When a massive landslide struck Malin, India on July 30, 2014, and buried 44 houses, left 151 dead, and over 100 people missing, the question arose if basic environmental standards had been employed. In the LA times, a closer investigation of the causes of the landslide pointed to a blatant disregard of a government classification of the area being “ecologically sensitive” and an issue of a ¨no development” policy. The area was a reported lumber sight, that, officially 28,000 trees were cut, but unofficially the estimate is closer to 300,000.
The company that was doing the cutting didn’t just cut down the trees. They were ground leveling, a process where the entire tree, root system and all was being removed. According to the LA Times, the amount of rainfall the people inhabiting this area saw in the days that followed the landslide was above average. This factor, along with the tree removal that allowed the soil to be loose, resulted in this tragic landslide. There are many other cases like this listed on Wikipedia: Guatemala, casualties 220, Japan, casualties 50+, the list goes on. Environmental disasters do not just pertain to places like Malin, India, because all around the globe, people unwittingly put themselves and other creatures in danger by damaging the environment because there seems to be no long term effect.
Environmentally speaking, oil is one of the least eco-friendly sources of fuel. This was clearly shown when an estimated 206 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, reports Mother Nature Network (MNN), when an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 people, and allowed an oil well to leak into the ocean. To put in perspective, that is 2,575,000 days of water use for the average person. This oil spill caused the death of thousands and thousands of marine and bird life. The estimated cleanup cost was around 34 billion dollars. 34 billion.
BP, the company responsible for this disaster, clearly did not think that something like this could ever happen. To prove this, MNN reports it took them 85 days to seal the leak. If BP had been focused on the possibility of something like this happening, it wouldn’t have taken nearly that long.
BP’s oil spill shows on a large and palpable scale the impact that we as humans can unintentionally have on the environment. However, there is another much smaller, more unnoticeable cause that impacts the environment, on that many people use every day.
It uses BP’s oil. It’s cars.
There are 258 million cars in the United States alone. According to the EPA(Environmental Protection Agency), Greenhouse gasses trap heat and make the planet warmer. Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere over the last 150 years. Transportation accounted for 26% of the total US greenhouse gasses released. The total emissions in 2014 in tons was 6,870 million. That’s just the US.
This reliance on fossil fuels furthers the point that humans only are focused on the short-term effect of our actions. Why spend time investing into finding alternative energy sources when one can simply tap into the oil business?
However, this generalization is not all encompassing. There are those that have begun the long uphill battle to try and refocus efforts towards something far more sustainable. A company named Proton Power Inc. shines among them. Proton Power is a company that is researching the use of biomass to make inexpensive hydrogen, which can be converted into energy for uses such as: synthetic fuels, electricity and heat. Biomass is fuel that is developed from organic materials, and is a renewable and sustainable source of energy.
Sam Weaver, the founder of this company has been a successful entrepreneur for over four decades. When questioned to the reason that he founded this company his response was “only 20% of the world’s energy needs are being met” and that “we’ve got to go to a sustainable future.”
So all hope is not lost. With the movement for a better, cleaner tomorrow growing by the day, we can be hopeful that soon, a renewable source of energy will prevail over the shortsighted fossil fuels. However, if action is not taken soon, and we continue on our short-sighted track, a far more devastating global “landslide” is bound to occur, with far more catastrophe and casualties than that of the landslide in Malin, India.