END OF "THIS" WORLD NOT "THE" WORLD
And a few disgusting things we do to the earth
One cannot make change unless they are somewhat educated to do so. Use this as a good learning tool.
95% - NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC 2004
5% - A 7th grader's History report on Global Conditions of the World
OZONE & GREENHOUSE
The ozone layer is a region in the stratosphere that contains high concentrations of a gas called ozone. This
bluish gas absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet radiation more efficiently than does any other substance in the
atmosphere. Although ozone constitutes only about one-millionth of the atmosphere, it absorbs most the
sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Without the ozone layer, ultraviolet radiation would destroy all life on the
The oxygen molecules needed to sustain life each contain two atoms. In the stratosphere, ultraviolet light
strikes these molecules, splitting each into two oxygen atoms. When one of these combines with an oxygen
molecule, the result is an oxygen molecule with three atoms. Ozone is made up of oxygen molecules that
contain three atoms.
An ozone molecule is very reactive. When struck by an ultraviolet ray, it falls apart to yield an oxygen atom
and the oxygen we need. These recombine though to produce another ozone molecule. Some manufactured
chemicals stop this cycle, reducing the amount of ozone in the stratosphere. Among the worst offenders are
chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), chemicals used in refrigeration and in the product of foam plastics. A
worldwide ban on CFC’s, proposed in 1987, would help preserve the ozone layer. In time, it could begin
to reconstitute itself.
The greenhoue effect is a property of the atmosphere that allows the short-wave radiation of sunlight to pass
easily to the earth’s surface but makes it difficult for heat in the form of long-wave radiation to escape back
toward space. Sunlight penetrates the atmosphere as infrared radiation. Carbon dioxide, water vapor and
other atmospheric gases easily absorb infrared radiation. The gases, in turn, give off heat, some of it
directed toward space and the rest back toward the earth.
Scientists tell us that without this “blanket”, temperatures would be so cold that the earth would be
uninhabitable. However, they also say that human activities may be increasing the greenhouse effect. The
burning of fossil fuels, for example, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Concentrations of
methane and other “greenhouse gases” are rising too. These gases may absorb enough radiation to raise
the earth’s temperature 3.6 degrees to 10.8 degrees within the next century. This could cause the world’s
climate to change dramatically, eventually causing polar ice sheets to melt.
A rain forest is a moist, densely wooded area usually found in a warm, tropical wet climate. Annual rainfall
is about 80 inches. The average temperature in most rain forests is 80 degrees. Evergreen trees, vines,
undergrowth and nutrient-poor soils are common characteristics of this kind of rain forest.
Millions of people live in rain forests, relying on them to fulfill their needs for food and fuel. The rest of
the world relies on rain forests for such by-products as rubber, wood, dyes, oils, foods and medicines. More
than 40 percent of prescription drugs in the United States contain ingredients derived from plants, many of
them are from rain forests.
Rain forests play a role in recycling the earth’s water. Much of the moisture absorbed by the trees transpires
from the leaves and evaporates into the atmosphere to return as rainfall. The roots of the trees help anchor
the soil and slow water runoff. Clearing forest lands for farming, ranching, logging and mining is rapidly
decreasing the remaining rain forests. Some scientists estimate that an area of tropical rain forests the size
of Delaware is cleared each and every month. Tropical rain forests once covered more than four billion
acres of the earth. Today, nearly half of the forests are gone. Tropical rain forests are a valuable natural
resource and home to nearly half of the earth’s plant and animal species.
Millions of animal and plant species live in rain forests and the discovery of new species continues. Some
species can be found only in a tropical rain forest. The okapi, a relative of the giraffe is an example. More
than a thousand different kinds of trees have been identified in a square kilometer of tropical rain forest.
The rain forest in the South American country of Ecuador has 20,000 kinds of flowering plants. The state
of California, which is a third larger than Ecuador has only 5,000 kinds.
Pollution is the introduction of harmful materials into an environment. Polluting substances, such as car
exhausts, industrial wastes and chemical pesticides, damage the quality of air, water, land and all living
beings and creatures. Many of the things that make people comfortable and provide them with goods and
services contribute to pollution. The burning of coal to produce electricity pollutes the air. Industries and
households generate quantities of garbage and sewage, causing waste disposal problems. For millions of
years, nature has provided an abundance of clear air, water and land. But now, expanding populations
and increasing demands for goods and services have led to the disruption of the earth’s ecological balance.
