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21st

Century
Skills Library

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES

P

Robert Green

Cherry Lake Publishing


A n n A r b o r, M i c h i g a n
Published in the United States of America by Cherry Lake Publishing
Ann Arbor, Michigan
www.cherrylakepublishing.com

Content Adviser: Zoë Chafe, Research Associate, Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC

Photo Credits: Cover and page 1, © iStockphoto.com/narvikk; page 4, © Zhu Difeng,


used under license from Shutterstock, Inc.; page 6, © Maksym Gorpenyuk, used under
license from Shutterstock, Inc.; page 8, © Mark Winfrey, used under license from
Shutterstock, Inc.; page 10, © iStockphoto.com/mg7; page 11, © Iain Masterton/Alamy;
page 13, © Photo Network/Alamy; page 15, © iStockphoto.com/toddmedia; page 18,
© Martin Harvey/Alamy; page 20, © Orientaly, used under license from Shutterstock,
Inc.; page 22, © Visions of America LLC/Alamy; page 24, © Cary Kalscheuer, used under
license from Shutterstock, Inc.; page 27, © CAN BALCIOGLU, used under license from
Shutterstock, Inc.

Map by XNR Productions Inc.

Copyright ©2008 by Cherry Lake Publishing


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any
means without written permission from the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Green, Robert, 1969–
Pollution / by Robert Green.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-1-60279-130-5
ISBN-10: 1-60279-130-9
1. Pollution—Juvenile literature. I. Title.
TD176.G746 2008
363.73—dc22 2007034519

Cherry Lake Publishing would like to acknowledge the work of


The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
Please visit www.21stcenturyskills.org for more information.
T 
 C


C H A P T E R O N E

What the Waters Tell Us 4

C H A P T E R T W O

Humans and Their Environment 8

C H A P T E R T H R E E

Keeping an Eye on Pollution 13

C H A P T E R F O U R

A Global Risk 18

C H A P T E R F I V E

Attacking the Problem 22

Map 28

Glossar y 30

For More Information 31

Index 32

About the Author 32


CHAPTER ONE

W  
W
 T
 U

Pollution has turned the water of many of the world’s rivers brown.

4 21st CENTURY SKILLS LIBRARY


A fter a long plane trip from China, young Helen Yu gazed at the waters
of the Aare River, which runs through the Swiss town of Interlaken.
“I just can’t believe how clear the water is,” said Helen, dipping a
hand into the cool river that carried the melting snows down from the
mountains surrounding the resort town.
“But China has many rivers like this one, doesn’t it?” asked Marie
Pepin, a student from Canada who met Helen near the banks of the Aare.
“Oh, yes,” said Helen, “but where I am from, they are never as clear
as this! You see, I am from a city called Linfen in the Shanxi Province
of China. In Linfen, factories burn coal to produce energy for China’s
growing economy. But the pollution from these factories turns the rivers
a murky brown. Even the air is filled with tiny bits of coal dust, making it
hard to breathe.”
Helen and Marie had come to Interlaken to take part in the
International Global Issues Summit. The summit was a meeting of
students from around the world to address problems that affect all of us.
They were both in a working group that would study pollution.
Helen and Marie were not complete strangers. They had been sharing
their research on pollution and information about their countries via e-mail.
They had already discovered that pollution resulted from economic activity.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 5


LLL
Humans have always
changed the environment
around them. People cut down
forests to plant crops and
build towns, they dam rivers
to generate electricity, and
they burn oil and coal to run
factories. All of this activity
creates jobs and allows us to
make the things we need. But it
also creates pollution.
Smoke floating out of a
The smoke that comes out of
factory smokestack is a type factory smokestacks contributes
of pollution. It contains to pollution in the air.

pollutants, or waste products,


that can make the air harmful to breathe. These pollutants can combine
with water in the atmosphere to cause acid rain, which can hurt the
environment. Factories also release pollutants into streams. These harmful
substances can get into the ground, polluting an area of soil or the water
beneath the soil.

