WE, MALAYSIANS, CAN POSITIVELY IMPACT THE PROBLEM OF POLLUTION THAT IS PLAGUING THE WORLD TODAY.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, pollution is defined as “the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects.” In the article ‘Pollution Facts ; Types of Pollution’, Alina Bradford (2017) stated that “pollution is the process of making land, water, air or other parts of the environment dirty and not safe or suitable to use. This can be done through the introduction of a contaminant into a natural environment, but the contaminant does not need to be tangible.” There are a few types of pollution that can be seen clearly today such as land pollution, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution and light pollution. However, environmental pollution is the main concerning problem that is in need of pressing attention and action as it can negatively affect the health of living creatures. It is estimated that 12.6 million people die each year because of environmental health risk (World Health Organization, 2016). Many developing and industrialized countries all around the world contributed to the existence of these pollutions. This is due to the fact that there are numerous growing industries such as heavy and light industries, small and medium industries and backyard industries. These industries have caused a distressingly high exposure of pollutants towards the environment. Aside from industrialization, urbanization and civilization also have contributed to environmental problems which consequently lead to pollution due to the increase of harmful chemicals in the environment.
A good example of a developing and industrialized country that is exposed to environmental pollution is Malaysia. Presently, Malaysia’s three major pollutions are air pollution (due to industrial and vehicular emissions), water pollution (due to raw sewage and deforestation) and land pollution (due to agricultural activities). Malaysia’s Ministry of Environmental Health (2010) has stated that environmental issues are becoming more difficult and challenging due to the emergence of several new products and the technologies involved in the making of said products, varying alternatives in the processes of manufacture, level of housekeeping and degree of cleaner technology use as well as lack of competency in handling environmental issues as one can see that the existing environmental issues are still not properly address and the failure of updates to related regulations. Not only that, the community’s behavior also affects the environment. As a result of these accumulated issues, pollutions occur. Nevertheless, as Malaysians, we are not to worry as each one of us can bring a positive effect towards the problem of pollution that is plaguing the world today. There are a number of ways in which Malaysians can do in order to decrease the pollution which are : finding transportation alternatives, secure quality and quantity of water as well as educate oneself and the community about pollution.
First and foremost, as citizens, we can contribute to reducing pollution by finding transportation alternatives. As stated in the earlier part of this paper, air pollution is one of the most worrisome problems that we face in Malaysia. The main contributor to this type of pollution is vehicle emissions. The increasing number of vehicles in the country leads to more pollutants being released into the air. These vehicles release dangerous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and particulates (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, n.d.). Such contaminants have negative effects not only towards the humans’ health but also on the animals’ health and the environment. Therefore, an action that we can take to reduce pollution is by choosing sustainable transportations. We can do this by stopping or reducing the use of cars for short destinations. A Malaysian should consider walking or riding a bike to make these trips. By doing these, not only we can reduce pollutants from being emitted into the air, we can also have a change of scenery in our daily life. This simple change can surely benefit us in the future. Another way to reduce vehicle emissions is by using public transportations. The Malaysian government has provided the citizens with many public transportations such as buses and trains for us to use. Therefore, if we have access to these facilities at where we live, we must utilize them and avoid using personal vehicles if possible. The use of public transportations can fight against pollution as proven by the southern Brazilian city, Curitiba. In this city, around 70% of the people use public transport and this has resulted in “pollution-free air” and “traffic-free streets” as stated by John Vidal in The Guardian newspaper (2016).
Now, to counter the possibility of some people not feeling comfortable riding and being with a large number of people, the solution to this would be carpooling with friends and colleagues. As we are going to the same destination, why not we commute to school or work together? It is cost savvy, promotes relationships with other people and reduces air pollution. When using personal vehicles, we must make sure to get regular tune-ups and maintain them in good condition. Every vehicle needs its parts to be inspected routinely such as filters, oil, coolants, belts and many more. Vehicles’ tires also need to be inflated according to their recommended pressure. By servicing our vehicles periodically, we will be able to control vehicle emission, enhance their performance and extend their life. Safe driving should also be practiced as it can reduce vehicle emissions. Furthermore, it should be in the consideration of people of Malaysia to buy electric or hybrid cars. Electric cars operate by using electric while hybrid cars use both electric and gas. Using such cars can be a big help in reducing pollution as they emit fewer pollutants. As a matter of fact, a country has taken this step into consideration to prevent air pollution that is spreading in the world. Politicians in the Netherlands has proposed a new law to ban the sales of cars that use petrol and diesel (Hern, 2016).
