Lately everywhere you look it seems like Global Warming is a hot topic for most news channels, papers, and online gossip sites. Almost every week some well known climatologist goes on tv and warns the public that sh*t is about to hit the fan. Then the opposition pushes back with their top adviser to dismiss those warnings. That is how its been for as long as I can remember.
Ever since I could walk, I’ve been mesmerized by nature and all it has to offer and just like every other kid I loved watching cartoons and movies but when ever I was allowed to be outside I was playing, exploring and learning as much as I could. Until 12 years old I lived in Eastern Europe and almost every summer I would spend at my grandparents. That is where I absorbed most of my knowledge about nature as a kid. It just so happened that my grandfather was a Park Ranger as well as a farmer. Unlike most people, he had the perfect view from both sides of the fence. On one side as a farmer he understood the weather patterns that most city folks don’t pay attention to. He knew the ground he worked on and how to make it fertile as he was always fighting pollution and side effects of pesticides. On the other side he knew secrets to keeping the surrounding forests, parks and public lands healthy and clean while battling poaching and illegal fishing among other things.
On occasion when he was in the mood to share his knowledge, he would take me with him when doing his rounds to teach me about anything that my small brain could grasp at that time. Just looking at him spotting hidden illegal fishing lines left overnight with a dozen or more baited hooks was worth the hike. I mean I was standing right next to the damn thing with him holding my hand and I still couldn’t spot it which was crazy since I was somewhere between three and four feet tall at that time. You would think that with my eyes being closer to the ground I’d have an advantage. Until this day I am still amazed at how well he knew his surroundings and ways to navigate through them. Don’t forget, I’m talking about Eastern European late 80s and early 90s, days without cellphones and gps, all you had was a map and a pen or pencil, that’s all.
Moving forward in time to 2019 and me now living in North Eastern United States for almost 25 years, I see a major problem that has been boiling uncontrollably. We can’t seem to stop polluting our warming planet. In matter of fact it has gotten worse as the years pass by. I’m no scientist but I’m not blind either. I pay attention to my surroundings and even an idiot can notice that things around us are getting worse. After spending countless days by the ocean with a fishing rod in my hand I can definitely see the climate changing and ocean water rising. Many of my favorite spots where I used to go salt water fishing from shore in late 1990s are now off limits for fishing when the tide starts to come in. To be more specific, from 1994 to 2019 the Atlantic Ocean water level rose approximately 80mm (3.14″) according to NASA satellite measurements. Over time it has been calculated and also measured that for every inch upward we loose about 3″ of shore. That’s approximately 9.4″ of beach shore in the last 25 years. Yup those favorite old concrete piers by the beach that I loved so much are now off limits during incoming tide due to higher water which covers them completely.
When ever we hear or read about global warming and pollution problems we love to put all the blame on the power, oil, and food industries among others but no one seems to blame regular people like you and I. Definitely the big guys are to blame for both pollution and global warming but, and I mean a “BIG BUT” at least 50+% of the blame goes to us all. Like I said earlier we love to point fingers at the other guys when ever we are stuck in any type of negative situation. In reality every single one of us has contributed to the sh*t storm we are steadily building. Looking back at history and the beginnings of Industrial Age it’s hard to blame those old timers who had no real knowledge of environmental impact from their inventions that were meant to make everyone’s life better. Almost every invention from those days and beyond has been modified to keep up with today’s growing demand. Imagine that just 200 years ago, worlds population was just above 1 billion people. Then 92 years ago somewhere around 1927 we passed the 2 billion count. In 1999 we grew to 6 billion people world wide. That is 3 times the amount from just 72 years earlier. Today we are almost at the 7.7 billion count and according to world population forecast we will pass the 8 billion count in 2 to 3 years from today, somewhere between 2021 and 2022. What’s even more crazy is that it took us only 22 years or so to add 2 billion people.
