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by Emilie Brooks
6 min read

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Humans have been active species for thousands of years and their rate of activity has increased in recent times due to industrialization, overpopulation, and technological advancements. Despite humankind’s success, the planet has suffered drastically from our progression which has created negative repercussions for the earth to endure.

Humanity maintains many habitual routines that severely impact the earth’s health and sustainability. We will explore 5 significantly harmful habits of humanity that prove a harsh reality for planet earth as the recipient of effects created by civilization’s activities, many of which harm the environment, earth’s ecosystems, and the globe overall.

Smoking

Cigarette waste Julia Engels.

Cigarette waste Julia Engels.

In a recent report from the CDC, over 50 million people use tobacco products while 80.5% of those people smoke cigarettes in addition to cigars and pipes. Cigarettes in particular cause a triple whammy effect on the environment – the production of their white wrappers are made possible by deforestation, sweeping forests clean of natural ecosystems and wildlife. When littered on the ground, Cigarettes remain unbiodegradable and therefore, turn into toxic waste which contaminates soil and organic water sources. Lastly, the release of Cigarette smoke expels pollutants such as nicotine, ammonia, and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Smoking also negatively impacts the lives of people, causing an increase in medical visits and costs due to its side effects like lung complications.

Surprisingly, humans litter cigarettes the most compared to other items. In addition to the cigarettes themselves, their filters and product packaging are often found scattered in various places. Cigarettes are usually prevalent on the ground throughout high trafficked areas like highways, shopping centers, and beaches. Trillions of cigarette waste have been discovered in landfills, oceans, forests, and lakes, making their disposal a serious and fatal issue for the environment. The carbon emissions from cigarettes are 4 million times more than vehicles according to Tobacco Free Life’s findings. The truth is, one tiny product can have a tremendous impact on the planet.

Driving

Cars emissions Iwona Castiello d’Antonio.

Cars emissions Iwona Castiello d’Antonio.

It is remarkable how much atmospheric pollution one car can create – according to the EPA, it’s 4.6 metric tons! Compare this fact to the amount released from thousands of drivers within cities and populated states. Driving emits CO2 into the atmosphere which causes global warming and environmental issues within smaller populations like smog – a visible form of air pollution prevalent throughout Venice Beach, CA for example. Vehicle emissions are fatal to the environment and even human health. Major toxins released include nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. Pollutants are dominant throughout the process of car ownership – from manufacturing and production to filling the gas tank and driving, environmental hazards are widespread.

Because vehicles are so heavily relied upon, imagining a world without them is difficult to consider. The world is dependent on transportation, and that goes for the public too. Without access to vehicles, much of the world could not live or work effectively. The article Car Emissions and Global Warming highlights this dependency which makes environmental problems worse and drives an increase in global warming which rises the earth’s temperatures and promotes rising sea levels in addition to other side effects. As major contributors to global warming emissions within the U.S, transportation resources are in demand and these include planes, trains, and ships.

Littering

Litter is a common sight among highways, sidewalks, and city streets. It can be visibly unappealing but its effect on the environment is far worse than it looks. The litter on the ground does not remain where it was tossed – it makes its way to oceans, rivers, landfills, and soil, disturbing the health of the earth’s organisms within these ecosystems. Built-up litter and the accumulation of garbage can create a foul smell which then emits toxic chemicals in the air and water supplies while contaminating water sources that humans utilize and consume. It may be easy and convenient to throw out a simple wrapper or shred of paper, but these seemingly insignificant acts can pose severe consequences for the earth’s wellbeing.

A simple piece of litter may look harmless but the aftereffects of one small piece of trash improperly disposed of are exponential. The reality is that when these small pieces of waste accumulate, the earth is drastically impacted. Not only are waterways and soils contaminated, with the animal life and microorganisms that live in those soils are disrupted and often destroyed. One piece of gum or a mere balloon could potentially take the life of a bird or fish as these items are often mistaken for food sources by wildlife.

Deforestation

A critical factor to consider is that we cause such significant issues within our environment by the way we live, interact with, and treat our world. Deforestation is the act of taking down trees and working the land to a flat surface for construction purposes. Although a logical approach for industrialization, deforestation is an extremely negative endeavor for the ecosystems within these forests. Innumerable amounts of wildlife have been severely impacted and destroyed due to this occurrence. Despite our clever establishments of housing, industrial plants, and businesses, our environment has been forced to face fatal consequences like the contamination of fossil fuels developed from oil production, coal, and natural gases.

Marcin Kempa Brian Yurasits.

Marcin Kempa Brian Yurasits.

Despite deforestation’s effects on nature, human life is also affected due to global warming – we breathe in chemicals as we inhale the air around us which is likely to cause health problems. Technological innovation is a wonderful tool that has advanced society in a progressive direction, but it has not benefited society without a cost as the earth’s environment and inhabitants have greatly deteriorated. The article, Effects of Deforestation explains that this human-driven activity can initiate climate change which causes dry land, a lack of crops, and an increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Plastic Use

The use of plastic has become an environmental epidemic throughout our planet. Plastic often ends up in landfills causing contamination of the earth’s soil and internal water supply from the release of its toxic chemicals. Plastic debris is also commonly found in ocean waters, ending the lives of marine animals by detrimental ingestion and chemical poisoning. An article by Forbes emphasizes the common misconception about plastic and its ability to biodegrade vs break down. Some plastics can “break down” into smaller physical pieces while others are biodegradable and can decompose into chemical elements within the earth. The plastics that can be broken down only fuel the plastic problem, as wildlife mistakes these bits for food and suffer from severe internal injuries and death because of undigested components. Recycling is a beneficial method for the processing of plastic, but only an alarming 10% of all plastic is recycled according to an article by Boxed Water. Additionally, the source explains that over 17 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean every year. The reality is that humans produce and utilize too much plastic, so much that it cannot be appropriately contained and disposed of.

Plastic waste Brian Yurasits.

Plastic waste Brian Yurasits.

Conclusion

The true impact these 5 harmful habits of humanity have on the earth and its wildlife is shockingly devastating and unfortunate. What humans consider to be regular aspects of their daily lives and schedules has made a major impact on the earth’s environment, atmosphere, and ecosystems. These statistics and environmental facts are difficult to consider but beneficial to know as our daily activities play a major role in both the livelihood and interface of our planet, the environment, and its natural inhabitants.

Sources

The real cost of littering

Plastic environmental impact

Bad habits for the environment

Am I Harming the Environment by Driving?