Environment | IYMS


Author: Tessy Troes

“The Human Race Will Be the Cancer of the Planet

said Julian Huxley, the first general director of the UNESCO. This article will deal with some of the problems caused by humans: pollution and recycling.

Polluted Lake

Frank Schätzing‘s Bestseller, „The Swarm“, begins with a short story of a fisherman who disappears in the ocean off the coast of Peru. The last thing he sees before disappearing is a massive swarm of mackerels which attack him. In the meantime, similar events occur in Norway and Kanada – the ocean is striking back after years of human abuse. While the plot is of course fictional, pollution is a reality all over the world.

Dmitry Abramovic. Karega Omondi. Deependu Saxena. They all share the same problem: the lake where they live is polluted, since it is located next to industry. These people are also fictional, but there are real people who share their destiny. All three could have been real people who earned their living by fishing. They could have lived close to Lake Karachay in the 50s. Close to Lake Victoria in 2010. Or close to Poosaripalayam in 2011. Lake Karachay in Russia during the fifties became a dumping site for radioactive waste. Thousands of fish died in India in Lake Poosaripalayam because of effluents dumped by local factories into the water. And finally, Lake Victoria in Kenia was the terminus for all the runoff of surrounding farmland

Image Source: http://www.kriyayoga.com/images/blog_photos/polluted_by_mankind-dsc04070.jpg
Polluted Lake

In the first stage, pollution affects the water and the people who use it. The probability of deformity and diseases increases due to exposure to aquatic pollution. Here is a short clip of the Simpsons movie, where a squirrel jumps into a polluted lake:

Humans are affected by exposure to polluted waters on two levels. To begin with, fishermen experience a shortage of fish.  And the fish which are caught pose a potential danger tot he consumer at the end of the food chain and can lead to disease.

Solutions exist, but only on a long-term basis. The USA passed a Clean Water Act in the 70s. In China, Lihu Lake in Wuxi City was cleaned up by desitilling, intercepting pollutants, transferring water, setting up gates to block waste water and restore the environment. And in Kisumu, they introduced an effective sewage treatment plan.

Plastic bag

Image source: http://www.kriyayoga.com/images/blog_photos/polluted_by_mankind-dsc04070.jpg


Yesterday I went to a local kiosk to buy a water bottle. I got a water bottle and a plastic bag. Then I went to the supermarket to buy some food. I got three more plastic bags. Short shop at the bakery, bread and a croissant. That made plastic bag number five and six. I can use some of them later for all the garbage – but even if I wanted to separate the waste, there are no special containers for carton or plastic here in Belgrade. So where to put all the excess plastic bags?

In my home country, plastic bags are not handed out anymore;  instead you buy a cheap „eco bag“ for your shopping. If you forgot your „eco bag“, you can still get a plastic bag, but you have to pay for it and on it it is written in huge letters: „I forgot my eco bag“. However, in Serbia, a resident uses an average of around 300 bags per year. There is one progressive initiative led by Dobrica Veselinovic, who is counting how much plastic bags she gets every day to make people aware:http://30390.calendars.motigo.com/

However, the times may be changing. Motivated by the desire to enter the EU, the Serbian government has begun to deal with this environmental issue. It has adopted a national waste management strategy in order to reach European standards in recycling by 2019. In the beginning of January, 2012, the Environment Ministry declared that there will be a set of measures to actively fight against the extreme use of non-ecological plastic bags. Manufacturers of these bags will have to pay a fee, whereas they will get subsidy for producing compostable, biodegradable bags.


When foreigners hear „Rio de Janeiro“, they think of Copacabana, sun, holidays, beautiful people. The view of Rio from the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Jardim Gramacho, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, could be mind-blowing. However, since the 70s, people from the favelas have worked and lived there sifting through trash. Jardim Gramacho is one of the largest landfills in the world. All the trash pickers have an interesting story to tell, since you only want to work in the landfill if you have no other opportunity to survive.

Image source: http://afflictor.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/wasteland1.jpg.jpeg

An image of “Waste Land”

The landfill is the terminus for everything nobody wants anymore. The stink of the landfill follows you everywhere, in your clothes, around your body, in your nose. The work is hard and involves long hours. Most of the workers have to live on the landfill and are thus unable to be with their families who live elsewhere on a regular, daily basis.

