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10 Startling Pictures of Environmental Devastation
By Robert Grimminck,
Toptenz, 4 July 2016.

At times, there are people who are against protecting the environment and a lot of times it’s for profit and progress. But this type of attitude is completely ridiculous, because the Earth is our home and until we master interstellar travel or figure out how to colonize or terra form Mars, it is the only home we have. We mean, would you live in a house or apartment where you can’t bathe because the tub is full of black water and garbage?

As a result of a lack of caring, and putting advancement and profits over protection and cleansing environment, there are some areas of the world that are shockingly devastated and may never bounce back.

10. Beijing, China


One thing that is pretty well-known about Beijing, China, is that the air quality can be terrible at times. But, exactly how bad is it? If the picture above isn’t enough of an indication, in 2013, the Chinese government initiated a “Red Alert” warning system that is to be used if the air quality gets too bad. On those days, people are encourage to stay indoors, the use of cars is severely limited, and outdoor construction is stopped. It was used for the first time in 2015, when there were several days in a row when the air quality was that poor.

When it gets to the point where people can’t go outside because the pollution is too thick, how is that any different than the world of Blade Runner?

9. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill


On April 20, 2010, there was an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The explosion caused the rig to sink, leading to the deaths of 11 people. A further 17 people were hurt. The explosion was also the start of the biggest oil spill in American history. Over the next 87 days an estimated equivalent of 3.19 million barrels of oil was dumped into the Gulf, covering 1,313 miles of coastline. In the picture above, you can see just some of the oil that was spilled out.

The cause of the explosion was that a pipe owned by the oil company BP was leaking 42 miles away from the rig. Although the pipe was being monitored on video, proper precautions were not taken in time. As a result, BP agreed to pay a US$20.8 billion settlement.

8. The Pacific Garbage Patch


How we felt when we found out that there is an island of garbage in the ocean is exactly what that Jean-Luc Picard face palm meme is portraying. Yes, things have gotten so bad that there are now islands made of garbage. How far off are we from the Earth depicted in Wall-E?

Myths that surround the patch suggest that it’s the size of Texas, if not bigger. However, officials say that it’s not one big patch, and that the name is a bit misleading. Instead, it is multiple small patches - because that is so much better, right? Also, there are two different patches. One is the Western Garbage Patch, which is near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, which is between Hawaii and California.

The garbage islands are a result of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which is made up of four currents that move in a clockwise direction. The center of the gyre is stable, so the currents around it push debris into the center, creating the garbage patches. As for where it comes from, 80% is from land-based activities in North America and Asia.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the patches is that a lot of the damage can’t even be seen with the naked eye. That’s because something called microplastic makes up most of the patches. Also, they found that 70% of the debris sinks, meaning there is plenty more garbage even below the plastic you can see, and the microplastic, which you can’t see.

7. India Water Pollution


This child is swimming in one of the bodies of water in India. Clearly, the water is dirty because the child is swimming near floating debris. Sadly, the water is much dirtier than just some debris. About 80 percent of all the sewage in India is dumped back into the rivers, completely untreated. The problem is widespread, too. Out of 8,000 towns, only 160 had sewer systems and sewer treatment plants. And you’re probably thinking, geez, India’s got a lot of people, how much sewage is going into the water? According to a study from 2011, 40 billion liters of sewage is dumped into the rivers every single day. Compounding the problem is that India has very lax, sometimes non-existent environmental laws, so pollution from factories is also dumped into the water.

Of course, this is a massive problem because these are the same rivers that millions of people get their drinking water from. Also, during some festivals across the country, people bathe in the rivers. So they are not only bathing in water full of sewage, but all of those people somehow manage to make the water even dirtier.

Experts think, because of the astonishing levels of water pollution, India is a ticking time bomb for an environmental disaster.

6. The World’s Biggest Tire Pile


Near Kuwait City, Kuwait, is the largest tire landfill in the world. In fact, it’s so big that it is also one of the largest landfills of any kind in the world. Four companies are responsible for dumping the seven million tires there, and the graveyard continues to grow. It is so big that it can be seen from space.