With 7.7 billion humans living and breathing today means tons of food being consumed and discarded, tons of clothing being bought and discarded, tons of gadgets being bought and discarded, 1.2 billion cars driving daily worldwide that send tons upon tons of CO2 into the air. Then there are the tons and tons of other type of mixed garbage piling up around the globe. Those numbers sound horrifying on their own but what makes them worse is our lack of responsibility with the discarding part. I can’t even remember the number of times when I witnessed people standing right next to a trash can yet throw their trash on the ground. I mean come on, is it that hard to raise your arm or make those extra few steps in order not to pollute the area? Few times I even managed to get myself in small arguments with strangers over something so dumb yet so simple. Sad part is that I would kind of understand if it was a young child or a teenager simply because he or she might be trying to act rebellious or not know any better, even though they already should. I must say that 9 out of 10 times it’s an adult that acts careless and most of the time they had children right next to them. How can we make things any better if the generation that is responsible for teaching today’s children doesn’t even try themselves. Yes I know not everyone is like that and most probably you are one of the few who does everything the way things are supposed to be done but there are billions who don’t. Worst part is that even if we teach our children who eventually will grow into adults in the future about how to do things properly, a lot of them will give in to the easy life of ” Why should I try if others don’t care!”. That is exactly the way a lot of us think today, which is the reason why the process of educating folks should start with adults followed by education of children. You might be questioning why adults before children, well that’s simple. Kids are already learning through their regular education system on multiple topics related to ideas mentioned in this blog. Adults on the other hand are so dependent on schools teaching our youth that we forget that the most important parts of life are taught outside of school. Responsibility, respect, chivalry, time management, budgeting, family, negotiating, helping others, cleaning after yourself, etc. All that and more comes from learning at home. Re-educating today’s adults about global warming and pollution will help them pass on that super important knowledge to the future of humanity.
Wow did I get a little too deep into that part. Let me steer this back to the topic.
We have 328 million people living in the United States today and we create 30 percent of worlds trash. In US an average person creates about 4.6 pounds of trash per day. As a country we fill up over 63,000 garbage trucks with trash every single day. That’s almost half way from Earth to the moon if you line the trucks up. That amounts to a staggering 263 million tons of garbage per year. For those of you who are not familiar with tons, it equals to around 526 billion pounds of trash per year. What is worse, only one-tenth of solid trash is recycled. Crazy, right?
With 2000 landfills in United States let’s try to break down some of our yearly trash as simply as we can:
22+ billion plastic bottles
69+ million tons of paper related products
36+ million tons of food waste
28+ billion glass bottles & jars
27+ billion pounds of clothing and material related items
2+ million tons of e-waste
290 million car tires (50+ million never get recycled)
Obviously the numbers vary from year to year but they average around that range.
We all know that plastic bottles are one of the biggest problems we face when it comes to trash. Other well known products are plastic bags and plastic straws. Those items have been wrecking havoc around the world since their invention. Average plastic bottle takes at least 450 years to completely degrade but it can take as long as 1000 years depending on bottle type. Same goes for plastic bags that we love to use so much. Plastic straws take on average 500 years to decompose according to many different studies. But there is something else that’s even more abundant than all these items combined. Cigarette butts!!!
Each year over 4.9 trillion cigarettes are produced with filters made of cellulose acetate. Cellulose acetate is a type of plastic that takes at least a decade or more to break down under direct ultraviolet light. For over 32 years cigarette butts are the number one pollutant found in the oceans worldwide. Most if not all of the trash flowing in our oceans is there because of our carelessness. Until we stop throwing our trash on city streets, out the car windows onto our highways and our rivers as well as local beaches then the pollution will keep getting worse. All those items release dangerous chemicals into our oceans, rivers, ground and air. Plastics and glass reflect the sun which often start fires in dry areas. Mammals, birds and fish have been swallowing our trash in record numbers which eventually means death for millions of living creatures. It doesn’t matter which continent on Earth you live on, when you go to the nearest beach you’ll quickly notice that pollution is a big problem. What’s even worse is that it doesn’t matter which month of the year you go there because you can find trash in many forms 365 days a year. Almost every beach I have been to I came across plastic bottles, plastic cups, glass bottles, aluminum cans, straws, cigarette butts, latex gloves, tampon applicators, used condoms, and lately more often I notice syringes with and without hypodermic needles. That last one is absolutely terrifying because with the opioid epidemic which is eventually turning into heroin and fentanyl epidemic there is a huge increase of used syringes everywhere. To give a few examples let’s look at New York beaches in Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. During the last couple of years multiple people have accidentally stepped on hypodermic needles while trying to enjoy the summer. Many of them were children trying to have fun while playing in the sand. Same goes for New Jersey which in 2018 closed miles upon miles of beaches when large amount of syringes and hypodermic needles washed up on shore. Also not even two years ago in Portland, Maine officials collected over 700 needles from streets, parks and sidewalks in only the first seven months of the year. On the west coast in San Francisco area in March of 2017 local officials collected 13,000 syringes. Yes that says thirteen thousand!!! In Santa Cruz, California an 11 yr old girl stepped on a needle while swimming and having fun at the beach. Simply put, no matter where we look in the United States or around the world, this problem keeps getting bigger without a solution in sight.