In addition, Malaysians should help to secure both the quality and quantity of water. We are able to do this by decreasing and avoiding the use of chemicals. Cleaning chemicals are hazardous to the environment and living creatures. To clarify further, this is because they contain harmful substances such as sodium hypochlorite, ammonia, ethylene glycol monobutyl acetate and phosphates (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Even though they are washed into drains and sewage system, they are still able to get into groundwater and pollute nearby water bodies. These chemicals are not only bad for humans, they are also harmful for plants and animals. If plants and animals get in contact with water that is polluted with toxins, this will affect their health and throw the ecosystem out of balance. We should use natural ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and salt as they are non-toxic. However, if the environmental-friendly products are hard to find, use the least amount that you can as it will still reduce the quantity of toxin released into the water. Another way to reduce the chemical being released into the environment is by not using pesticides and herbicides. They seep into the ground and poison not only the soil but also water.
Next, we should remember to throw away rubbish and toxic waste in a proper manner. Trash should be dumped accordingly because some substances are not suitable to be disposed in the normal way as they have toxic chemicals. Plus, we should search for the proper way to throw away the waste or ask for the local sanitation department for help if we are unsure of what to do. Remember to not throw away medications either in pills, liquid or powder form into water supply. The residue of the medications may still be present even after they enter the sanitation system. Hence, this will impact the health of humans and animals that drink the polluted water negatively. A way to get rid of these pharmaceutical products is by ‘return’ programs where the drugs or medications will be given to a specialized facility that will dispose the substance properly. It is noteworthy that in government hospitals, they have containers provided for us to give or get rid these products. Therefore, we must be careful when disposing certain products as they might bring hazardous effects to us and the environment. The most important thing that we can do to reduce pollution is conserving water. Water is an important resource for humans to survive. Hence, if we waste water, it will have a negative effect on us. We should take caution when using water to preserve the health of the community’s ecosystem. A friendly reminder to every single Malaysian is that the less we use water, the lesser the pollutants and toxins will be seeped into the ground or enter the water system.
Last but not least, Malaysians should educate oneself and the community about pollution. With technology nowadays, people are able to gain information that is basically at the tip of their fingers by a simply search on the internet. There are many reliable websites that can provide numerous valuable data to us regarding pollution and other issues related to it. We can also go to public libraries and attend public functions that serve in giving us useful insights on pollution. By learning as much as we can, we will have a better understanding of the issue. We will also be able to know about the major sources that contribute to pollutions that occur at the place where we are living. Next, after learning and researching about pollution, we should share what we know with other people. This is because Malaysians’ awareness on environmental issues is still lacking. Even though many people have shown concerns for them, there are little to no action made in order to reduce the problems. Not to mention the plaintive fact that many still do not even know what they can do to change them. For example, Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp Malaysia) Deputy Chief Executive Officer (technical), Dr Mohd Pauze Mohamad Taha has said that the recycling rate in 2016 is only 17.5% despite introducing the waste segregation programme. This low percentage is due to the lack of awareness in reducing household waste through recycling is still low among Malaysians (The Star, 2017). Furthermore, each person has their own perspective on the problem. Therefore, by discussing it with different people, we will be able to have a deeper understanding about it.
Not only that, when doing this, it can be ensured that more people are able to realize the severity of this problem. Hence, if we share our knowledge on this issue, more people will know about pollution and the negative impact that it has on us. When it is acknowledged that it is a major concern, there will be more joint initiatives from the community to decrease and prevent pollution. Just by sharing the knowledge that we have, it will make several differences and changes to the community’s thinking and behavior. To take one step further in decreasing pollution, we can join an environmental group. There are various organizations which focus on the environmental aspect in Malaysia such as The Malaysian Nature Society, WWF Malaysia, Ecocentric Transitions, EcoKnights Malaysia, PEKA Malaysia and Greenpeace Malaysia. Such organizations help people to know more about the environment, advocate to reduce pollution, inspire local conservation and promotes sustainable living. However, some people may not realize the existence of some environmental groups in Malaysia hence why we need to spread word about them. We can also make our own environmental group, discuss the problems and find out what we can do to help. As a country that is able to gain access to the internet, we can spread about pollution, its issues, impacts and ways to prevent it through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many more. Spreading the information and knowledge can give the community the golden chance to do something about it.
