Since its inception over three decades ago (1974), the World Environment Day is globally celebrated every year June 5th. It offers an opportunity to broaden the foundation for enlightened opinions and responsible conduct by communities, individuals, and enterprises in enhancing and preserving the environment. Each year, this important event is organized around a specific theme to draw attention to some of the pressing environmental problems.
For healthy living, our environment plays an integral role. It provides us with food, air, water, and more. It is correctly asserted that the primary difference between humans and animals is that animals adapt themselves for the environment, but human beings change the environment for their benefits. For instance, humans clear vegetation for agricultural activities and settlements, emit poisonous gases to the atmosphere during manufacturing processes, and other activities that cause substantial harm to the environment.
The World Environment Day is a major yearly event for affirmative environmental action. You can’t stop breathing. However, you can do something to enhance the quality of the air you breathe.
World Environment Day 2019 Theme
The theme for the World Environment Day 2019 is ‘Beat Air Pollution.’ It is a call for action to combat the worldwide crisis. The topic invites people from all walks of life to consider how they can alter their everyday lives to minimize air pollution and thwart its growing contribution to global warming and its impact on health.
Air pollution explained
According to National Geographic, air pollution is a mix of different particles that can hit harmful concentrations both indoors and outdoors. Its impact can range from higher risks of health issues such as respiratory diseases to complex problems such as the increase in global temperature. Smoke, methane, soot, mold, carbon dioxide, and pollen are some of the common air pollutants. Here are the major global issues caused by air pollution.
1. A worldwide health hazard
Poor air quality causes about 7 million deaths annually. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 4 million of these deaths occur in the Asia-Pacific region and other low- and middle-income countries. Indoor smoke is still a growing health threat to more than 3 billion people who heat their home and cook by burning coal, kerosene, and biomass.
Air pollution has also been linked to a high risk of heart disease, respiratory diseases, cancer, and stroke. The American Lung Association estimates that close 134 million people in the U.S (more than 40% of the population) are a higher risk of diseases and premature death because of air pollution.
Though the health impact of air pollution emerges from long-term exposure, there are short-term effects such as eye irritation, dizziness, headache, sneezing, and coughing. Particulate matter that is smaller than 10 micrometer (PM10 or PM2.5) pose a higher health risk as they can be breathed deep into the respiratory system and probably cross into the bloodstream.
2. Crop damage
Scientists assert that ground-level ozone is produced by various chemical reactions between poisonous gases and other air pollutants in the presence of light. It reduces crop growth and overall agricultural productivity. Two of the global staple crops, soybean and wheat, are sensitive to the impacts of ozone. Research suggests that ozone pollution accounts for over $11 billion worth of overall crop damage annually.
3. Environmental impact
A larger number of living things emit CO2 when they breathe. However, this gas is majorly considered to be an air pollutant when associated with planes, power plants, vehicles, and other human activities. This is because carbon dioxide is a natural greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, resulting in increased global temperature. For more than 150 years, humans have been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and raised its concentration to a higher level than it has been for millions of years.
Sulphur dioxide is another green gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. It is a component of smog. It reacts with rainwater and other compounds in the atmosphere to form acid rain.
What can be done?
Nations around the globe are tackling different forms of air pollution. For instance, China is making significant strides when it comes to cleaning up smog-choked skies from decades of industrial expansion by cancelling coal-fired power plants. Besides, California (in the United States) has been leading in the process of setting emission standards geared towards improving air quality, particularly in places like the popular hazy Los Angeles.
The World Environment Day 2019 urges industries, governments, individuals, and communities to work together in the process of exploring renewable energy and greener technologies. This will result in significant improvement in the over the quality of air in cities and other regions across the globe.
The Government of China has shown a commendable commitment to organizing this year’s world environment event in multiple cities. Hangzhou, in the great province of Zhejiang, will host the main celebrations.