Hello everyone! I know I’ve been taking a positive outlook with the blog lately, but unfortunately we all have to come back down to earth sometime. That being said, I really wanted to return to my Environmentalism 101 Series, but instead of exploring the “popular” environmentalism crises we all know about, we’ll be looking at 5 lesser-known crises that are just as important. Keep reading to see what they are!
- Ocean Acidification
Have you ever heard of ocean acidification before? Often termed “the other CO₂ problem”, ocean acidification is, as the name suggests, the acidification of marine waters by an increase of atmospheric CO₂. You see, the ocean plays its part in the carbon cycle by absorbing gaseous CO₂, and, through a series of delicate chemical reactions, using it to maintain its pH, which is critical to many marine processes. However, the rapid acceleration of anthropogenic CO₂ is shifting these reactions away from equilibrium (a state of balance) by producing more hydrogen ions, which lowers oceanic pH, thus acidifying seawater.
This acidification has a variety of disastrous impacts on both marine and human health alike. Calcifying organisms, or those that use calcium carbonate (a mineral that is depleted by acidification) to form shells, a famous example being coral reefs, are put in serious danger without their shells, and the countless organisms that depend on them are even more threatened. Acidified water also hampers the fragile survival cycles of many marine organisms, putting their survival and ability to reproduce at a great risk.
You would think that these changes in marine organisms would be the only way human health would be harmed since seafood is the primary form of connection between us and the oceans, and you’d be partially right. We are indeed threatened by changes to seafood’s nutritional quality and supply, but we’re actually more connected to the ocean than you think. Acidification can trigger the release of harmful toxins in the form of aerosols which can be dangerous to the pulmonary system when exposed to. You might also be forgetting that the ocean provides many jobs and can be quite a healing natural space – the loss of such a space and the benefits that come with it isn’t exactly great for mental health. And lastly, within the immense biodiversity present in the ocean lies the potential to discover countless medicinal resources for humankind – without it, we may never be able to find solutions for some of today’s most pressing medical concerns.
As you can see, ocean acidification is not a force to be reckoned with. Thankfully, on the individual level, most of what can be done to combat it is somewhat analogous to what can be done to combat its “sister issue”, global warming (check out my blog post about it here).
I’ve briefly touched on microplastics before, but haven’t gotten the chance to formally discuss them. Microplastics themselves are pretty self-explanatory – they’re very, very tiny pieces of plastic debris left behind from the gradual breakdown of plastics. Recently, they’ve been found in many vital human body systems and organs: in the bloodstream, the lungs, the placenta, and more. But how did they get there? It is proposed that their small nature allows them to enter organisms such as ourselves undetected through inhalation or indirect consumption. The continuous increase in plastic production and dependence has increased the likelihood of microplastics to enter organisms. The more plastic is produced, the more gets disposed of, and so on.
Though laboratory tests showing cell death, allergic reactions, and more are raising concern that microplastics can negatively harm human physiology (as they are with other animals), the widespread risks posed are yet to be fully realized. However, that doesn’t completely erase the cause for concern – it is still very likely that microplastics harm humans, we just don’t know how yet. Microplastics are still plastics though, so it’s easy to cut them out of your life / reduce their impact. (Read more about plastics and other types of waste in my blog post about them here!)
- Light / Noise Pollution
This one may be a bit out of the ordinary, but it’s still important to talk about. I’m sure you’re thinking, how do these types of pollution exist? Well, if you’ve ever seen a bird’s eye view of a big city at night, you’ll know how bright and noisy they can be – these are textbook examples of light and noise pollution. Both types are defined as any amount of artificial light / noise that are higher than normal.
The effects on humans should be obvious – if you’ve ever tried sleeping in a city, chances are the extra light and noise doesn’t make it exactly easy to do so. Altered sleep schedules harm everyone and everything, humans and animals alike, by shifting hormone production and thus focus. In animals, who unfortunately often don’t know better, this can dramatically offset natural processes such as reproduction and flight cycles and even cause death.
It’s quite simple to ensure you don’t contribute to such pollution, though. When it comes to light, you can invest in energy-efficient devices / appliances, use curtains or blinds to keep light in at night, and minimize outdoor light usage to only when it’s absolutely necessary. When it comes to noise, you can reduce the volume of your devices / use earplugs, invest in better insulation, close windows, and even plant trees to offset pollution!
Well, that’s all for today. Hopefully you learned something new about one of these less popular environmentalism issues, because they deserve just as much attention. Until next time, everyone! Stay safe and healthy!