33 Facts About Pollution That Are Gross

  1. Every year, the United States creates 11 billion tons of solid waste.
  2. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the U.S. generates over 256 million tons of officially classified hazardous waste annually. This does not include toxic and hazardous waste that are not regulated or monitored by the EPA.
  3. Between 1950 and 1975, approximately 5 billion metric tons of highly poisonous chemicals were improperly disposed of in the U.S. It will cost between $370 billion and $1.7 trillion to clean up hazardous waste in the U.S. The EPA states there are at least 36,000 seriously contaminated sites in the U.S.
  4. Today, there are between 300 and 500 chemicals in the average person’s body that were not found in anyone’s body before 1920. Each year there are thousands of new chemicals sold or used in new products. There are more than 75,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today.
  5. Factories in the United States discharge approximately 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the water, air, and land annually.  Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are dumped into U.S. waters.
  6. A 2010 study found that children in families who live near freeways are twice as likely to have autism as kids who live farther away from freeways. Scientists believe the increased risk is due to exposure to pollutants given off by freeway traffic.
  7. Concentrations of two common pollutants, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOSA (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), which can be found in nonstick cookware and stain-repellant fabrics, can impair immunity in children. They can also prevent vaccines from triggering sufficient quantities of protective antibodies.
  8. Americans make up an estimated 5% of the world’s population. However, the U.S. produces an estimated 30% of the world’s waste and uses 25% of the world’s resources.
  9. The world’s largest polluter is the U.S. Department of Defense, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.
  10. The Mississippi River carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year, creating a “dead zone” in the Gulf each summer about the size of New Jersey.o
  11. Approximately 46% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.
  12. Americans buy over 29 million bottles of water every year. Making all those bottles uses 17 million barrels of crude oil annually, which would be enough fuel to keep 1 million cars on the road for one year. Only 13% of those bottles are recycled. Plastic bottles take centuries to decompose—and if they are burned, they release toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals.g
  13. Fourteen billion pounds of garbage, mostly plastic, is dumped into the ocean every year.
  14. Over 1 million seabirds are killed by plastic waste per year. Over 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish are killed per year due to pollution.
  15. More oil is seeped into the ocean each year as a result of leaking cars and other non-point sources than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
  16. Polluted coastal water costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year in death and disease.
  17. Scientists report that carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing the pH of the oceans and, in essence, acidifying them.
  18. An estimated 1,000 children in India die every day due to disease caused by polluted water.
  19. Approximately 1/3 of male fish in British rivers are in the process of changing sex due to pollution. Hormones in human sewage, including those produced by the female contraceptive pill, are thought to be the main cause.
  20. Pollution in China alters the weather in the United States. It takes just five days for the jet stream to carry heavy air pollution from China to the U.S. Once in the atmosphere over the U.S., the pollution stops clouds from producing rain and snow—i.e., more pollution equals less precipitation.
  21. Though Botswana has only 2 million people, it is the second most polluted nation in the world. Pollution from the mineral industry and wild fires are the main causes.
  22. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous in the world, with over 155 million people. It is also Africa’s largest oil producer, accounting for 2.3 million barrels of crude oil a day. However, the UN recently declared that 50 years of oil pollution in the Ogoniland would require the world’s largest and biggest oil cleanup.
  23. The world’s largest heavy metal smelting complex is in the Siberian city of Norilsk. Human life expectancy there is 10 years lower than in other Russian cities.
  24. Between 1930 and 1998, nearly 300,000 tons of chemical waste was improperly disposed of in Dzershinsk, Russia, a Cold War chemicals manufacturing site. Toxic levels are 17 million times the safe limit. In 2003, the death rate of the city exceeded the birth rate by 260%.
  25. Lake Karachay, located in the southern Ural Mountains in Russia, is considered to be the most polluted spot on earth after it was used for decades as a dumping site for nuclear waste. Spending just 5 minutes near the lake unprotected can kill a person. In the 1960s, the lake dried out and radioactive dust carried by the wind irradiated half a million people with radiation equivalent to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
  26. In Rudnaya Pristan, Russia, lead contamination has resulted in child blood levels eight to 20 times higher than allowable U.S. levels.  Children in Kabwe, Zambia have some of highest blood levels of lead in the world
  27. In Kabwe, Zambia, child blood levels of lead are five to 10 times higher than the allowable EPA maximum.
  28. The largest e-waste site on earth is in Guiyu, China. Approximately 88% of children there have dangerous levels of lead in their blood.
  29. The world’s largest CO2 emitter is China. China emits more CO2 than the U.S.  and Canada combined, up by 171% since 2000. The U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter
  30. Over 80% of items buried in landfills could be recycled instead.
  31. For 1.1.billion people around the world, clean water in unobtainable. Almost half of the world’s population does not have proper water treatment.
  32. The average office employee throws away 360 pounds of recyclable paper each year.
  33. Antarctica is the cleanest place on Earth and is protected by strong antipollution laws.