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LLL
“In Linfen,” said Helen, “it is a shame, 21Century
st

but right now we rely on electricity Content


produced from burning coal. We do this European leaders often criticize the
United States, saying it creates a lot of
so China can become a rich nation. It is a pollution and does not work with other
matter of survival.” countries to solve pollution problems.
Leaders in the United States point out
“Yes,” said Marie, “this is also the that U.S. laws have reduced local
argument made by governments in the air pollution to levels below those in
Europe. European and U.S. leaders
West. But how do we reduce pollution while worry about pollution levels in the
still achieving economic growth? We must rapidly developing countries of China
and India. In 2007, China was
think of our long-term survival as well expected to surpass the United States in
as our short-term economic growth. Our carbon dioxide emissions.
It is important to remember that
leaders must look at the solutions that are government leaders do what they
available. They must plan for sustainable believe is best to improve life for their
citizens. When you read reports about
development. They must balance the one country or another, it is important to
development of the country’s economy with remember that they are always written
from someone’s point of view.
protection of the environment.”

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 7


CHAPTER TWO

H  T

E


Many factories release wastewater into lakes, rivers, and streams.

“M y grandfather always tells me about when he was a kid, and the


waters of the rivers in Shanxi Province were much cleaner and clearer,”
said Helen. “But China is growing so fast that factories are springing up
everywhere. Everything is changing.”

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“Yes,” said Marie, “humans are the only creatures on Earth that cause
such big changes to the natural environment.”
“But why did humans create so much industry?” asked Helen.
At this point, a young man named Thomas Brudenell straightened
his tie and began to tell them about the Industrial Revolution in his own
country, England. “The marvels of industry,” he began, “started with
innovation. New techniques to forge metals, weave cloth, and build
machines were created. By the mid-19th century, England was a beehive of
industrial activity. But it was also becoming very polluted. Buildings were
actually turning black from all the pollution!”
LLL
No one doubts the economic benefits of industry. Human life would
be very different if we did not have machines to assist us. There would be
no worldwide travel by airplane, no quick trips to the grocery store in a
car, and none of the plastic objects we use every day. The problem is that
industry creates pollution.
There are three main types of pollution created by industry—air,
ground, and water pollution. One source of these types of pollution can
be found in the type of energy we use. To create energy, which powers
everything from machines to the lights we use in our houses, we often
burn fossil fuels. These fuels include coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 9


Fossils are the remains of plants and animals that were alive long ago.

They are called fossil fuels because they are created from the remains, or
fossils, of once-living things. Buried deep underground and under great
pressure for millions of years, the remains slowly turn into fossil fuels such
as coal and oil.

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When fossil
fuels are burned,
they release into
the air harmful
substances such as
carbon monoxide,
sulfur dioxide,
and nitrous oxide.
These chemical
substances can
be found in the
smoke that rises
from factory
chimneys and in Smog fills the air over a crowded
highway in Beijing, China.
the exhaust from
cars and trucks.
In Britain during the Industrial Revolution, the buildings turned black
because of the smog caused by burning coal. The same thing is happening
today in Linfen, China, and in other places. This kind of air pollution
causes breathing problems and other illnesses in people living in these
polluted areas.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 11


Burning fossil fuels also pollutes the water and
earning
soil. This is because the pollutants often fall back
I &
nnovation
Skills to Earth as tiny particles or in the form of acid
We can fly through the air, rain. Acid rain is caused when chemicals released
travel at great speeds on the
road, and enjoy light during the from industry are carried back to Earth in the
night by using electric bulbs. form of rain, snow, or dew. The chemicals in
Many of these inventions,
however, create pollution. the moisture affect the acid levels of the soil and
Today, people are trying to the water. When acid levels rise, the ground can
create new inventions that do
not produce as much pollution. become unsuitable for growing crops. Fish and
Innovation is already helping other aquatic life can die because of the change in
us solve the global problem of
pollution. Giant windmills use their water habitats caused by acid rain.
the power of the wind to create Industrial innovation has significantly
electricity, and solar panels
use the sun’s energy to create changed life on Earth in other ways. For example,
heat and power homes or new chemical processes were used to create
factories. Compact fluorescent
lightbulbs, which use less plastics. People use plastics for everything
energy, are replacing outdated from computers to dishes. Plastics are durable,
ones. Can you think of some
other products that help inexpensive, and lightweight. These are all
reduce pollution? benefits. But the use of chemicals to create plastics
can harm the environment. When plastics are
thrown away, chemicals are released into the
ground and water.

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CHAPTER THREE

  E
 P

Many plastic items can be recycled. This helps


keep chemicals out of the soil and water.

“Y ou might ask,” said Thomas, “why we allow polluting to go on day in


and day out.”
“Exactly,” said Marie. “Why don’t we just make companies stop
polluting the environment that we live in?”

