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Pollution and Poverty sample essay

Authorities on the environment claim that a wealthy state could also be a polluting state and affluence can constitute a serious threat to the environment. The movement for protecting the environment commenced with a slogan of conservation and gradually changed into an anti – technology movement. It opposed the activities of the government, oil companies and the nuclear industry.

The impetus for the movement included several contrasting factors, such as developments in the physical sciences, which resulted in the capacity to detect very small amounts of chemicals; the Vietnam War; and the decisive book on this subject by Rachel Carson, namely, Silent Spring. The movement against the use of nuclear energy was stimulated by the proliferation of nuclear weapons. However this movement had exaggerated the dangers to the world, by expressing unfounded fears over minute traces of radiation in the environment, caused by the nuclear energy programs (Hollander, 2003. Pp. 251).

It is important to consider the Montreal Protocol, which was the first international consensus reached on prohibiting the use of certain chemicals. This Protocol was inspired by the movement, which had opposed the operation of supersonic aircraft for transportational needs. The operation of supersonic aircrafts damages the stratospheric ozone layer of the atmosphere. The documentary Against Nature depicts the views of wealthy Western nation environmentalists who argue that providing help to poor nations will compel them to increase production, which would make the world less sustainable.

Those advocates of elitism demand that the poor nations should continue their traditional way of life such as agriculture, to be powered by animals or humans and not by tractors, and that energy should be produced by using cow dung rather than oil. These comments address the social issue of population growth. However, population growth depends on the rate of fertility, which is continuously declining in every country. Thus, population growth should not be considered as a long – term global problem (Hollander, 2003. Pp. 251).

In the case of fisheries such a viewpoint would be incorrect, because nearly a fourth of the world’s fisheries have been over exploited. There is a severe depletion of fish resources all over the world. In order, to address this problem there should be adequate institutional systems to ensure property rights. This arrangement could also prove to be unendurable for the poor people who live in the coastal areas and whose principal source of living is fishing (Hollander, 2003. Pp. 251).

Just a century ago, fundamental elements like water and air were unsafe in the rich countries. For instance, there were killer smogs half a century ago. However, efforts were undertaken to provide better health to the public and that goal was achieved. Politicians have actively involved themselves in matters relating to measures that seek to reduce the pollution of the air, acid rain and stratospheric ozone depletion.

These areas are fully controlled by political ideology, with little or no leeway for science and economics. For instance, in the year 1973 there was an oil crisis due to the vicious control exercised by OPEC on oil production. This was the creation of politics. There will be no shortage of oil in the coming years, because there are still unexplored deposits of heavy oil and tar sands. The earth contains vast resources of oil, which have not yet been explored. Such a measure involves a high cost factor (Hollander, 2003. Pp. 251).

Sophistication in science results in new types of automobiles such as hybrid – electric cars and fuel – cell technology based cars. Consumption of fossil fuels such as coal is increasing every year and the burning of coal provides eighty percent of the energy requirements of the US. Nearly half of the electric power derives from the consumption of coal. In the US, eighty – five percent of the fossil fuel reserves consist of coal. Even if the consumption of coal continues at the current rate, it will be available for another two hundred and fifty years (Hollander, 2003. Pp. 251).

Solar energy is an abundant natural source of energy, but producing energy from solar power is not cost – effective. All the same, the utilization of solar energy is gradually on the increase. This is due to its high cost and the government’s reluctance to encourage its use by subsidizing it production and reducing costs. Uranium based nuclear fission energy is also a renewable energy source. The drawback with this source of energy is its cost and the requirements of technological infrastructure, moreover, the poor countries would not be able to afford nuclear fission plants (Hollander, 2003. Pp. 251).

The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is on the increase. This leads to global warming. However, it is very difficult to evaluate human contribution to the warming process, amidst natural temperature variations. In the period between 1940 and 1975 there was a thermal cooling of the atmosphere and this phenomenon defied a proper explanation. The analysis of satellite data has revealed that there was no global warming in the last two decades. At this juncture, it can be stated that human contribution to the global warming process is of lesser significance.

The theories, which attribute global warming to human activities, do not clearly integrate various atmospheric changes and properties. The meteorological experts are in agreement with the fact that there are uncertainties in the atmospheric temperatures. Changes in the climate could be dealt with by making certain adjustments. Such adjustments are easily available to the affluent nations.

Poor nations would have to face much difficulty, in switching over to alternative adjustments provided by the Kyoto Protocol. Natural calamities such as floods, droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes affect the poor countries more severely. The economies of the poor countries would be damaged further, with the result that the impoverished countries become much poorer There has been a prediction that the sea level would rise if the snow caps melt due to global warming, but that is a natural process, which is not dependent on human contribution (Hollander, 2003. Pp. 251).

The remedial actions agreed to in the Kyoto Protocol would require the US to curtail its fossil fuel consumption by thirty percent in the next ten years. This would require the US to spend more money on other energy sources and would not achieve any tangible results. The estimated cost to be incurred by the US, if it was to go in for non – fossil fuel sources of energy, would be of the order of $2.3 trillion. The remedial actions provided by the Kyoto Protocol to mitigate the problem of global warming, energy rationing schemes and the adoption of stricter measures after 2012, would only serve to curtail the economic growth of the poor countries. (Hollander, 2003. Pp. 251).

The sophistication of science and improved living standards provide an opportunity to mitigate the problem of environmental pollution. Poor people do not attach much importance to problems arising from pollution. This is because they encounter more immediate problems to be resolved. Despite, affluence being a contributory factor to pollution, nevertheless, it provides an opportunity to address such problems (SWAN, September 1972).

In poor nations, basic requirement like food, water and shelter are difficult to fulfill. Only on the fulfillment of these basic needs, will there be any devotion of thought to issues beyond such immediate requirements. The rich countries are at the moment opening their factories, on a very large scale, in the poor countries. This is because the labor there is cheap and abundant, and more importantly, the laws regarding environmental pollution are lax or non – existent. This permits the rich nations of the world to totally ignore all safety measures in such countries, while causing immeasurable damage to the environment of those countries.

Such an incident transpired in 1984, in the city of Bhopal in India. The Union Carbide Company operated a battery plant in that place, without paying heed to safety regulations and with scant regard to the safety of the inhabitants. A large amount of methyl isocyanate gas leaked into the atmosphere, causing a large number of deaths and physical impairment. In the event of the existence of uniform standards, in the context of environmental pollution, such malpractices will be curtailed. From the foregoing discussion it is evident that it is essential to maintain the same environmental standards throughout the world.

References

Hollander, J. M. (2003. Pp. 251). The Real Environmental Crisis: Why Poverty, not Affluence, Is the Environment’s Number One Enemy. Berkely, California: University of California Press.

SWAN, J. A. (September 1972). Poverty, Prosperity, Pollution. Annals of Internal Medicine , Vol. 77. Iss. 3, Pp. 465 – 465 .

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