References: a Agin, Dan. “Cadmium Pollution Kills Fetal Sex Organ Cells.” Huffington Post. October 15, 2009. January 25, 2012. b “Beach Pollution Worse during a Full Moon.” Live Science. August 1, 2005. Accessed: January 25, 2012. c Blackstone, John. “Pollution from China Alters Weather in U.S.” CBS News. December 12, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012. d Brown, Paul. 2003. Global Pollution. Chicago, IL: Raintree. e Chan, Amanda. “Could Pollution Increase Lung Cancer Risk?” Huffington Post. October 31, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012. f “Creaking, Groaning: Infrastructure Is India’s Biggest Handicap.” The Economist. December 11, 2008. g Didier, Suzanne. “Water Bottle Pollution Facts.” National Geographic. 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012. h “Following the Trail of Toxic E-Waste.” 60 Minutes. January 8, 2010. Accessed: January 25, 2012. i Gifford, Clive. 2006. Planet under Pressure: Pollution. North Mankato, MN: Heinemann-Raintree Library. j Jakab, Cheryl. 2007. Global Issues: Clean Air and Water. North Mankato, MN: Smart Apple Media. k Kilham, Chris. “The Dangers of Indoor Air Pollution.” Fox News. October 26, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012. l Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “Our Vanishing Night.” National Geographic. November 2008. Accessed: January 25, 2012. m “Litter Prevention.” Keep America Beautiful. 2006. Accessed: January 25, 2012. n “Noise Pollution.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. July 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012. o Orme, Helen. 2008. Earth in Danger: Pollution. New York, NY: Bearport Publishing. p Patel-Predd, Prachi. “A Spaceport for Treehuggers.” Discover Magazine. November 26, 2007. Accessed: January 25, 2012. q “Pollution ‘Changes Sex of Fish.’” BBC News. July 10, 2004. Accessed: January 25, 2012. r Raloff, Janet. “’Nonstick’ Pollutants May Cut Efficiency of Vaccines in Kids.” Science News. January 24, 2012. Accessed: January 25, 2012. s Saltzman, Sammy Rose. “Autism: Air Pollution May Be to Blame, Study Suggests.” CBS News. December 17, 2010. Accessed: January 25, 2012. t “Tailpipe Test: Study Finds Worst Polluters.” Live Science. January 9, 2006. Accessed: January 25, 2012. u Taylor, John. “70 Miles of Flotsam and Radioactive Waste Dumped into the Ocean.” Protect the Ocean. April 12, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012. v “Top Ten Toxic Pollution Problems 2011.”  Blacksmith Institute. 2012. Accessed: January 25, 2012. w Walsh, Bryan. “The 10 Most Polluted Air-Polluted Cities in the U.S.” Time. September 29, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012. x Wehr, Kevin. 2011. Green Culture: An A-to-Z Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. y “World Carbon Dioxide Emissions Data by Country: China Speeds ahead of the Rest.” The Guardian. January 31, 2011. Accessed: January 25, 2012. z “World’s Most Polluted Countries.” CNBC. 2012. Accessed: January 25, 2012

Paul Hawken – Environmentalist

paulHPaul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and author. Starting at age 20, he dedicated his life to sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. His practice has included starting and running ecological businesses, writing and teaching about the impact of commerce on living systems, and consulting with governments and corporations on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy.


Sustainability Introduction

The simple, yet powerful definition of “Ecology” is that everything is connected to everything else. Sustainability is the capacity of living systems to prevail, and thrive in our interconnected world whereby biological systems can continually diversify, and flourish. A sustainable lifestyle will create the conditions under which humanity, and nature can coexist, whereby social and economic needs and their requirements are in harmony with the natural world and its carrying capacity of the Earths Eco-System. We can all make a difference.

With over 400 billion tons of toxic waste dumped into the air, ground and water of our planet every year, and 40% of all deaths worldwide attributed to industrial pollution, it is clear that there is a chasm of daunting proportions between humanity and the environment. Our closed economic system of perpetual growth is not sustainable, with glaring consequences to the Earth that we see on a daily basis. As a species, we are functionally illiterate when it comes to our understanding of ecology, how else could such grim facts stand?