More wastes are going into the air, water and land than nature can handle. To thrive, plants and animals
need clean air, uncontaminated water and wholesome nutrients. Pollution in the biosphere, those parts of
the air, water and land in which life exists, has become a serious problem because the earth is a closed
system. It’s supplies of air and water are used again and again. When these resources are polluted, all
life in the biosphere is threatened. Pollution is a global problem. Although it is usually concentrated in
heavily industrialized areas, it spreads all over the planet, even to remote, unpopulated places. For
example, concentrations of pesticides and other chemicals have been found in polar bears in the Arctic
and in penguins in the Antarctic. Ocean currents and migrating fish carry pollutants far and wide.
Smoke from a factory in one country drifts into other countries. Radioactive material accidentally
released from a nuclear power plant is picked up by winds and spread around the world. Sometimes air
pollution is visible, as it is when dark smoke pours from the exhaust pipes of large commercial trucks, but
it is often invisible. Polluted air can harm many living things. It makes eyes burn and causes headaches.
It can worsen respiratory problems and increase the risk of lung cancer. Heavily polluted air not only
harms life-forms but also eats away at the stone in buildings and statues. The primary source of
atmospheric pollution is the burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas. When the fuel that powers
cars and trucks is burned, it produces carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas. The gas is harmful
in low and high concentrations, which are common in heavy city traffic. You will notice the damage of
low concentration when you enter a traffic jam on the freeway. You immediately smell the excess
pollution, however, moments later you do not. That is carbon monoxide numbing the cilia in your nostrils
so that you can no longer smell the pollution you are driving in. Other pollutants that are causing some of
the most severe air pollution are nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrocarbons from vehicle and factory
emissions. These chemicals react with sunlight to produce smog and other atmospheric pollution. They
also mix with moisture in the air to form acid precipitation. Though commonly called acid rain, acid
precipitation can be in the form of snow, hail, sleet, fog or even dry particles. Such things, which often
fall far from the pollution source can damage forest and lake ecosystems, killing trees and causing fish
populations to decline or completely die out.
Fossil fuels are extremely important to
industrial societies around the world. Over the last 20 years or so, supplies of all fossil fuels have begun to
shrink. Although still forming, they are not a renewable resource due to the time it takes them to develop.
The limited amount of fossil fuels and the environmental damage their extraction and burning cause have
helped start the development of alternative energy technologies. Renewable energy sources such as solar
and wind power may be able to supply the earth’s energy needs when the fossil fuels are used up. As the
world’s population grows, people will have to find ways to conserve limited supplies of natural resources.
This will require a variety of wise practices like developing energy systems based on renewable resources.
The ways people choose to manage both renewable and non renewable resources today will have a
tremendous effect on the future of the those living on the planet tomorrow.
Coal, oil and natural gas are fossil fuels. Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel on the earth and forms
from plants. Coal deposits developed during the Carboniferous period, which began more than 300
million years ago. When plants died in wetland areas, they accumulated in thick, moist layers and the
lack of oxygen prevented them from decomposition. The result was an organic matter called peat. In
time, the peat was covered with sand and silt and pressure on the organic layers increased. Over time, the
deposits became more compact, forming layers of solid coal. When peat is dried, it can be burned as fuel.
In the stage following peat, coal called lignite develops. Later it becomes bituminous coal and finally,
anthracite. In each stage, the level of the carbon increases making the coal harder. The hardest and
cleanest-burning form of coal, anthracite, is also in the shortest supply. Oil and gas are preferred to coal
because they burn more cleanly and are easier to transport. Oil and natural gas form from the remains of
marine plants and animals. Existing supplies began forming millions of years ago, when the remains
became mixed with sand, silt and other sediments on sea floors beneath shallow ocean waters. As
overlying layers of sediment grew thicker, pressure helped cause slow, complex chemical reactions that
transformed the materials into gas and droplets of oil. The sand and silt holding the oil and gas hardened
into sedimentary rocks. As pressure increased, the oil and gas were squeezed from the source rocks and
migrated upward through porous rocks until movement was prevented by caprocks. The porous rocks that
hold the oil and gas are called reservoirs and where oil is retrieved today. Petroleum is another name for
oil in this crude state and natural gas is the name given to the gaseous form of hydrocarbon, which burns
cleaner then coal and oil.
