Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Seven “Rs” in Pollution Management

Dr Abe V Rotor 
 
“Thirty (30) percent of world population is producing 85 percent of global pollution. Today’s pollution is 1000 percent times higher than in 1946.”  AVR
 

The seven “Rs” in Pollution Management are: 

1. Reduce,
2. Replace,
3. Regulate,
4. Recycle,
5. Replenish,
6. Reserve, and
7. Revere

1. Reduce 
Air pollution comes mainly from vehicles, and is heavy in big cities like Metro Manila
Pollution management should start at the very source. Thus, the key to managing pollution should be the reduction of potential waste materials. Before buying anything, the main question you ask yourself is: “Is it necessary?” Many of us are enticed by the aesthetics of goods, which merely attracts us into buying. One strategy which manufacturers and sellers employ is “over packaging.” A great part of the money we pay for a commodity goes to its packaging. 

Take for example, canned drinks. Two-third of the value of canned cola goes to the can and advertisement. It is packaging, which amounts to a large percentage of waste on one hand, and causes the depletion of the supply of raw materials, on the other. In a study in the United States, 46 percent of the recycled thrash is packaging materials. In both cases, it is Mother Nature that bears the brunt of pollution and depletion. 

                                                                       2. Replace 
As a rule, biodegradable materials – those that disintegrate and decompose under natural conditions - are environment-friendly, on condition that they are properly disposed. As much as possible the manufacture and use of non-biodegradable materials, such as plastics and related products like nylon, styropore and rayon, must be limited. Some plastic materials may have a life span that extends up to millions of years. This means these materials will virtually remain the same – or until our sun has expanded on its way to becoming a supernova. 

“Pollution is the excrement of technology.” - The Living with Nature Handbook


Lichen - biological indicator of clean air
Environmentalists in the US and Europe have launched a campaign to promote products that have the least impact on the environment. In these regions, citizens boycott establishments like fast-food outlets that use styro and plastics.

Fortunately we are currently witnessing the slow return of waxed paper and paper cups. More and more people are using natural packaging materials such as banana leaves, rice hay, seaweeds, rice hull, wood shavings.
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“Lead, cadmium, selenium, toxic heavy metals arsenic, chloro-hydrocarbons polychlorinated diphenyls cause behavioral symptoms, and loss of appetite, among other effects. Lead is a highly potent nerve poison. Although lead exists naturally at low concentration, it is has increased to 30 times the normal level.” 
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                                                            3. Regulate 
This refers to the need of an effective governance system for waste management. This case in point is the limited capacity of Metro Manila Development Authority in handling the gargantuan task of pollution management next to impossible. 
The outstanding amount of trash generated by Metro Manila, a city with 10 million inhabitants, and the peculiar geophysical, socioeconomic, and its peculiar political setup, make the task even more formidable. 

Fishing on a polluted river
All over the world, there is need for effective governance in environmental management. Time and consequence are of the essence as more and more people are dying or getting sick, and piles of garbage are building up. Five international conferences on environment have been called, the first of which was in 1972 at Stockholm, followed by similar summits in Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro and Kyoto, and lately in Mexico. All failed to establish a global body that can regulate man’s abuse on nature and therefore guarantee the health of our planet and that of future generations. 
                                                                4. Recycle. 
Recycling refers to the process of using a material again and again, either in its original state or in another form – and perhaps for a different function. 

Durable materials that can be recycled include wood, glass, metal, concrete, and the like. Bottles, for one, can be used up to three times over. Concrete is recycled in construction sites, so with steel bars. Broken furniture can be renovated, so with many home decor. Appliances are being repaired rather being disposed for new ones. The age of second hands is here. We find more and more garage sales. Ukay-ukay (UK), anyone? Kitchen refuse and farm residues are now converted into organic fertilizer. The late Filipino inventor, Abraham Tadeja was one of the pioneers in organic manufacturing at the Payatas dump site.

“Some kinds of plastics have a life of 10,000 million years – when the sun shall have engulfed the earth.” 
These days, research has discovered modern ways of recycling more complex products. Old tires, for example, are deep-frozen and pulverized, instead of being burned or melted. Broken glass and asphalt are now made into glasphalt – an excellent material for road overlay. 

Crude and aging technology 
At present, Germany is the world’s leader in garbage recycling. Germans have developed a technology for recycling aluminum more times than conventional recycling does. This translates into fewer demands for bauxite, the ore of aluminum.

But the downside is that the Germans have been producing more waste lately, giving the world the impression that waste recycling must be a good business, now actually an industry in Germany, instead of just a recourse in solving environmental problems.
                                                                 
                                                            5. Replenish. 
 There is a saying in ecology, there is no such thing as “free lunch.” There is always a cost of everything we get from nature.. When we cut down a tree, we “harvest” the soil nutrients that made the wood, take away its cooling effect on its surroundings, the oxygen it gives off in the air, and deprive a multitude of organisms that depend on it. Pollution should be understood on the basis of such an equation. 
“Industrialized countries spend at least 2 percent of their GNP to clean up their mess – an expense rather than investment.” 
Cutting down a tree is therefore, indirect pollution. When we destroy a tree, we contribute to the buildup of CO2 by reducing the amount of O2 generated by that tree. This ultimately contributes to global warming. 

We destroy the symbionts of the tree, such as earthworms and termites that convert waste materials into stable forms – forms that are recycled for the use of the next generation of organisms.
                                                                6. Reserve 

The US is reserving its oil while there is oil available in the world market. Japan is not cutting its forest trees. It imports logs from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. More and more areas are declared parks and reservations before they are claimed for agriculture, industry and settlements. 

To reserve is to postpone the consumption of a resource, and when there is no intention for that purpose but keep it in its natural state, to reserve means to preserve.

Sometimes controversy rises over such logic. For example, we have not resolved the issue of total ban on logging versus selective logging. The economists say that mature trees when left unharvested deprive the country of potential gain. Ecologists say, there is more to gain ultimately from an undisturbed ecosystem. Again, this merely shows the importance of effective environmental governance, particularly where issues like this remain unresolved. Meantime forests are left unprotected, and become subject to various abuses. Before we know it this natural resource is gone. It is this attitude that is predisposing many countries to lose their chance to preserve the environment.
                                                                      7. Revere 


Sun blocked by gases spewed from cars and factories.
Reverence for life. This is the founding philosophy of both natural and social science, and the guiding spirit of great men and women such as Charles Darwin, Albert Schweitzer, David Livingstone, Jean Fabre, Louis Pasteur, Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, and King Solomon, to name a few. These people succeeded in their mission to make this world a better place to live in, through their examples and discoveries that lead towards loving and caring the earth. Let us love the Earth, our only spaceship that gives us all the things we need to be alive and happy. Let’s give our share, even just to help in Nature’s housekeeping. x x x

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