appears top be waning. Has anything happened in recent years to cause a reasonable person to switch sides in the global-warming debate? Yes: the science has changed from ambiguous to near unanimous. (Gregg Easterwood)
Worldwide we are losing forests at the rate of one-half the size of California each year. Some areas have lost forests due to burning at the rate of a football field each second.
We sustain an irreversible loss of arable land to desert at the rate of an area the size of Kansas each year.
Scientists estimate that each day human activity is driving 100 plant and animal species to extinction. The issue is not just the loss of species but of the eco-systems they support. Every type of ecosystem is at stake. You can plant a tree but you cannot plant a forest.
The U. S. alone produces 10 billion metric tons of waste each year—threatening land, lakes, rivers, oceans, and human health. In the year 2000, each person in the United States threw away approximately 4.5 pounds of waste each day, totaling 231.9 million tons of municipal solid waste. Food scraps accounted for 11.2% of that landfill waste, amounting to 25.9 million tons of food waste produced in the U.S. in 2000.
It is estimated that people flush 12 billion pounds of traditional household cleaning products down the drain each year. These chemicals, such as sodium acid oxalate, break down slowly in the environment, cause water pollution, and are stored in the fatty tissue of wildlife.
In 1985, scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere over the Antarctica. Chlorine atoms destabilize ozone for up to a hundred years—threatening the health of many life forms and affecting the food chain from micro-organisms in the ocean up to humans.
Population is the most difficult problem. Humans are like an infestation, taking over and destroying virtually every eco-system we inhabit. The world population is now more than 5 billion. Because population increases exponentially, it is projected to double by 2030. This increase in population will tax and exacerbate all ecosystems. Human conflicts over limited resources and crowded spaces will also increase.
Environmental degradations have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable—the poor, third world countries, people of color, the ill, the elderly, and children. Human justice issues are multiplied by ecological destruction.
It takes 12 pounds of grain to produce one pound of hamburger. This could make 8 loaves of bread, or 24 plates of spaghetti. Cattle consume 70% of all U.S. grain. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of hamburger. This could be used to grow more than 50 pounds of fruits and vegetables. Half of all water consumed in the United States is used to grow feed and provide drinking water for cattle and other livestock. In addition, wastes from factory farms, for hogs, chicken and cattle emit high levels of ammonia into the air and waste from the animals puts dangerous levels of nitrogen into ground water.
Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,300 miles from farm to supermarket. Almost every state in the U.S. buys 85% of its food from some place else. Like wise, the current trend towards large corporate farms that
produce ‘mono-crops’ is destroying not only the environment by also the family farm and the local economy in rural areas.
According to United Nations statistics, approximately 800 million people, out of a global population of six billion are either malnourished or on the verge of starvation. This is not from a shortage of food. The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access to food.
Replacing a single incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) will keep a half-ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb. If everyone in the U.S. used energy-efficient lighting, we could retire 90 average size power plants. Saving electricity reduces CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide and high-level nuclear waste.
The wind in North Dakota alone could provide about 1/3 of U.S. electricity. Additionally, about 20% of U.S. energy demand could be provided at an economical price by wind power.
If fuel economy were improved by 5 m.p.g., American consumers would save 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, more than half of what the U.S. imports from the Middle East. Henry Ford’s world-changing Model T got about 25 miles to a gallon of gas. In 2002, all of Ford’s total fleet averaged 24.3 miles per gallon, while the entire fleet of American-made cars averaged 24.6 miles per gallon.
While war has a obvious and devastating impact on humanity, it also is one of the great causes of environmental devastation. One study of tank tracks in the Arizona desert suggested full recovery of the soil only after 1,000 years. The Mesopotamian Marshes between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have experienced decades of war. Since 1991, his wetland, once larger than the Florida Everglades, having been drenched in bombs, napalm, spilled oil and depleted uranium, has gone from 15,000 square kilometers (5,800 square miles) to just 50 square kilometers (20 square miles).
The majority of Americans have common pesticides in their bodies. Studies have found a breakdown product of the roach, termite and flea insecticide chlorpyrifos in the urine of 92 percent of the children and 82 percent of the adults evaluated. Children who have been exposed to household insecticides and professional extermination methods within the home are three to seven times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma compared with children who have not been exposed to pesticides.
Indoor plants help reduce 'sick building syndrome'. Research has been conducted by NASA into the presence of Volitile Organic Compounds (VOC) in offices. Carpets, upholstery, copier machines and cleaning products emit VOCs. NASA's research recommended that the inclusion of indoor plants in the office environment would reduce substantially the amount of VOCs that employees are daily exposed to. The direct benefits of indoor plants to the air we breath are twofold: Pollutants are filtered from indoor air; and oxygen is released and humidity levels are reduced.
Junk mail is one of the leading contributors to our over consumption of paper. It would take 340,000 garbage trucks to haul all of the un-recycled junk-mail to US Landfills and incinerators every year!
Since 1980, paper consumption has increased 74 percent. In 1999, in the US alone, each citizen used an average of 784 pounds of paper. In our offices we use approximately 7 million tons of paper, or 1.4 trillion sheets of paper. For every ton of new paper that we consume we use 24 more trees, 7,000 more gallons of water, 4,100 more kilowatts of energy than to produce a ton of recycled paper.