Energy provides the power to make things happen, it is the capacity to do work. It heats and lights houses
and offices, it powers transportation and industrial equipment and lifts rockets into space. The energy
stored in the food that we eat provides the fuel that the human body requires to live. Energy stored in coal,
oil and natural gas, heats and cools homes and work places. The energy released when fuel is burned
powers engines in cars and other motorized vehicles. People take energy for granted because they have
failed to consider that some of the resources used to provide the benefits are dwindling and cannot be
renewed. Scientists have made some advances with technologies that help us harness alternative sources
of energy such as wind and the sun. All of us can make nonrenewable resources last longer by using and
demanding products that are more energy-efficient.
The sun is the original source of most of the energy used on earth. Heat from the sun warms the atmosphere
and causes movement in the atmosphere in the form of wind. The energy in wind can be harnessed to
power sailboats and turn windmills. The sun’s heat evaporates water, which becomes rain that fills rivers.
Dams on the rivers harness the water’s energy and convert it into electricity. Fossil fuels such as oil, coal
and natural gas also came from the sun through plants that grew on the earth using the sun. When burned,
they give up their energy as heat. More than one billion people in developing countries still depend on
nature for their energy by burning animal dung and wood. Though coal will still be available for several
centuries, environmentalists are concerned about global climate changes that may result from the amount
of carbon dioxide released. Since fossil fuels are considered a nonrenewable resource, scientists have been
experimenting with ways to utilize other products to supplement supplies of gasoline. Two of the ways are
with ethanol and liquefied coal. Corn when converted to ethanol and mixed with gasoline can make
gasohol. Our ability to conserve fossil fuels and to harness other sources of energy, such as wind and water
will help determine whether we have enough energy for the future.
from the sun is a tremendous resource. In less than an hour, enough solar energy reaches the earth to fill
everyone’s energy needs for a year. The problem lies in the collection and storage. One good example of
solar energy is hot water running out of a hose that was left out in the sun. Scientists are studying ways to
convert solar power into enough electricity to supply a city’s needs. One way is a solar farm like in the
picture on the previous page. The rows of mirrors, called heliostats, direct the sun’s heat and light to water
in a boiler on top of a tower. The steam produced powers a turbine, which in turn drives a generator to
produce electricity. More recent and efficient solar technology is where troughs of curved mirrors, guided
by computers, use the sun’s heat to warm synthetic oils to 735 degrees. The oil, which passes through
vacuum-sealed tubes attached to the mirrors, heats water to produce steam that turns an electric turbine.
Also, satellites and space stations get their energy from solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity. In
developing countries, photovoltaic cells like used on satellites and space stations provide energy to a
growing number of people.
Around 3000 BC, Egyptians were using wind energy to sail their ships across the
waters. By 200 BC, wind power was being used to turn the blades of windmills. Through a system of gears,
the movement of the blades activated the stones that ground grain to make breads. Wind turbines as seen
in the picture on the previous page can generate power efficiently enough to compete with other energy
systems. A wind turbine in Hawaii generates enough electricity to supply 1,200 homes. Wind farms where
thousands of wind turbines are clustered together, contribute significantly to energy supplies. In San
Francisco, 15 percent of the city’s electrical needs were met by wind-generated electricity.
GEOTHERMAL AND WATER ENERGY:
Geothermal energy is heat energy generated within the
earth. In areas where cracks have formed in the earth’s crust, water seeps down to the hot rock layers and
is heated there by geothermal energy. For years, people who live near hot springs have used geothermal
energy for bathing, home heating and cooking. In Iceland, a country that lies along the volcanically active
Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the city of Reykjavik is almost entirely heated by a system that uses geothermal energy.
Geothermal wells capture water heated by the hot rocks inside the earth and pipes circulate it throughout
the city. More recent technology can recover the heat energy in dry hot rocks. Water is pumped through
wells drilled into the hot rocks and heated water is used to generate electricity.
Water has been used as an energy source for years as seen in the picture on the previous page of Hoover
Dam. Water stored behind a dam is released to flow through machines called turbines that drive
generators to produce electricity. Scientists are exploring ways to use the tides, a form of gravitational
energy, to generate electricity. In France, a dam was built across an estuary, where a river empties into the
ocean. The dam has turbines that turn in either direction to take advantage of the tides coming in and going
out. Water turns the blades of the turbines, enabling the power plant to produce electricity. Today,
scientists in the UK are developing ways to harness the energy in ocean waves.
