It is Earth Day today. We share everything on earth with every living thing on the planet. So what happens in one area affects everything else too, no matter how far away. We cause most of the pollution and we will suffer the consequences if we don’t stop. We are already seeing its effects in the form of global warming. Here are some instances from around the world that raise serious red flags.

A Country that Drowned in its Own Waste

A woman walking through Beirut's river of rubbish (Credit: Getty Images)

Where: Lebanon’s mismanagement of its solid waste came to prominence in 2015 after litter piled up on the streets of its capital.People may think the garbage crisis started in 2015, but this has been going on for decades as the government jumps from one emergency plan to the next while largely ignoring the situation outside Beirut and surrounding areas.

What: Lebanon does not have a solid waste management plan for the entire country. In the 1990s, the central government arranged for waste collection and disposal in Beirut and Mount Lebanon but left other municipalities to fend for themselves without adequate oversight, financial support, or technical expertise.

Consequences: As a result, open dumping and burning increased across the country posing many health hazards like respiratory problems, cancer, skin disease and many more.

Source: Lebanon Waste Crisis Posing Health Risks

Garbage Islands in the Ocean

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Where: Can you imagine islands of garbage with the combined size of India, Europe, and Mexico, floating in our ocean?
There are several garbage islands in the ocean and the most “popular” of them is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

What: How did human trash get into this area? 80% of ocean trash comes from land and 20% comes from the ships sailing the seas. Each year more than 2 million tons of plastic are thrown in the ocean. The swirling ocean currents carry the debris to the Gyre, which is an area of water that circulates slowly just like a clock. When the debris gets there, it cannot escape.  The Gyre slowly rotates human rubbish in a never-ending circle. Source: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Consequences:  The fish feeding on plankton ingest these toxic plastics and bigger predators eat these fish. The chemicals are absorbed into their tissues, the fishermen catch them – and we eat them, complete with toxins.

A Capital that Ran Out of Water Supply

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Where: Within the next few months, Cape Town’s taps could run dry, the result of a protracted drought and a government failure to provide an alternative water source to this city of 4 million. But the crisis didn’t start with one deluded mayor. It goes back decades.

What: “City will run out of water ‘in 17 Years,’” declared a Cape Times headline as long ago as April 26, 1990. Cape Town may be the first major city to run out of water, but it won’t be the last. In Mexico City, residents are already experiencing cuts to their piped water supply, and officials in Melbourne (another city affected by drought) warn that the city is little more than a decade away from exhausting current water supplies.

Consequences: At one point, before a sustained deluge in 2015, the city of São Paulo was down to less than 20 days’ worth of water, according to the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based research organization that tracks the use of natural resources around the world. It reports that more than a billion people currently live in water-scarce regions and as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025 if steps are not taken to conserve water now. Source: Drought Hit Cape Town Dreads ‘Day Zero’

Unsafe Air

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Where: Linfen, China- This city of more than four million is in the heart of Shanxi, China’s coal-production hub, and has frequently been deemed the most polluted city in the world; citizens suffer from choking clouds of coal dust as well as drinking water polluted with arsenic. Shanxi is the heart of China’s coal belt, and the hills around Linfen are dotted with mines, legal and illegal, and the air is filled with burning coal. Don’t bother hanging your laundry — it’ll turn black before it dries. China’s State Environmental Protection Agency says that Linfen has the worst air in the country, which is saying something, considering that the World Bank has reported that 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are Chinese.

What: Tiny particles, known as PM2.5, have a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometers and can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of disease. WHO guidelines state annual average concentrations of PM2.5 should be below 10 micrograms (mcg) per cubic meter, but the vast majority of the world’s population is living in areas exceeding this limit.

Consequences: There were an estimated 6.5 million deaths worldwide from air pollution-related diseases in 2012, WHO data shows. More than 1 million air pollution-related deaths occurred in China and over 600,000 in India in 2012, according to the WHO. But the worst countries for deaths per head of population are in Eastern Europe. Ukraine, at the top of the table, had 120 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012. Source: The Air We Breathe is Killing Us

There is No Earth Day in China: The Electronic Graveyard of the World
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Where: Guiyu in Guangdong Province, China, is arguably the largest electronic waste (e-waste) site in the world. In 2005, there were 60,000 e-waste workers in Guiyu. They processed the more than 100 truckloads that were transported to the 52-square-kilometre area every day.

What: The constant movement into and processing of e-wastes in the area leading to the harmful and toxic environment and living conditions. Coupled with inadequate facilities, this has made Guiyu once a rice village. It is unable to produce crops for food and the water of the river is undrinkable. Many of the primitive recycling operations in Guiyu are toxic and dangerous to workers’ health. Around 80% of children suffer from lead poisoning.

Consequences: Above-average miscarriage rates are also reported in the region. Workers use their bare hands to crack open electronics to strip away any parts that can be reused—including chips and valuable metals, such as gold, silver, etc. Workers also “cook” circuit boards to remove chips and solders. They burn wires and other plastics to liberate metals such as copper. The workers also use highly corrosive and dangerous acid baths along the riverbanks to extract gold from the microchips, and sweep printer toner out of cartridges. Children inhale the dioxin-laden ash as the smoke billows around Guiyu and finally settles on the area.

Source: China the Electronic Wastebasket of the World

This Earth Day, Let’s Start Working

  1. Reduce, Recycle and Reuse.
  2. Buy environment-friendly products.
  3. Conserve natural resources.
  4. Plant trees.
  5. Raise awareness.

The good news is that every positive action counts. The small effort you make towards a greener environment can start a healing ripple effect. We can save our natural resources and make the world a better place to live in for our future generations.

Let’s make a change, for a better environment, this Earth Day!

Featured image credit: Flickr

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