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 13


“But how would we light our houses, get from place to place, and make
the many things that we need, if we were told to stop polluting?”
asked Helen.
Helen was worried about the pollution in China. She knew that
buying and selling products led to the pollution. But she also realized
that these products made people’s lives better in many ways. In other
words, pollution is caused by industry, but industry is necessary
for economic growth. She wondered how people could solve such a
complicated problem.
LLL
The United States produces a lot of pollution, almost as much as
China. It also has a lot of industrial activity and a strong economy. But all
of the lights and air conditioners turned on while people work in offices
cause pollution. All of the trucks that transport goods from factories to
stores cause pollution. And industries, such as the chemicals industry and
the mining industry, also affect the natural environment.
We can look at a country’s economy to understand its pollution. The
United States, like so many other countries, is a capitalist country. This
means that businesses are run by citizens, and their goal is to make money
by creating and selling things. Their desire to make money leads them to
start businesses and build factories. The businesses and factories create

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The lights, air conditioners, and computers used in stores,
offices, and homes all use electricity and cause pollution.

jobs and useful products. They often produce pollution, too. Who should
watch over these companies to make sure that they are not dumping
chemicals in rivers or releasing toxic substances into the air?

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 15


The answer is the government. Because the primary goal of
businesses is to make money, they do not always worry about long-
term environmental consequences. So the U.S. government regulates
these industries by setting acceptable limits for air and water pollution.
Regulation is a form of government control. The government gives
guidelines to the companies and checks to make sure they are meeting the
environmental standards in those guidelines.
Government regulation is needed to make sure companies don’t
create too much pollution. In the United States, there is even a part of the
government that focuses on protecting the environment and reducing
pollution. This is the Environmental Protection Agency.
In countries around the world, there are similar agencies that help
reduce pollution through government regulation. But in countries where
industry is newer and expanding quickly, governments will sometimes
allow more pollution as a trade-off for rapid growth. The United States,
Europe, and Japan, for example, are often called developed countries,
because their industries are very advanced. Nations such as China and
India are called developing nations because they are still in the process
of industrializing.
This is an important distinction. In industrially advanced countries,
there tends to be more of an effort to reduce pollution (though those

16 21st CENTURY SKILLS LIBRARY


countries still create a lot of waste). Developing
ife
countries tend to allow more pollution because
they are eager to build industries quickly. In the C &
areer
Skills

Being able to work with


19th century, the same thing was true in the
other people and understand
United States and Europe. More pollution was and respect many different
viewpoints are important skills for
tolerated because of the desire to build industries
everyone—especially for people
and develop quickly. But today, pollution who want to be elected officials.
Being a senator, congressperson,
doesn’t have to be tolerated. Technology is
or other elected official is not an
making it possible for industries to operate easy job. Citizens have many
different opinions about topics
cleaner factories.
like pollution. Some people
The nations of the world are trying to want job growth or policies that
favor industry but might lead
cooperate on an international level. They are
to increased pollution. Others
trying to set pollution standards for all countries want to reduce pollution and
use government funds to find
but also take into account their different levels of
alternative sources of energy.
industry. Because pollution affects people around Government leaders have
an important role in trying to
the world, the effort must be a global one. And it
balance all of these wants and
is growing more important every day. needs to reach solutions.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 17


CHAPTER FOUR

A G  R 

If the underground water that supplies a well becomes


polluted, the people who drink its water can become sick.

“O ne thing that people in Shanxi Province are especially upset about,”


said Helen, “is that they cannot control the pollution that fills our air and
water. Rivers carry the pollution from one place to another, affecting a
much larger area than just the site of the factories.”

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“The same thing happens all over the world,” said Marie, “and that
is why it is a problem for us all. Rivers can carry pollution between one
country and another, and air pollutants can affect people far from the
actual source of the pollution.”
LLL
Polluted air does not respect the political boundaries that humans
make. It can drift from town to town, from state to state, and from country
to country. Like the air, water does not pay any attention to human
boundaries. If an oil tanker, a ship that carries oil across the seas, spills oil
into the sea, it affects people living along the coasts nearby, no matter who
was responsible.
Even water found under the earth can be polluted by one group of
people and cause health problems for another group. Underground water
is tapped from aquifers, or layers inside Earth where water has gathered.
If pollutants seep into the ground and down to an aquifer, then the
water supply can be polluted. People who drink water taken from wells
in the aquifer might become sick for years after the pollution entered
the wells.
Water pollution doesn’t only affect human beings. In the United States,
for example, a gold mine in the state of Colorado released chemicals into
the Alamosa River while the gold was being mined. As the river became

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 19


Chemical pesticides that are sprayed on crops can be
carried to rivers and streams in rainwater runoff.

more and more polluted, the fish in the river died. The polluted water
from the Alamosa River was also used to irrigate crops at local
farms. Pollution from just one industrial site can cause a variety of
environmental problems.

