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Pollution: Finding Local Solutions

Aman Luthra

Pollution often becomes a personal issue for many people when it affects their health and safety or the health and safety of their children. For this very reason, it is essential to not simply ignore it and go on with our daily lives, but to understand, accept and find ways to counter it.


In last month's article, overconsumption as an environmenal issue, was discussed. This month's topic weaves into that general theme of consumption but specifically deals with one of the byproducts of consumption - pollution. Pollution is probably one of the most widely known and acknowledged environmental issues. As much as the popular media discusses it everyday, it is surprising how little we know about it and what little we do about it. This can probably be attributed to the fact that the media seems to focus on only large scale problems and proposes solutions only on that scale. For instance, one of the most signficant controversies that capture the attention of the media is the issue of dumping toxic wastes, which is often intricately woven into a web of economic and political problems that cross national boundaries. In this article, I won't attempt to discuss these issues that are significant at the national and international levels but some others that can be countered locally. As always the central theme would be:

What can we do to reduce pollution?
Often we don't do something positive because we are simply not aware of negative impacts of what we do instead. If one is not educated in a specialized field, it is easy to see hy this would happen, owing to the complexities of everyday urban life that most of us lead. For instance, a thousand years ago or even a couple of hundred years ago, it would be fairly easy to see the repurcussions of dumping waste into the river. If you dumped waste into the river, it would contaminate your supply of fresh water, perhaps even your only supply of fresh water. This is probably why some ancient societies developed elaborate rules against pollution. In the complex world we live in today, it is harder to understand the repurcussions of such actions because we do not need to go to the river to get our supply of water anymore. We have elaborate water supply systems that bring water to us right into our homes. The tap is our source of water. But once we gain an understanding of the broader repurcussions of our seemingly harmless actions, we might strive to minimize these impacts.

What are some of the ways in which we might minimize pollution?
We could build an endless list of things we could do everyday that would somehow decrease our negative impact upon the environment but I encourage you to think of these yourself as you go on about your daily activities. For instance, maybe it's a good idea to walk or bike to the grocery store or the market instead of driving. Why might walking or biking be better than driving? First of all, when you drive in automobile, you burn petrol or diesel which releases greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While these gases are normally found in the atmosphere, humans are greatly increasing their concentration, and some scientists believe this to be leading to a global climatic change. But these are only the immediate effects of driving your car or scooter or motorbike.

Where does this fuel that you consumed come from?
Before it reaches the gas station that you filled your car's tank at, it goes through several processes - from extraction to refining to transportation. All of these steps use up energy in one form or another and emit pollutants into the environment. It is easy to see how it all adds up to become a cause for concern.

In the beginning of this article, I mentioned large scale issues. My intent was not to reduce the importance of those issues. One can certainly be actively involved in those issues by staging public protests and displaying good citizenship. We live in a democratic country and we have a right to exercise our freedom of speech. Pollution often becomes a personal issue for many people when it affects their health and safety or the health and safety of their children. For this very reason, it is essential to not simply ignore it and go on with our daily lives, but to understand, accept and find ways to counter it.

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