Pollution is one of the world's greatest problems, and it is slowly, but surely, killing our planet. But to make things even worse, we don't take this problem seriously. You can agree or disagree, but that's completely true. We just keeping polluting our planet more and more. And the fact that we, humans, are a wasteful species doesn't help a lot. We dispose a lot of waste, but that not only affects the planet, but it also affects us humans (and other living beings, of course).
More than 200 million people are affected by pollution — cancer, low life expectancy, kids born with defects, and extinction of species are just some of the side effects. That is why we have to do whatever we can to help recover our planet. And what better way to raise awareness about it than using photos?
Here are 15 heartbreaking photos of environmental pollution and its effects.
15 Pollution is an issue that's not being taken seriously enough
Pollution is the process of making land, water, air or other parts of the environment unsafe, harmful, and poisonous or unsuitable to use. Intentionally or not, but every single one of us does it. Do you have a car, or you ride by a bus? Well transportation is one of the largest source of air pollution. Do you recycle? If the answer is no, then you should start ASAP because recycling helps with reducing the pollution that is caused by us humans and our waste. By doing so little, you can actually help a lot!
220 million tons of waste is generated each year in the U.S. alone, and two-thirds of our household waste can actually be composted. In 2010, 85 million tons of waste was prevented from being disposed thanks to recycling and composting.
14 Things that we throw into the water can become deadly traps for sea animals
Humans are not the only victims of pollution — approximately one million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed annually because of garbage in the ocean. National Geographic explained the best how dangerous plastic (and other waste) in the ocean really is: "Marine debris can be very harmful to marine life in the gyre. For instance, loggerhead sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellies, their favorite food. Albatrosses mistake plastic resin pellets for fish eggs and feed them to chicks, which die of starvation or ruptured organs. Seals and other marine mammals are especially at risk. They can get entangled in abandoned plastic fishing nets, which are being discarded more often because of their low cost. Seals and other mammals often drown in these forgotten nets — a phenomenon known as 'ghost fishing'."
13 It might not kill them sometimes, but it will definitely make them suffer
As I said earlier, a lot of animals die every year due to water pollution. Sometimes they won't die, but they will suffer a lot, which is probably even worse. The story of Peanut the turtle is a perfect example. Her narrative begins in the '80s — she was just a regular red-eared slider baby turtle minding her own business. Unfortunately, she became entangled in a plastic six-pack holder ring. She continued to grow, but due to that plastic ring, her shell became deformed, which caused Peanut lose her aerodynamic, and become an easy pray. However, in 1993, Peanut was rescued and the plastic was removed. And now, more than 20 years later, she’s still alive, and has become one of the symbols of the dangers of littering and pollution. But bear in mind that not every animal gets saved!
12 Beijing's air pollution is out of control
This picture perfectly sums up Beijing's situation when it comes to air pollution, which is a major threat to the country's public health. The air quality there is so bad that you have to wear these masks when you leave your house. In one of the recent analysis of the Beijing air quality index, the air in Beijing contained harmful substances 20 times above the safe level. Of course, it's no surprise that those substances are dangerous for us humans, and that they can cause cancer, asthma, bronchitis, acute and chronic respiratory problems. It's been estimated that almost 1.2 million people in China died prematurely from air pollution in 2010 alone. Scary, right?
11 You'd think that oil spills affect only sea creatures, right?
Oil spills are very harmful for animals. These poor creatures can be affected by either from the oil itself (as it is poisonous), or from the cleanup process. It can kill them, but also only harm them, in a way that will eventually contribute to the animals' death. Just look at this poor brown pelican that was supposed to be flying over the Gulf of Mexico! It unfortunately ended up being covered in oil instead. You probably think that this is not a big deal, and that this pelican can just wash it off, but that is far from the truth. When a bird is covered in oil, that oil causes the feathers to mat and separate, which exposes the bird's very sensitive skin to extreme temperatures, and that can lead to either hypothermia, or hyperthermia. And bedsides that, the bird will instinctively also try to get the oil off its feathers by preening, and by doing that, the bird will ingest the oil, which will cause damage to the bird's internal organs.
10 Don't use plastic bags!
Plastic is a huge factor of pollution — it can take decades, sometimes even centuries, for plastic bags to decompose in the environment (let's not even talk about plastic bottles). Did you know that approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used every year across the world (which is approximately 1 million every hour)? Crazy, I know! But not only plastic is dangerous for our environment, it is also dangerous for sea creatures — they can mistake the size and shape of a plastic bag for a meal, and die from the plastic's toxins, intestinal blockage, or simply suffocate to death.
So, next time you go grocery shopping, use a reusable bag. And don't forget - recycle, recycle, recycle. There is no need to waste plastic when you can reuse it!
9 Deforestation is another major problem
Deforestation means permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses — it can be for agriculture, oil production, timber harvesting, etc. And about 18 million acres (7,3 million hectares) of forest are lost every year (that is approximately the size of Panama).
One of the most dangerous effects of deforestation is a possible loss of some species — around 70% of land animals and plants live in forests, and by removing trees, humans are destroying their natural habitat, without which many of those species can't survive. Every day 137 species are at risk of becoming extinct (that is approximately 50,000 every year). One of the recent victims of deforestation is this cute koala pictured above. His habitat was destroyed. And because of that, this and many other koalas had to be relocated to new habitat... Until that one is destroyed as well.