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The same thing is happening all over the world.
earning
In some cases, pollution slowly changes the natural
environment and slowly erodes the health of plants, I &
nnovation
Skills

animals, and humans. It can stay in the environment Understanding pollution


and reducing the harm
for years. In other cases, it causes immediate health humans cause to the
problems for people. natural environment
require many different
One particularly bad disaster happened in skills and a lot of
Bhopal, India, in 1984. A chemical plant that made creative thinking. Some
architects are designing
pesticides leaked a poisonous chemical gas into buildings with green
the air. The leak caused the deaths of thousands of roofs. These roofs
are partially or totally
people. Many more people developed long-term covered with soil and
health problems. The chemicals made at the plant plants. Green roofs help
keep buildings cool,
were sold to farmers to help prevent the destruction reduce the amount of
of crops from bugs and diseases. Pesticides can help energy used by the
building’s residents, and
us have more food to eat, but the chemicals are provide a habitat for
dangerous. They can have negative effects on other other living things.

parts of the environment. Humans must balance


the benefits of these helpful chemicals with the
potential dangers.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 21


CHAPTER FIVE

A 
P 


A group of environmental volunteers helps clean up a river in California.

“W e must find ways to reduce environmental damage even as we


continue to make the things we need,” said Thomas, thinking of the
terrible effects of pollution.

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“The bright spot in this story,” said Marie, “is that there is so much
we can do to help. People all over the world are solving the problem of
pollution in all sorts of ways.”
“Do you mean like the legislation passed by the U.S. Congress?” asked
Thomas.
“Yes, but people are helping in many other ways, too,” said Marie.
LLL
By the 1970s, many people in the United States had become very
concerned about pollution. They started to organize cleanups of polluted
areas and held protests against polluters. This was the beginning of the
modern environmental movement.
It is known as a grassroots movement, because regular people in local
communities organized it. Concerned citizens began to change the course
of public policy. Instead of the government leading the way, regular people
pressured the government to act. This is often called activism.
The environmental movement made people aware of the issues. Over
time, many people realized that manufacturing the products we use every
day causes pollution. They woke up to the fact that all of the things we
throw away have to go somewhere. They began thinking about all of the
waste dumped in landfills and burned in incinerators. They realized that
waste disposal often releases harmful pollutants into the environment.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 23


Many communities have recycling programs.

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People concerned about pollution soon discovered that many products
could be reused or recycled into new products. Empty glass bottles can
be turned into new glass bottles. All kinds of paper products can be
recycled into new paper. Even plastics can be recycled and used again.
Recycling is now common in many parts of the world. People sort their
waste before they throw it out, so that it can be directed to different
recycling plants.
As the people who buy things, or consumers, became more concerned
about the environment, companies began to respond. If products are
made from recycled goods, many companies now label those products
to let consumers know. Aware of the long-term costs of polluting, some
companies are making more environmentally friendly products. Some
cars today can run on a mix of fuels, including fuels made from corn and
sugarcane, called biofuels. These fuels can reduce the amount of pollutants
released from burning fossil fuels, like gasoline.
LLL
“Instead of making new things from scratch,” Marie continued, “we
can use old things again. But there are many more things that we can do
to help. When we use energy, we create pollutants. So we can use energy-
saving lightbulbs and drive our cars less often. We can also use less air-
conditioning. And, of course, we can buy recycled products.”

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 25


“So,” said Thomas, “we can help
earning
control pollution everywhere, just
I &
nnovation
Skills as we did in England, to reduce the
Many products are labeled as environmentally harm to the environment caused by
friendly. But what does that really mean? If
you think it means that they don’t produce any rapid industrial growth.”
pollution, you may be wrong. For example, a After a week in Switzerland,
car that gets better fuel mileage can travel farther
on a tank of gas. It creates less pollution than Helen was beginning to feel a
a car that gets worse gas mileage. But neither little homesick. She missed her
car is really good for the environment. Both cars
create pollution when they are driven—one just family and her hometown. “But
creates less pollution than the other. Walking now I know,” she said, “about the
and biking are more environmentally friendly
ways to travel. It is important to think about what many different ways we can reduce
products do and how they are made. You can pollution. I can’t wait to help reduce
then decide for yourself if they are friendly to the
environment or not. pollution a little faster.”