In order to highlight the seriousness of pollution, I will now discuss several effects of pollution that are and will plague us all if this problem is not countered. Firstly, humans’ health will be critically at risk. For instance, air pollution can lead to respiratory diseases including asthma, bronchitis and lung cancer. According to the Toxicological Research Journal, a study in 2014 found that air pollution doubled the risk for obesity, hypertension, chronic pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease in older people (Lee, Kim & Lee, 2014). Several other health problems caused by air pollution include headaches, chest pain, congestion, throat inflammation, irritation of eyes, nose and mouth, lower energy levels, disruption of endocrine, reproductive and immune systems and neurobehavioral disorders. Moreover, according to World Wild Life Organisation (n.d.) water pollution causes 1.1 billion people in the world inaccessible to clean freshwater and 2.4 billion people do not have adequate sanitation which consequently leads to a number of diseases due to the lack of water. Polluted water may also pose skin related problems including skin irritations, rashes and eczema. In the European Journal of Soil Science, soil pollution causes headaches, nausea, fatigue, eye irritation and skin rash, cancer and lead in soil is especially hazardous for young children causing developmental damage to the brain (Steffan, Brevik, Burgess & Cerdà, 2017). Many effects of soil pollution are similar to the ones caused by water contamination as they are closely related.
Aside from humans, animals are no exception to the sufferings of several health problems due to pollution. Air pollution causes them to have birth defects, reproductive failure, and diseases. Next, water pollution causes the death of aquatic creatures as acid rain results in the water being too acidic for fish and other aquatic life to survive. The loss of these essential creatures can disrupt the entire food chain. Noise pollution from oil drills, submarines, and other vessels on and in the ocean cause excessive noise that has resulted in the injury or death of marine animals, especially whales. Moreover, light pollution interferes with natural behaviors and cycles, causing a decrease in wildlife populations. This is because many mammals, insects, birds, and reptiles are photoperiodic meaning that their movement, mating, growth and development, and eating cycles are regulated by natural light patterns (Renewable Resources Coalition Organisation, 2016). It is important to note that environmental pollution affects animals by making their habitat toxic to live in.
Pollution is also the reason for the degradation of the environment. The releases of greenhouse gases (CO2) from vehicles, factories and deforestation in abundance lead to global warming. Such human activities have resulted chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to be released into the atmosphere. This serves as a contribution to the depletion of ozone layer (Conserve Energy Future, 2016). Soil which is exposed to damaging chemicals like pesticides and insecticides eventually becomes infertile and unable to support crops and other plants’ lives. This reduces food production and leads to dietary deficiency in humans’ communities and other living creatures’ habitat. When it comes to land degradation, more problems come in the forms of deforestation and soil erosion. Harsh conditions which are created from the acts of clear cutting of vegetation and tree cover can destroy ecosystems and habitats of the wildlife. Such effects will then cause an imbalance in atmospheric conditions, reducing the amount of carbon that is naturally taken out of the atmosphere. In short, pollution damages important layers of the environment and causes negative effects on both the inner and outer layers of the environment.
As a recap, pollution is one of the major problems that we face due to developments and modernizations in our lives. Undeniably, with the growth of science and technology, there has been a huge progress of what used to be humans’ latent potentialities. However, upon observations on the ways that we, Malaysians live out our lives, it can be inferred that the majority of us do not consider the health of our earth seriously. This can be said with confidence, supported with the people’s habit of throwing rubbish anywhere they like. Due to this bad habit, from having crystal clear rivers and beautiful picturesque streets, now we are left with murky waters and rubbish-filled streets. Hence, this non-caring attitude leads to events of pollutions and they are becoming an increasingly serious issue in our country. Having advanced developments to elevate our lifestyles also do not necessarily equate as achievements if they pose a threat to our health, animals’ health as well as the environment. The emissions of dangerous chemicals in both liquid and gas forms from these technologies are not worth it as death practically follows as a result from them. It is a fact that no act comes without consequences. We must bear in mind at all times that there are consequences to the actions that we choose either directly or indirectly. In this scenario, our progresses not only affect humans, but also other living creatures and nature, which are essentials to our survival. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that it is of great importance that we should control pollution so that it will not pose a threat to us and our future. As responsible citizens of Malaysia, we can help to overturn and curb the problem of pollution that is plaguing the world today in various ways. If we do not take action now, us, humans will become prisoners to our creations. Here is to realities of us having a beautiful life on a clean and healthy earth and leaving it as so to future generations of Malaysians.
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