For centuries, human beings have contaminated the air, water, land and other elements of the atmosphere that are mandatory for the survival of humans, animals, and plants. Pollution has always been there, only now it has become extreme. The history of pollution in the history of mankind’s greed and irresponsibility.
The 19th century Industrial Revolution and after that, technological advancements are two big sources of pollution. In the mid 20th century, people started feeling changes in the environment for the first time. An environmental movement was started in the 1960s that expressed its concerns regarding pollution of the planet we live in. Because of that movement, we have events such as Earth Day. Two legislative victories, namely the Clean Water Act (1972) and the Clean Air Act (1970) are also outcomes of the same movement.
In as early as the 13th century, Edward I, the then monarch of England threatened the people of London with severe punishment for burning sea-coal as it caused air pollution. But, in the 18th century as well as the initial decades of the 19th century, large-scale use of coal came into vogue. It was the time of the Industrial Revolution. Inhabitants of emerging centers started facing health problems due to soot and smog that made the air polluted. More than 4000 people were killed in the Great Smog of 1952 in London. Acid Rain, which was discovered for the first time in the 18th century, was another major pollution problem. People also started discovering that the nitrogen compounds and sulfur released into the environment had adverse effects on fish, plants, soil, and forests.
At present, the biggest contributor to Air Pollution in America is vehicles. Greenhouses gases are also released as a result of auto emission, which is causing global warming. In the history of pollution of the earth’s air, motor vehicles play a major role.
Like air pollution, water is also contaminated by human beings since the initiation of man’s existence. For centuries, our ancestors have polluted drinking water sources with sewage wastes, which caused diseases like typhoid and cholera.
The Industrial Revolution further increased water pollution as pollutants from factories were directly disposed into rivers. As per a survey report prepared by CNN in 2007, nearly50 million tons of solvents and heavy metals mix with the water bodies every year. UNESCO sadly remarks that 70% of the waste from factories is dumped into lakes and rivers untreated. Greenpeace reports that China’s 70% lakes, as well as rivers, are contaminated with waste from industries. At present, more than 1 billion humans, all over the world, do not have access to drinking water.
Besides air and water pollution, rapid decrease in the number of rainforests, land pollution are also matters of great concern. The history of pollution tells us how we have contaminated nature’s gifts to us due to our meaningless pursuit of wealth and luxury. The present situation is the fruit of our reckless exploitation of the earth’s resources.