With awareness, connectedness and education comes responsibility. It is our hope that once we become attuned to our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits, action becomes the next logical step — that burning impulse to do what you can. This can range from the simple, yet critical decisions we make with our consumption habits, how we discard our waste, to becoming active, empowering others, and joining the growing movement around the world to build a sustainable future. We humbly present some of these options to you here.

· Activism
· Business/Economy
· Culture
· Earth Angels
· Green Commerce
· Green Living
· Indigenous People
· Politics
– Right Livelihood

Video: How Wolves Change Rivers

When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.

Visit http://sustainableman.org/ to explore the world of sustainability.
For more from George Monbiot, visit http://www.monbiot.com/

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

B-Roll Credits:
“Greater Yellowstone Coalition – Wolves” (http://bit.ly/1lK4LaT)
“Wolf Mountain” (http://bit.ly/1hgi6JE)
“Primodial – Yellowstone” (https://vimeo.com/77097538)
“Timelapse: Yellowstone National Park” (http://bit.ly/1kF5axc)
“Yellowstone” (http://bit.ly/1bPI6DM)
“Howling Wolves – Heulende Wölfe” (http://bit.ly/1c2Oidv)
Interview from TED: “For more wonder, rewild the world” by George Monbiot
“Fooled by Nature: Beaver Dams” (http://bit.ly/NGgQSU)
Music Credits:
“Unfoldment, Revealment, Evolution, Exposition, Integration, Arson” by Chris Zabriskie (http://bit.ly/1c2uckW)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 106A-117 of the US Copyright Law.

For any concerns or questions, you may contact us athttp://sustainableman.org/contact/

See more at: http://sustainableman.org/how-wolves-change-rivers/#sthash.sgkadLVt.dpuf

The New Facts of Life, Part 1

A discussion of the interrelations between food, health, and the environment is extremely topical today. In part one of this three part essay we’ll discuss Ecological Literacy.

Rising food prices together with the price of oil and a series of so-called “natural” catastrophes dominate the news every day. At the same time, there is a lot of confusion. Why are world food prices increasing so quickly and dramatically? Why is world hunger rising again after a long steady decline? What do
food prices have to do with the price of oil? Why is it so important to grow food locally and organically? In this brief talk, I shall try to show that a full understanding of these issues requires a new ecological understanding of life (a new “ecological literacy”) as well as a new kind of “systemic” thinking – thinking in terms of relationships, patterns, and context.

Indeed, over the last 25 years, such a new understanding of life has emerged at the forefront of science. I want to illustrate this new understanding by asking the age-old question, what is life? What’s the difference between a rock and a plant, animal, or microorganism? To understand the nature of life, it is not enough to understand DNA, proteins, and the other molecular structures that are the building blocks of living organisms, because these structures also exist in dead organisms, for example, in a dead piece of wood or bone.

The difference between a living organism and a dead organism lies in the basic process of life – in what sages and poets throughout the ages have called the “breath of life.” In modern scientific language, this process of life is called “metabolism.” It is the ceaseless flow of energy and matter through a network of chemical reactions, which enables a living organism to continually generate, repair, and perpetuate itself. In other words, metabolism involves the intake, digestion, and transformation of food.

Metabolism is the central characteristic of biological life. But understanding metabolism is not enough to understand life. When we study the structures, metabolic processes, and evolution of the myriads of species on the planet, we notice that the outstanding characteristic of our biosphere is that it has sustained life for billions of years. How does the Earth do that? How does nature sustain life?

Ecological literacy
To understand how nature sustains life, we need to move from biology to ecology, because sustained life is a property of an ecosystem rather than a single organism or species. Over billions of years of evolution, the Earth’s ecosystems have evolved certain principles of organization to sustain the web of life. Knowledge of these principles of organization, or principles of ecology, is what we mean by “ecological literacy.”

In the coming decades, the survival of humanity will depend on our ecological literacy – our ability to understand the basic principles of ecology and to live accordingly. This means that ecoliteracy must become a critical skill for politicians, business leaders, and professionals in all spheres, and should be the most important part of education at all levels – from primary and secondary schools to colleges, universities, and the continuing education and training of professionals.

We need to teach our children, our students, and our corporate and political leaders, the fundamental facts of life – that one species’ waste is another species’ food; that matter cycles continually through the web of life; that the energy driving the ecological cycles flows from the sun; that diversity assures resilience; that life, from its beginning more than three billion years ago, did not take over the planet by combat but by networking.