Seriously, humans have to stop doing this!
8 Deforestation leads to air pollution
You all know that trees process carbon dioxide into oxygen, right? Well, that brings us back to the problem of deforestation — deforestation even affects the air that we breathe. All trees store and utilize carbon dioxide and some other greenhouse gases which are known damage the atmosphere, and by storing these gases, trees restore the need balance in the atmosphere. But once the trees are burned, or destroyed in any other way, the greenhouse gases are released back into the air, and that increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This causes an imbalance, and that is one of the factors which contribute to air pollution, and global warming.
7 This photo was takien in Brazil, you know, that place where the Olympics are being held
Rio de Janeiro is currently all over the news, but not for the right reason. Yes, we all know that the Olympics are currently being held in Rio and wherever you go you'll hear something about that. But what was only briefly discussed (thanks to tweets by athletes) was the urgent problem of pollution in Rio. Tonnes and tonnes of unprocessed waste are piled up all around Rio, and tons of dead fish float on the waterside. I mean, if fish can't survive, how the hell are the Olympians supposed to sail or windsurf there? But it's not only the waterside that is polluted — the air in Rio is more polluted and more deadly than its water.
It makes you wonder whose idea it was for the Olympic games to be held in Brazil, right?
6 Our waste is killing the Earth
This here is a picture of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In case you haven't heard of it before, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, is a collection of marine debris (waste that ends up in oceans, seas, and other bodies of water) located in the North Pacific Ocean. Estimates of size are different; some reports claim that the Patch spreads over 700,000 square kilometers (which is close to the size of Texas), while other reports claim it's twice the size of the continental United States. But the size doesn't matter! What's important is that we have to recycle as much as we can. Not only it will help with the problem of pollution, it is also good for the economy, wildlife and with helps to preserve Earth's resources.
5 This photo of a river of trash was taken in the Philippines
This picture was taken in January, 2015, in the Philippines. It looks awful, right? See all that garbage? Well, that used to be a river. In the '90s, the Pasig River was running through the city of Manila, but due to high level of water pollution, it was declared biologically dead. And ever since, the people of the Philippines were trying to rehabilitate it, unfortunately, without much success. Now, instead of the water, the only thing the residents of this can see is this river of garbage. And that's not all — children actually swim there in order to collect plastic, and other recyclable materials which they can sell for their own survival. And of course, all this garbage affects the water — the waste is spreading numerous bacteria and viruses that can cause various diseases; the water is not suitable for drinking; it's harmful for the animals, and quality of life in general. And you should not forget that this can happen anywhere, even in your city, unless you recycle and dispose your waste carefully.
4 Did you know that developed countries are shipping their waste to the developing world?
Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the old TVs and computer that you once used? Well, those devices probably ended up somewhere in Ghana. Accra, Ghana, to be more specific. Accra is one of the world's digital dumping grounds, where the developed countries' massive waste quantities are piled up for sorting and/or disposal. The digital waste found here hails all the way from Europe and the USA. About 50% of the waste is reusable, but the other 50% is dumped at one of the burn sites, and burning these types of material can be very dangerous for the environment, and for the people who work there. Toxic gases emitted by burning plastic and similar materials are known to cause cancer, impotence and respiratory problems to human beings, but are also known to increase global warming!
3 This is what oil production is doing to California
OK, we all know that oil is important. Very important. Did you know that 1.85 billion barrels of oil are consumed in the US? And that's per day! But if you think that oil production and oil drilling do not affect our environment much, think again. Even though a lot of countries and their economies depend on the oil production fuel, these processes can actually cause severe damage to the planet. Oil production, as well as its trade and transportation, can badly affect humans, but also flora and fauna. Numerous air pollutants are emitted throughout the oil production processes.
The picture above shows Kern River Oil Field, a large oil field located in California, that's been exploited since 1899. It looks depressing, doesn't it? This is just one out of many signs that humans are overusing and draining Earth's natural resources
2 No, this is not a behind-the-scenes image of some apocalypse film
Imagine you wake up one morning, decide to go out for a walk, only to see this blood red river. That would be shocking and terrifying to see, that's for sure. And that's exactly what happened in Luoyang, a city in the Henan province in China. Some of the residents of the said area actually believed that the river turning red is a sign of Armageddon (a.k.a. the end of the world). I mean, who can blame them? It really does look scary, like a biblical "river of blood". And guess who's responsible for this? Well, humans, obviously! This here is what happens when fabric factories dump their waste into rivers and oceans. And that waste usually contains some dangerous toxic chemical, which can harm not only the flora and fauna found in the waters, but us, humans, as well.
1 And this is not a field covered with grass.
This picture was taken in the city of Qingdao, China. It looks cool, right? Well, it is not. The green area is not grazing land, or a grassy field — it is the Yellow Sea, covered with algae. This weird phenomenon has been occurring in this region for almost 10 years now. Why? Well, biologists say this algae bloom is actually connected to water pollution. Dr Brenda Parker, a researcher at University of Cambridge, said that this was probably not natural, and could be linked to industrial pollution. "Algal blooms often follow a massive discharge of phosphates or nitrates into the water. Whether it's farming, untreated sewage or some kind of industrial plant that is discharging waste into the water," she said.It doesn't look harmful, but that is exactly what this phenomenon is — it can block sunlight from entering the ocean, and suffocate marine life.