Of course, one concern is fires. If there is any place that one shouldn’t start, it’s a tire graveyard, right? Well, the problem is that tire piles tend to cause of a buildup of methane gas, so fires are actually a pretty common in tire yards like this one. Pretty soon, they’ll have one that puts the fire in Springfield to shame.

5. The Al-Mishraq Sulfur Fire


The Al-Mishraq Sulfur State Company was a sulfur plant that was located in Iraq. On June 24, 2003, a fire broke out at the plant. It’s unclear if it was an act of sabotage or merely a tragic accident. Nevertheless, it was utterly devastating to the environment.

On average, the fire produced about 21,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day. Just for some perspective, that is about half of America’s daily emissions from gas. The fire lasted for a month, and by the end, it put more poisonous sulfur dioxide into the ecosystem than most volcanic eruptions.

4. Chaohu Lake, China


This photo was taken at Chaohu Lake, which is China’s fifth largest fresh water lake and also one of the most polluted lakes in the world.

The water looks like neon paint because of an incredibly dangerous alga, which is a result of increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage that is dumped into the lake. The algae are dangerous because it sucks oxygen out of the water, killing a lot of the lake’s fish in the process. This is a huge problem because the fish population has dwindled, but the human population in the area is growing, and fish is what feeds many of those people.

Currently, Chinese officials are making efforts to try prevent further damage to the lake, and they are hoping to reverse some of the devastation.

3. Borneo Pygmy Elephants


Pygmy elephants are smaller and gentler than their cousins, the Asian Elephant. They are distinctive simply because of how cute they are. Although they are on the smaller side for elephants, they have oversized ears and pot bellies. They also have “baby faces.” It is rumored that they are the leftover remnants of a herd of domesticated elephants that was given to the Sultan of Sulu in the 17th century. They are also endangered; the World Wildlife Foundation believes there are fewer than 1,500 left.

What makes this picture of a three-month old baby trying to rouse his dead mother even more tragic is that it wasn’t just one elephant that died. This was one of 14 pygmy elephants that were killed in January 2013 in a Malaysian forest over the span of three weeks. That is nearly one percent of the whole population.

The cause of death was most likely poisoning, but it’s unclear if it was the result of pollution or if it was purposeful. While they may be cute, they are considered pests by workers who harvest palm oil. There is evidence that, as early as 2009, workers were leaving out poison for them.

Whether it was deliberate or not, it is still a tragedy that these majestic creatures had to die because of human recklessness.

2. The Aral Sea


Immediately, you may be thinking: that is a really stupid place to put a boat that size. Well, we did anyway. But, of course, the reason the boat is there, on the cracked, dried ground, is because the sea it once floated in is nearly gone. The Aral Sea is located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

At one time, the Aral Sea, which is actually a lake, was once the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world. At its peak, it had a surface area of 26,000 square miles. For years, towns populated the shore where a muskrat pelt industry thrived and at one time, one-sixth of the fish that fed the Soviet Union came from that lake.

The damage started in the 1950s, when two of the area’s major rivers that fed into the lake were diverted for irrigation for cotton production by the Soviet government. Between 1960 and 1996, the sea levels dropped 52 feet. In 2014, for the first time in 600 years, the Aral’s basin was dry.

1. Peanut the Turtle


Sometime in the 1980s, Peanut, a baby red-eared slider turtle, was swimming in a river in Missouri and became entangled in the ring of a six pack holder. As she grew, the ring didn’t allow Peanut’s shell to grow properly, and instead of a dome, her shell was in the shape of an hour glass. Or, as her named would indicate…a peanut shell. This left Peanut vulnerable, because a turtle’s ability to hide inside its shells is its main defense. Luckily for Peanut, someone found her and cut off the ring.

Amazingly, peanut is still alive. She is used by the Missouri Department of Conservation as a symbol for why people shouldn’t litter, and is the mascot of their No More Trash campaign.

While it may have worked out for Peanut in the end, it very well could have gone differently. She is a stark reminder of how a second of laziness and mindlessness can have devastating effects on other innocent living things.

Top image: Pollution in Shanghai, China. Credit: leniners/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]