All these principles of ecology are closely interrelated. They are just different aspects of a single fundamental pattern of organization that has enabled nature to sustain life for billions of years. In a nutshell: nature sustains life by creating and nurturing communities. No individual organism can exist in isolation. Animals depend on the photosynthesis of plants for their energy needs; plants depend on the carbon dioxide produced by animals, as well as on the nitrogen fixed by bacteria at their roots; and together plants, animals, and microorganisms regulate the entire biosphere and maintain the conditions conducive to life.

Sustainability, then, is not an individual property but a property of an entire web of relationships. It always involves a whole community. This is the profound lesson we need to learn from nature. The way to sustain life is to build and nurture community. A sustainable human community interacts with other communities – human and nonhuman – in ways that enable them to live and develop according to their nature. Sustainability does not mean that things do not change. It is a dynamic process of co-evolution rather than a static state.


The New Facts of Life, Part 2

A discussion of the interrelations between food, health, and the environment is extremely topical today. In part two of this three part essay we’ll discuss Systems Thinking.

to read part one click here

Systems thinking
The fact that ecological sustainability is a property of a web of relationships means that in order to understand it properly, in order to become ecologically literate, we need to learn how to think in terms of relationships, in terms of interconnections, patterns, context. In science, this type of thinking is known as systemic thinking or “systems thinking.” It is crucial for understanding ecology, because ecology – derived from the Greek word oikos (“household”) – is the science of relationships among the various members of the Earth Household.

Systems thinking emerged from a series of interdisciplinary dialogues among biologists, psychologists, and ecologists, in the 1920s and ’30s. In all these fields, scientists realized that a living system – organism, ecosystem, or social system – is an integrated whole whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller parts. The “systemic” properties are properties of the whole, which none of its parts have. So, systems thinking involves a shift of perspective from the parts to the whole. The early systems thinkers coined the phrase, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

What exactly does this mean? In what sense is the whole more than the sum of its parts? The answer is: relationships. All the essential properties of a living system depend on the relationships among the system’s components. Systems thinking means thinking in terms of relationships. Understanding life requires a shift of focus from objects to relationships.

For example, each species in an ecosystem helps to sustain the entire food web. If one species is decimated by some natural catastrophe, the ecosystem will still be resilient if there are other species that can fulfill similar functions. In other words, the stability of an ecosystem depends on its biodiversity, on the complexity of its network of relationships. This is how we can understand stability and resilience by understanding the relationships within the ecosystem.

Understanding relationships is not easy for us, because it is something that goes counter to the traditional scientific enterprise in Western culture. In science, we have been told, things need to be measured and weighed. But relationships cannot be measured and weighed; relationships need to be mapped. So there is another shift: from measuring to mapping.

In biology, a recent dramatic example of this shift happened in the Human Genome Project. Scientists became acutely aware that, in order to understand the functioning of genes it is not enough to know their sequence on the DNA; we need to be able to also map their mutual relationships and interactions.

Now, when you map relationships, you will find certain configurations that occur repeatedly. This is what we call a pattern. Networks, cycles, feedback loops, are examples of patterns of organization that are characteristic of life. Systems thinking involves a shift of perspective from contents to patterns.

I also want to emphasize that mapping relationships and studying patterns is not a quantitative but a qualitative approach. Systems thinking implies a shift from quantity to quality. A pattern is not a list of numbers but a visual image.

The study of relationships concerns not only the relationships among the system’s components, but also those between the system as a whole and surrounding larger systems. Those relationships between the system and its environment are what we mean by context.

For example, the shape of a plant, or the colors of a bird, depend on their environment – on the vegetation, climate, etc. – and also on the evolutionary history of the species, on the historical context. Systems thinking is always contextual thinking. It implies a shift from objective knowledge to contextual knowledge.

Finally, we need to understand that living form is more than a shape, more than a static configuration of components in a whole. There is a continual flow of matter through a living system, while its form is maintained; there is development, and there is evolution. The understanding of living structure is inextricably linked to the understanding of metabolic and developmental processes. So, systems thinking includes a shift of emphasis from structure to process.

All these shifts of emphasis are really just different ways of saying the same thing. Systems thinking means a shift of perception from material objects and structures to the nonmaterial processes and patterns of organization that represent the very essence of life.

This essay is adapted from a speech Fritjof Capra delivered at a professional development institute, “Linking Food, Health, and the Environment,” hosted by the Center for Ecoliteracy and Teachers College Columbia University in the summer of 2008.