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Riding a bicycle to school or work is one way to reduce pollution.

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 27


G 

ACIDRAIN!33 ID2!9. moisture that falls to the ground, such as rain, snow, and sleet,
which contains high levels of acidity caused by chemical pollution in the air

ACTIVISM!+ TIH VIH ZUHM public action, such as protests or rallies, taken by individuals
to change or guide public policy and influence the government

AQUIFERS!+ WUH FURZ layers inside Earth that contain water

EMISSIONSE -)( SHUNZ substances that are released into the air

FORGE&/2* to form something out of metal by heating and hammering it into shape

INNOVATIONIN UH 6!9 SHUHN the creation of new methods or new things

PESTICIDES0%33 TUH SYDZ chemicals used to kill bugs, fungi, or harmful plants; used in
agriculture to protect crops as they grow

POLLUTANTSPUH ,// TUHNTS harmful substances released into the natural environment

PUBLICPOLICY05(" LIK0/, UH SEE the basic policy that guides the formation of laws

REGULATIONREG YUH ,!9 SHUHN the monitoring, controlling, and governing of certain
activities, such as those by industries that affect the environment

SMOG3-/' a combination of polluted air and fog, which creates a hazy sky

SUMMIT35(- IT a meeting of high-level leaders from different nations that addresses


an international concern

SUSTAINABLEDEVELOPMENTSUH 34!9. UH BUHLDI 6%( LUP MUHNT economic activity


that can be carried out over a long period of time without harming the environment

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F M
I 

Books

Dorion, Christiane. Earth’s Garbage Crisis. Milwaukee,


WI: World Almanac Library, 2007.

Llewellyn, Claire. Fight Air Pollution. North Mankato, MN: Chrysalis Education, 2003.

Parks, Peggy J. Water Pollution. Detroit: KidHaven Press, 2007.

Web Sites

Do Something—Recycling Facts
www.dosomething.org/tipsheet/recycling_facts
Get the facts about pollution and the environment

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Kids Club


www.epa.gov/kids
Learn about the preventive measures the EPA is taking to ensure our world stays clean

Pollution: A Guide for Kids by Tiki the Penguin


tiki.oneworld.net/pollution/pollution_home.html
Learn more about the threat of pollution in your world

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES: P 31


I

Aare River, 5 England, 9, 11, 26 natural gas, 9
acid rain, 6, 12 Environmental Protection Agency, nitrous oxide, 11
activism, 23 16
air pollution, 9, 11, 15, 16, Europe, 7, 16, 17 oil, 6, 9, 10, 19
19, 23, 26
Alamosa River, 19–20 factories. See industries. pesticides, 21
aquatic life, 12, 20 farming, 20, 21 plastics, 12
aquifers, 19 forests, 6 pollutants, 6, 12, 19, 23, 25
architecture, 21 fossil fuels, 9–12, 25
automobiles, 11, 14, 25, 26 recycling, 25
gasoline, 9, 25, 26 regulations, 16
Bhopal, India, 21 governments, 7, 16, 17, 23 rivers, 5, 6, 8, 15, 18, 19–20
biofuels, 25 grassroots movements, 23
ground pollution, 6, 9, 12, 23 soil pollution. See ground
capitalism, 14 pollution.
carbon monoxide, 7, 11 India, 7, 16, 21 solar energy, 12
chemicals, 11, 12, Industrial Revolution, 9, 11 sulfur dioxide, 11
14, 15, 19–20, 21 industries, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, sustainable development, 7
China, 5, 7, 8, 11, 14, 16, 18 14–15, 16, 17, 23
coal, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 inventions, 12 United States, 7, 14, 16, 17,
19–20, 23
dams, 6 Japan, 16
developed countries, 16–17 jobs, 6, 14, 17 water pollution,
developing countries, 16, 17 9, 12, 15, 16, 18–19,
laws, 7 19–20
economy, 5, 7, 14, 17 windmills, 12
elected officials, 17 mining, 14, 19–20
electricity, 7, 12

A  
A 
2OBERT'REEN has written more than 30 books for students. He is a regular contributor to
publications on East Asia by the Economist Intelligence Unit and holds graduate degrees
from New York University and Harvard University.

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