FAQs about Environment

8. What are the causes and consequences of environmental pollution?

Environmental pollution in general occurs when certain elements that cause harmful effects accumulate in quantities that nature cannot recycle. Reducing environmental pollution is a great challenge that humanity faces. The participation of all is necessary and this can range from not throwing objects into the water to joining environmental activism programs.

Pollution and water shortage

Water pollutants range from a plastic bag thrown into the sea, to a soda can into a river. Many cities dump large volumes of fecal matter, pathogenic microorganisms, detergents, insoluble gases, garbage, etc. into rivers, lakes, and seas.

Wastewater from industrial landfills contains oils, phosphates, nitrates, fluorides, lead, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, manganese, mercury, etc. It is also important to consider oil spills, etc. Many of these pollutants can take hundreds and even thousands of years to be recycled by nature.

Among the diseases that untreated water can transmit, we can mention diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, malaria, schistosomiasis, typhoid fever, amebiasis, among others.

Regarding water scarcity, the World Economic Forum and other institutions estimate that by 2030 demand will be 40% higher than today, an increase that the planet will not be able to supply, unless measures are taken to improve the situation.

See: SGK-PLANET FAQ about water pollution and shortage

Air pollution

Starting in the 1950s, the concentration of pollutants on a global scale reached levels never seen before. Some specialists have called this stage of the first years after the Second World War “the great acceleration”. Then human activity and expansion continued to rise, as did air and atmospheric pollution, a product of fossil fuel emissions and massive deforestation and intentional forest fires. Because of this, the 1970s are considered by some as the “years of hyper-acceleration.”

Since then, we have witnessed the progressive worsening of the environment due to the expansion of megacities, farmland, cattle ranching, the massive use of fumigants, the incorporation of tens of millions of motor vehicles into traffic, etc.

As a result of all this, air pollution in some cities has reached alarming levels, causing respiratory diseases, allergies, and other pathologies.

See: SGK-PLANET FAQ about air pollution

Soil pollution and degradation

At present, the speed of the loss of substrates, that upper layer of the soil where plants develop, is greater than the speed with which they are formed. Soils are being lost due to contamination and degradation as a consequence of anthropogenic activities that affect the natural cycles of their recovery. There are already those who consider the soil as a non-renewable natural resource.

Soil contamination is mainly due to the introduction of chemical agents that modify its composition and affect the growth of flora and fauna. Among these we can mention salinization, contamination with excess sodium salts, acidification and the poisoning of soils and plants through excessive use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Over time, they can penetrate the lower strata and contaminate the aquifers, preventing their use as drinking water.

The chemical degradation of soils is mainly due to the use of unnatural fertilizers, to the exaggerated use of phytosanitary agents. These methods, in addition to fertilizing the fields, eliminating diseases and pests, also cause the extinction of the organic matter necessary for the formation of humus, essential for the proper growth of plants.

All of this has far more serious consequences than you might think. For example, the partial or total reduction of the vegetal layer increases the desert or semi-desert regions and produces the extinction of microorganisms necessary for the life of an ecosystem. In addition, it puts at risk the continuity of the trophic or food chains, a danger to the biological balance, essential to sustain life on the planet.

See: SGK-PLANET FAQ about Soils pollution and degradation

Other sections of Environment


June 5 was established as World Environment Day by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972. On that date, the Stockholm Conference “First Earth Summit” was held at the initiative of Sweden and in conjunction with the UN.
This year’s World Environment Day will be hosted by Pakistan. The theme of the year is “Restoration of ecosystems”, and the motto is “Reimagine, recreate, restore.” It will be in this environment that the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 is launched.

World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 of each year. In 2020 the venue of the event will be Colombia. Topics to be discussed will be the Amazon, air quality, health, circular economy, and climate change. The central theme is  “Conservation of biodiversity” and the motto “Time for Nature”. The environment is the space that sustains biodiversity and therefore life on Earth. By its definition, an environment cannot exist on a planet devoid of life since its statement implies the relationship of living beings with their environment.

Beat Air Polution

World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5, dedicated this year to the fight against air pollution with the moto “Beat Air pollution”. Established by the UN in 1972, during the Stockholm Conference, whose central theme was the normalization of human relations with the environment. China will be the global host of the 2019 World Environment Day. The country’s government has committed that day to organizing celebrations in many cities, with a main event in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. In the north of China there are several cities where the air is practically unbreathable due to pollution.

Environmental pollution, in the classical concept, occurs when certain elements that cause harmful effects accumulate in quantities that nature cannot recycle. A contaminant is a substance that is found in a medium to which it does not belong or that does so at levels that can cause adverse effects. A species is in danger of extinction when its existence is globally compromised. Humans, in a short time, we have turned the Earth into a kind of supermarket where we are supplied with everything we need, including the spaces to build our towns, cities, mining camps, agricultural and livestock lands. We have wrested huge areas that recently belonged to the other species, without much regard to the damage we have caused them.


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