Image source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-rRNBEg6mx7M/TgfpB39DcI/AAAAAAAAb7o/XsXzi0x9IIk/s1600/vik_muniz_1.jpg

A piece of art, made of waste

Where to put all our trash, how to recycle things is one of the most important issues in the world today. The documentary „Waste Land“ doesn‘t offer a solution to this problem, but it offers inspiration to ameliorate the lives of the trash pickers. This movie tells the story of the Brazilian artist, Vik Munik, who spent two years in Jardim Gramacho taking pictures of certain selected trash pickers and then works of art  with the use of recycled materials. He involved the pickers in all the steps of his work, even when he flew to London to sell one of the trash portraits he had made. He showed the pickers that their lives don‘t have to stay the same forever. Some of the pickers eventually found other work because they began to believe in themselves. Some other trash pickers used money they received from the sale of the portraits to buy a truck, equipment and to build a library and a learning centre for the trash pickers.

Waste Land on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1268204/

These three stories may not be directly related one to each other, but they do have a common structure. The problem was caused by humans, the situation seemed without escape, but then some people didn’t lose hope, came together and found a solution.


Every day is Earth day

Author: Tessy Troes

 1 | Introduction

[Image 1]

Newspaper headlines

Media love strong headlines, and using eye-catching words like „crisis“. Currently two crises (caused by humans) are the favourite of media: the financial crisis – and the crisis of the environment.

There‘s no week passing by without articles about politicians making statements about CO2-emission or scientists presenting new statistics about fossil fuels. There comes that the majority of people are chased off and skip reading these articles. However, every one of us should care – like Albert Einstein said, environment „is everything that isn‘t me.“

Environment is our surroundings, from our family and friends to our house and our city to air, water, nature. All our acts have an influence on our environment – the studies of the interaction between a living organism and the environment are called ecology. The unity of living organisms and the non-living ones with which they interact is called an ecosystem.

2 | The Actual Situation

 Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.

~Henry David Thoreau

| Energy |

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For our current needs, from cooking and showering over driving a car to using Internet, we have to produce energy. Nowadays, there are a few options how to get energy:

-> burning fossil fuels (coal, peat, natural gas, petroleum) – a reaction which liberates CO2 and water

-> fuel cells, a device using a source of fuel (hydrogen for explame) and an oxidant to create electricity

-> hydropower, using the energy of moving water

-> solar energy

-> wind power

-> geothermal energy: energy derived from rocks and fluids under the Earth‘s surface

-> nuclear energy

„In 2008 energy supply by power source was oil 33.5%, coal 26.8%, gas 20.8% (fossil 81%), renewable (hydro, solar, wind, geothermal power and biofuels) 12.9%, nuclear 5.8% and other 4%.“

Source: United Nations Statistics Division

| Water |

[Image 3]

Baltic Sea, Poland by Martin Stavars

Over 70% of our Earth is covered by water. Water is essential to all living forms. Still, one billion people don‘t have a proper access to safe water and over 2.5 billion don‘t have proper access to adequate sanitations.

Read more about this topic in the report of the United Nations from 2008: http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/Resources/Static/Products/Progress2008/MDG_Report_2008_En.pdf#page=44

 3 | Problems

The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago… had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands.

~Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life, 1923

[Image 4]

What lies under by Ferdi Rizkiyanto

There is a variety of environmental issues which are caused by human activies and affect our entire world. Here is a small and simplified overview of the causes and effects of these issues:

–  If rain is unusually acidic, we call it acid rain. It is caused by the emission of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere (due to burning fossil fuels) and affacts plants, aquatic animals and infrastructure.

–  Pollution can be found either in the water or in the air. The biggest causes for air pollution are the fossil fuel-burning power plants and vehicles which combust fuel. Water pollution is caused by oil spill, as well as sewage, sludge garbage that‘s dumped into the ocean. Both kinds of pollution affect nature and men (they can cause diseases such as bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease).

