We are all very aware of how important it is to care for our planet, to protect the environment in order to keep Earth livable for generations to come.
But how many of us actually take a moment to stop and think about what that means?
The sad truth is that the current state of our planet is far from perfect—in fact, there are very real health risks and dangers that could seriously impact our lives TODAY, and not just the lives of our children and grandchildren.
It’s important that you are aware of the environmental factors that could negatively affect your health. We’re going to feature some of these factors over the next few blog posts, giving you a real-life look at things that could pose health risks, increase your chance of disease, or even raise mortality rates in our current population—which, of course, includes you!
To begin, we’re going to take a look at one of the greatest threats to our health today: fossil fuels.
In 1963, fossil fuels—including natural gas, crude oil, plant liquids, and coal—accounted for roughly 93% of America’s energy production . Thankfully, over the course of the decades, that use has decreased slightly. In 2019, it was estimated that fossil fuel usage had decreased to 80%--a bit lower, but still high enough that it accounts for the majority of the domestic energy production.
Fossil fuel can have a very deleterious effect on the environment :
Land degradation – The process of collecting the underground deposits of coal, gas, and oil can take a significant toll on not only the landscapes, but also the ecosystems of those lands. Strip mining can destroy forests and mountains, leaching nutrients from the land, and leaving it bare. Wildlife can be killed, their habitats destroyed, and their primary nutrient sources depleted. Animals are forced into less-than-ideal new habitats and end up suffering because they’re competing for resources with other wildlife.
Emissions – Burning fossil fuels releases enormous amount of pollutants into the air, leading to exposure to toxic air pollution that can increase the risk of diseases like leukemia, blood disorders, and respiratory conditions. The reduction of trees (by strip mining and deforestation) can also release massive amounts of carbon and decrease natural oxygen production.
Water pollution – The collection of gas, oil, and coal can lead to pollution of the water systems in our world, from both acid runoff and oil spills or leaks. Toxic fluids can leak into the water, jeopardize not only freshwater, but even the ocean. All of the mining, drilling, and fracking operations can pollute the water with heavy metals and radioactive particles, contaminating water supply (as was the case in Flint, Michigan).
Global warming – Rising temperatures around the globe can cause harmful climate change, accelerating the global warming crisis.
There are a lot of very real causes for concern, and a startling number of ways that our reliance on fossil fuels can impact our health today, as well as in the future.
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One 2017 study  took a closer look at the real effects of burning fossil fuels (and, of course, collecting them) and found that an estimated 1+ million deaths around the world could be laid at the feet of fossil fuels. People who had died of respiratory infections, lung cancer, and stroke had inhaled pollutants from the air (in places like China and India, of course, but also around the rest of the world), and it was those pollutants that contributed to their death. As the researchers concluded, “complete elimination of coal and [oil and natural gas] combustion in these two countries could reduce the global PM2.5 (pollution) disease burden by nearly 20 percent.”
That’s a sobering conclusion, isn’t it? It’s imperative that you take what steps you can to limit your dependence on fossil fuels, and instead shift to a more “clean energy” life.
How can you do that?
Use renewable energy. Connect your home to electricity providers that utilize wind and solar energy, or consider installing wind or solar energy generators in your own home to provide power.
Drive greener. Consider switching to an electric vehicle, or at least opting for an economical vehicle that gets a higher mileage-per-gallon. Replace older vehicles with newer, cleaner models. Do proper maintenance and car care to ensure you’re getting optimum performance from your fuel.
Find alternate transportation. Ride the bus. Ride a bike. Carpool. Walk to work or the store. Find ways to get around that don’t involve you burning fuel.
Reduce energy consumption at home. Turn off lights, close your fridge doors, regulate the AC or turn down the heat. Use energy-saving appliances and energy-efficient light bulbs. Find ways to decrease your at-home power usage.
It’s not going to be easy, but it is important that you take steps to help our country reduce dependence on fossil fuels. After all, those fossil fuels are putting your health at risk, and it truly is in your power to take steps to save the planet!
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