Pundits can argue whether 2013 was the greatest year ever, or the worst ever. It was probably neither—except for planet earth. For earth it was one of the worst ever. Mankind made great strides destroying the home of our species—and every other species that inhabits planet earth.
This year alone, there have been 6 major accidents involving trains carrying crude oil. These resulted in major explosions, oil spills, and massive amounts of toxic poison being spewed into our air.
China just announced that 8 million acres of farm land are too polluted to grow food, and the government has closed them to farming. To put that in perspective, that is an area as large as Belgium. If more polluted land is deemed unsafe to grow food, China could once again have a problem feeding its people.
Pollution in China is doing more than halting food production; it is killing its people and forcing its major cities like Beijing and Shanghai to impose a mandatory indoor curfew to prevent residents from the greater exposure to toxic air. Pollution is now causing social discontent.That polluted air travels east in the prevailing winds over Korea, Japan, and yes, the United States and Canada. It may be diluted, but it is still poison and the chemicals fall to earth in the rain and snow.
In Canada, scientists have found a 7,300 mile “bulls-eye” of mercury contamination around the tar-sand oil fields. That is the same tar-sand oil that the proponents of Keystone XL want to transport through the heartland of America in a pipeline. What could possibly go wrong? A lot! This year alone, there have been 10 major pipeline breaks spilling millions and millions of oil into the earth and into our water supplies.
Those 10 new spills are on-top of many spills that occurred last year or the year before that are still not cleaned up. These include a spill in Mayflower, Arkansas that destroyed a residential sub-vision and has contaminated a local lake.
Scientists have found that radioactive waste water from the Fukushima nuclear plant that is still spewing into the ocean is killing or contaminating fish, shell fish, and coral as far east as Canada and the U.S. west coast. Even seals and Polar Bears have been affected by the radioactive pollution.
There were 5 major incidents at refineries in North America alone in 2013. These dumped oil or gasoline into the ground, and spewed chemicals like benzene and hydrogen sulfide and other things into the air.
On top of these “incidents” every day man poisons the air with particulate pollution, chemicals, and green house gasses emitted from the tail piles of cars, trucks, buses, aircraft, and ships. The air and atmosphere are contaminated by open-air burning of trash, garbage, tree limbs and other agricultural waste. Our ground water, lakes and streams are filled with runoff of pesticides and fertilizer causing abnormal amounts of algae to grow killing fish and creating dead zones.
To make things worse, every day thousands of acres of forest and rain forest are being cleared for farming, mining, or cities. This is a double whammy in that it destroys the earth’s natural filtration system to clean itself from pollution, and the trees and bushes are burned spewing particulate pollution into the air, and carbon into the atmosphere. Factory feed lots generate methane that contributes to global warming.
Most of these disasters are the result of our use of fossil fuels and nuclear power to provide energy. Much of the carbon pollution in China, and in our atmosphere comes from coal-fired power plants.
We could reduce the amount of toxic pollution and spills resulting from the production of or transport of fossil fuels if we simply shift to cleaner gas in the short-term, and wind or solar energy. However, production of natural gas through fracking, if under-regulated as it is now, will be as disastrous for the earth as burning coal.
This year has been horrible for earth. There is nothing on the horizon to indicate that 2014 will be any better. Our Congress is dominated by climate change deniers bought and paid for by polluters. Do not expect any major policy shifts to spare us from these near-term disasters, and the eventual destruction of our planet.