A controlled chain reaction within a nuclear reactor produces tremendous amounts
of heat energy in a fraction of a second. The energy heats water, creating steam that turns turbine
generators to produce electricity. An uncontrolled chain reaction can cause an explosion, as with an atomic
bomb. Radioactive waste from the fission process can destroy cells in the bodies of people and animals and
contaminate plants and water. Radioactive waste must be stored safely for thousands of years until it is
considered no longer dangerous. Nuclear physicists are working to improve the safety of nuclear reactors.
They are also exploring a safer method of gathering the power locked in atoms called nuclear fusion, which
mimics the way energy is released from the sun. Fusion may be less polluting than fission and it could
generate large quantities of energy.
For thousands of years, people have depended on the ocean as a source of food and as a highway for trade
and exploration. Today, people continue to travel on the ocean and to rely on the resources it contains.
Fishermen catch more than 90 million tons of seafood each year, including more than 100 species of fish
and shellfish. Minerals especially common salt, come from the ocean too. New Techniques are being
developed to mine the seafloor for valuable minerals such as copper and nickel.
Oil is one of the most valuable resources taken from the ocean today. Offshore rigs pump petroleum from
wells drilled in the continental shelf. As land sources of oil grow scarce, oil under the ocean becomes more
important. About one-quarter of oil and gas supplies now comes from offshore deposits.
Through the centuries, people have sailed the ocean on long-established trade routes. Today, oceangoing
ships still carry most of the world’s freight, particularly bulky goods such as machinery, grain and oil.
In the future, scientists and other experts hope that the ocean will be used more widely as a source of energy.
Some countries have already harnessed the energy of ocean waves and tides to power turbines to generate
The ocean offers us a wealth of food and other resources, but over the last two centuries, these resources
have been threatened. People have harvested so many fish and other ocean animals for food and other
products that some species have begun to disappear. During the 1800’s and early 1900’s, whalers killed
thousands of whales for their oil and ivory. Some species, including the blue whale, were hunted nearly to
extinction. Many species are still endangered today. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, catches of important food
fishes, such as herring in the North Sea and haddock in the Atlantic, began to drop off dramatically. The
fish were disappearing. Fishermen were using more advanced equipment such as electronic fish finders
and large trawling nets, so they could catch more fish. But the nets dragged across the seabed and in the
process caught many small, young fish. This meant that there were far fewer fish left behind to reproduce
and replenish the supply. In some areas, overfishing still goes on.
Another threat to the ocean and it’s wildlife comes from pollution. For centuries, people have used the
ocean as a dumping ground for sewage and other wastes. In the 20th century, the wastes have included
chemicals from factories, insoluble plastics, oil spilled from ships and pesticides such as DDT. These
harmful substances have killed sea life and threatened the food supply.
To find ways to protect the ocean, scientists from all over the world are cooperating in studies of the ocean
waters and marine life. They are also working together to control pollution. Many countries are working
to reach agreement on how to manage and harvest ocean resources.
Although the ocean is vast, it is more easily polluted and damaged than people once thought. It requires
care and protection as well as expert management. Only then can it continue to provide the many
resources that living things, including people need.
An aquifer is a layer of water-bearing rock through which groundwater moves. Water-bearing rocks are
permeable; they have interconnected openings through which liquids and gases can pass. Rock such as
sandstone an loose deposits of sand and gravel, for example, can form the water bearing layers. An aquifer
receives water from rain or melted snow that drains into the ground at the earth’s surface. In some areas
the water passes through the soil; in others, it enters through joints and cracks in rock outcrops. The water
moves downward until it meets less permeable rock through which it cannot pass easily.
Aquifers act as reservoirs for groundwater. Water from aquifers sometimes flows out into springs. Wells
drilled into aquifers provide water for drinking, agriculture and other uses. There are two types of aquifers.
An unconfined aquifer is under lain by less permeable rocks and is only partly filled with water. The top
of the zone filled with water is called the water table. The water table rises or falls depending on the
amount of water entering and leaving the aquifer. A confined aquifer lies between two layers or less
permeable rocks and is filled with water.