–  Everybody has heard about it – global warming or greenhouse effect. In fact, the gases (for example CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuels) gathered above the earth make the planet to a kind of greenhouse – consequence of this will be a warming of the planet. If we don‘t stop the warming, consequences affecting the nature can be severe (melting down of polar ice, etc.).

[Image 5]

99 Cent by Andreas Gursky

–  It‘s a capitalistic trend that people purchase goods in higher amounts than needed – because, after all you can „just“ throw it away, if you don‘t need it. This phenomen is called consumerism and can refer to food, cloths etc. After you throw it away, you don‘t have to care anymore. Landfills are growing and we don‘t know where to put all our trash. Hazardous waste is waste that is a potential threat to health and environment (for example motor oil, herbicides, computers, radioactive waste).

–  Ozone Depletion is a scientific term which refears to the decline of the volume of ozone in Earth‘s stratosphere. The ozone layers prevents us from harmful wavelenghts of ultraviolet light. A too high exposure to this UV light can cause skin cancer, cataracts, damage to plants and the reduction of plankton populations in the ocean. Leading cause of ozone depletion is the production and emission of CFC (chlorofluorocarbons), which were used a lot in refrigerators for example.

–  Around 1850, the world population was one billion. 1987 it was at five billion. 2011, it reached 7 billion: mankind is approaching the stage where there are too many people for the planet to support – overpopulation. More people make more pollution and consume more. Famine is another issue.

–  Rain Forest Destruction | Deforestation:

–  A growing population needs land to live and to do agriculture. Since Earth only gives us a limited place to live, people began to cut down forests and rain forests.

4 | Natural disasters

I am the spirit that negates.

And rightly so, for all that comes to be

Deserves to perish wretchedly;“

~ Mephisto, Faust I

           [Image 6]

Carsten Petter, National Geographic

Man is the most responsible for the destruction of the Earth – although, from time to time, Nature is also the cause of disasters: avalanches, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes and wildfires.


5 | Solutions

[Image 7]

Extravaganza by Christian Werther


We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

~Native American Proverb


What are the changes we have to make?

The future of our energy supply is one of the biggest questions. The most effective and the cheapest way to produce energy we know is nuclear energy – but not the safest one. We don‘t know the long-term consequences of nuclear trash yet, we even don‘t know where to put it. The alternative solution is to invest in non-polluting, renewable energy sources whose efficiency has to be improved. We may try to restrict the population growth as well.  And last but not least, change the way we live, which leads us to the last point.


6 | Green living

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Sustainable living or green living is a term which describes a lifestyle by people who are aware of the current environmental issues. They try to reduce their use of natural and own ressources. Aim of this lifestyle is to reduce their own carbon footprint – by using public transportations, purchasing less goods, changing dietary habits and using less energy.

You can calculate your own carbon footprint here: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/




1. National Geographic Environment Department

2. Guardian, Environment Department

3. The Environmental Blog

4. Environmental Issues List, buzzle.com

5. List of environmental issues, comfu.org

[Image 1]

Newspaper headlines

Image Source:  http://images.crestock.com/770000-779999/771072-xs.jpg


[Image 2]

Image Source: http://ttphotos.deviantart.com/favourites/5875385?offset=24#/duvaan

[Image 3]

Baltic Sea, Poland by Martin Stavars

Image Source: http://angelreich.deviantart.com/art/Structure-of-Simplicity-22072469?q=favby%3Attphotos%2F5875385&qo=14

[Image 4]

What lies under by Ferdi Rizkiyanto

Image Source: http://pepey.deviantart.com/art/what-lies-under-212851140?q=favby%3Attphotos%2F2717967&qo=21



[Image 5]
99 Cent by Andreas Gursky

Image Source: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2001/gursky/images/99cent_pop.jpg

[Image 6]
Carsten Petter, National Geographic

Image Source: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/tornado-profile/

[Image 7]

Extravaganza by Christian Werther

Image Source: http://gin-n-juice.deviantart.com/art/Extravaganza-70021934?q=favby%3Aiso25%2F2609756&qo=5

[Image 8]

Image Source: http://www.mchumor.com/science_environment_toons.html