Just last week I was stuck in traffic on Long Island in NY while driving down the Belt Parkway. Technically due to road construction and car accidents the traffic never stops on that route but another problem that is noticeable is the incredible amount of trash on both sides and the middle divider of the Parkway. Almost anything you can think of might be found somewhere down the road. I noticed tires, hub caps, bottles from everything imaginable, mattress, stroller, shopping cart, a lamp, packaging, syringes, tampon applicators, used condoms, cigarette butts, plastic bags, clothing, shoes, etc. I could continue mentioning stuff for hours. I have seen the similar issue while driving cross country as well as on west coast. Some places were better then others but trash is virtually everywhere. It’s a shame that we have become so careless and lazy that we can’t even take our own trash with us to dispose of it properly. We all quietly laugh at the images of dirty cities in near future when watching sci-fi films but the truth is that we are slowly turning the sci-fi part into reality.
I understand that this is 2019 after all and we depend on our modern technology and transportation day and night. But maybe it’s time for governments around the world to push for technology to become cleaner, energy to be more renewable and automobile and airplane industries to become even more environmentally friendly. There are plenty companies which were privately started that have great products and amazing ideas. Yet the chance for them to succeed against giant corporations and auto manufacturers who have been sucking the life out of anything in their path is basically 0. Ever since Tesla cars came onto the market and showed us that electric cars can look sexy, sporty and have real power, the senior auto makers have been promising their own versions of electric vehicles. But those promises get pushed back every year due to the money making machine called oil industry which has been best friends with auto industry since beginning of time. That is why when they finally introduce a new model into their lineup it’s either so luxurious that it’s not affordable for most people or they’re so compact and alien looking that average buyer turns the other way toward the normal looking car. Don’t get me wrong, even I am equally as guilty as most, after all I am driving a gasoline pickup since I work in an industry where I always have all my tools with me out of necessity. I did try my best to find a truck with an engine that isn’t the biggest and baddest but something that’s most productive for my needs and at least tries to lean towards the idea of being eco friendlier. Eventually I settled on a 2.7 L turbo eco boost pickup, but as soon as someone will start making these bad boys in electric form, I will most definitely be looking into getting one.
Going back to companies like Tesla. Instead of media constantly trying to bombard them about not being able to keep up with production vs demand. They should talk more about the growing customer interest and the need for government to push others to follow in the same direction.
Even though US is not the worst polluting country in world, we are definitely doing our part. After all we are number two on the list of all countries. In case you are curious, these are the top 5 polluting countries in the world:
Percentage of worlds greenhouse gases emissions each year.
1. China (30%)
2. USA (15%)
3. India (7%)
4. Russia (5%)
5. Japan (4%)
It’s crazy that out of 195 countries in the world just these 5 produce 61% of global greenhouse gases emissions. It’s still hard for everyone to believe but the world is getting hotter and dirtier a lot faster because of us. Scientists around the world have been screaming for help with this problem and no one seems to listen until it’ll be too late. As human beings it’s in our nature to ignore these things. Hurricanes and other natural disasters are perfect examples to use in conversations like these. No matter how many times or how many experts beg people to evacuate certain areas during powerful hurricanes, there are always thousands and sometimes millions of people who refuse to follow recommendations and eventually get trapped in need of rescuing or end up dying in horrible conditions. Same goes for warning about pollution and global warming. Until it gets to a point of no return, we will keep ignoring it as we have been have for decades.
Some states like California started to change a few things like plastic straws have been getting replaced with recycled paper straws. Maybe they don’t last as long inside your beverage but in the long term that’s a lot less plastic in our environment. Then there are countries like Germany, Norway. By 2025-2030 they plan to go fully electric with all the cars sold in their countries. Maybe just maybe we should all learn from folks like these.
For now if you’re not ready for changes that are too big then at least reuse your plastic bags until they are useless and then maybe try to switch to reusable & recyclable types. Buy a glass or aluminum water bottle and a container with water filter that will allow you to use less plastic bottles that wreck so much havoc around the globe. After that gradually add a thing or two that will sooner or later become an effortless part of your day. There are countless groups of people who believe in different things, whether it’s Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Scientology among other religions or groups like Flat Earthers. With almost 7.7 billion people around the world, we can make a huge dent in pollution of the only planet we can call home.
Hope you enjoyed this blog.