There is about 30 times more groundwater than there is surface water in all the lakes and streams
combined. But in heavily populated areas, including some parts of the United States, groundwater is being
used up faster than nature can replace it. This causes a lowering of the water table and can lead to water
shortages. In many places, chemicals from factories and farms, as well as wastes from dumps and sewers
have seeped into the earth and polluted the shallow groundwater that we drink.
Only about three percent of all the earth’s water is fresh and not salty. More than 2/3 of that fresh water
is frozen in glaciers and polar ice sheets. That leaves less than one percent of the total volume for homes,
factories and farms and for wildlife requiring fresh water. Most of this fresh water is underground. Only
a tiny fraction of the fresh water on the earth is found in streams and lakes.
Just in the United States alone, people consume some 400 billions of gallons of water every day. At
home, people use water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes and dishes, bathing, brushing their teeth,
flushing toilets, watering lawns and gardens and washing cars. In cities, workers use water to fight fires,
clean streets, pump away wastes and operate sewage-treatment equipment that helps purify waste water.
Huge amounts of water are consumed in industry to manufacture goods and in agriculture to grow food
crops. In the United States it takes 63,000 gallons of water to produce a ton of steel and it takes 115
gallons to grow enough wheat to make one loaf of bread.. By far, the biggest use of water in the United
States and throughout the world is for irrigation. Because rain does not fall evenly on the earth, some
lands are too dry for cultivation. Water used for growing crops in such dry areas often must be brought up
from groundwater sources through deep wells or transported from distant lakes and rivers. In many parts
of the world, people suffer from constant water shortages because the earth’s total supply of fresh water is
unevenly distributed. Millions of people lack dependable sources of clean drinking water and water for
agriculture. Today, the demand for fresh water is increasing as the populations grow. Developed
countries use the most water and many times inefficiently.
For centuries, people have depended on rivers for many things. Rivers have provided waterways for
shipping, building sites for cities and fertile land for farming. Yet the extensive use of rivers has
contributed to their pollution. The pollution has come from dumping of garbage and sewage; disposal of
toxic wastes from factories; and runoff of rainwater containing chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in
agriculture. By the 1960’s, many of the world’s rivers were so polluted that fish and other wildlife could
no longer survive in them and their waters were unsafe for drinking, swimming and other uses. Since
then, stricter laws in many countries, including the United States, have helped to clean up polluted rivers.
The laws have restricted the substances factories can put into rivers, banned toxic pesticides such as DDT
and required treatment of sewage to remove some pollutants. Although the situation in some parts of the
world has improved, serious problems remain. These include problems with long lasting and extremely
toxic chemicals still found in river water years after their use in industry and agriculture. In parts of the
United States, Canada and Europe, there is also the severe problem of acid rain. Acid rain develops when
gases and chemicals from factory smokestacks and automobile exhaust pipes mix with moisture in the air
and form acids. These acids fall in rain and other precipitation on streams and lakes, polluting water and
killing wildlife. Environmentalists and governments are trying to understand and solve these pollution
problems. Many people have come to realize that to provide safe drinking water as well as habitats where
fish and other wildlife can thrive, rivers must be kept clean.
For centuries, coral reefs have supplied people with fish and other seafood. But today, some human
activities are harmful to reefs. As people along coasts plow the earth to plant crops or bulldoze it to build
homes and roads, they loosen the soil Rain washes much of it into rivers, which carry it to the ocean.
There, the soil forms a layer of sediment that suffocates and buries coral. Many coastal cities dump
sewage and other wastes into the ocean. Such pollution causes certain types of algae to grow so rapidly
that they form thick mats that block the sunlight and promote the growth of oxygen-consuming bacteria.
This can be fatal to a living coral reef. Reefs have been harmed by underwater mining and oil drilling.
Some have been damaged by explosives used to clear out channels in the seabed for ships to pass through.
People have overfished some reefs, killing tropical fish for sport or collecting them live to sell to aquarium
dealers. Other reef creatures have been collected for their shells in such numbers that many are now rare.
To protect coral reefs, some countries have set aside parts of them as marine parks or scientific preserves.
Such parks may be found off the Florida Keys, in the Virgin Islands, in American Samoa and along
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. To the right, along Australia’s northeast coast is the Great Barrier Reef -
the world’s largest reef formation that stretches some 1,250 miles.
There's more but I want to see if these things, the most important things in the world today, are interesting enough for this forum. Please reply if you want more doom and gloom.
Edited by atrueoriginall, 12 December 2004 - 04:42 AM.