Land pollution comes about when our soil is contaminated with toxins from the garbage and waste we dump on it. Land pollution also refers to desertification and deforestation where land that was once usable no longer is able to fill its purpose. Consider these land pollution facts:
- Humans have created close to 9 billion tons of plastic waste to date, and if current trends continue, we will have created 12 billion tons by 2050.
- We have already lost about half of the world’s original forests due to agriculture, logging, and climate change.
- Roughly 75% of empty plastic bottles are not recycled and end up in lakes, oceans, and streams as well as landfills.
- We lost approximately 13 million hectares of forests between the years 2000-2010.
- About 17% of the Amazon Rainforest has been lost in the last 50 years.
- The United States created about 251 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2012.
- More Pollution Facts and their sources.
The main causes of land pollution are:
- Landfill usage
All of the garbage that our households generate gets sent either to a recycling center or a landfill. Since we create so much garbage, these landfills can be quite massive and contribute to land pollution by interfering with the infrastructure of cities. Also, when it rains, the toxins from landfills will seep into our water supply, furthering the spread of soil contamination and possible disease carrying agents.
Livestock and crops require very large areas of land for their operations and will often cut down trees in order to make room. In addition, the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used often contaminate the soil. These pollutants can then be transferred from the soil into the crops we eat or into a nearby water supply.
- Deforestation from logging
Since wood is a very sought after resource, trees are being cut down in order to prepare and sell timber. Once cut down, these forests are not easily restored and the land can be rendered useless. This is especially prevalent in many poorly developed countries where small, unregulated businesses cut trees down in a manner which takes no consideration into the environmental and ecological impact of their actions.
Mining for minerals or other materials often requires that trees be cut down in order have access to a mining site. Furthermore, the mining process itself often contaminates the soil with chemicals from the mining process. Artisanal gold mining is a good example of a type of business performed by inexperienced individuals, especially in poorer continents, such as Africa. These small mining operations are often more destructive than large businesses because they will affect lots of small patches in the forest simultaneously, therefore thinning out an entire larger area of forest.
- Clearing land for buildings
Industries that developed during the industrial revolution also furthered deforestation to clear room for their buildings and warehouses.
- Radioactive Waste
Nuclear power plants can leave heaps of waste which render the land useless. The atomic bomb explosions and nuclear events such as Chernobyl and Fukushima also contribute to land pollution.
Why is Land Pollution bad?
Land Pollution is bad because it is much easier to waste the land and make it unusable than it is to restore it back to use. Land pollution is a further problem because it contributes to water pollution and air pollution if the toxins in land fills are burned. Furthermore, deforestation lowers the amount of plants which are capable of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.
It is very important to make efficient use of the land to reduce these effects. This is why artisanal operations carried out by inexperienced individuals are often more dangerous for the environment than large scale, regulated businesses. Consider this area of forest:
Notice how in the second example, most of the forest stays untouched. Once that patch of resources is used up, they can restore that land and move on to a new patch of forest. By the time that original patch of forest is needed again, the trees will likely have grown back. This little scenario can serve as an example that it is possible to use the resources in our land efficiently, but we need to have regulations and rules to do so responsibly. On a smaller scale, we as individuals can do a lot to fight land pollution as well.
Ways we can reduce land pollution
- Reducing our own personal garbage output
Is it really necessary to get 15 new plastic bags from the store every time, when you can just keep 2 large reusable cloth bags in your car? Is it necessary to buy a 24 pack of water bottles (which are probably just repackaged tap water anyway) instead of a single large container and a filter for your sink? Simply creating little habits not only benefits the environment but also is actually easier on you.
- Purchase vegetables and meat from a local source
The less your food has to travel, the less resources (fuel, packaging, etc…) are used to get it to you. If you go to a local farmer’s market you can find tastier, healthier, fresher vegetables. If you find a farm near you, you can buy their meat in bulk. When you get to know the people you get your food from, you will be able to make a conscious choice as to whether they are using a sustainable business practice and therefore receive higher quality groceries, with less impact on the environment.
- Purchase products from companies which profit from clean environment practices
In this modern world economic system, the ones who have the money, are the ones who have the power. If there is money to be made from clean environmental practices, companies will go out of their way to do so. There are many up-and-coming companies which are attempting to make money from electric cars, solar power, recycling, and many, many more clean, sustainable products. Spend your money on these companies instead.