Man’s irresponsibility is the major cause of haze. Discuss.
As submitted for The Star NiE’s Earn Your Band 6 in September 2018.
India. Indonesia. China. Malaysia. These are just a few places on note which have hit the headlines year after year due to the nefarious nebula of dust particles, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide among its other components which are detrimental to our health – haze. In our national curriculum for Biology and Chemistry in upper secondary schools, textbook writers point fingers at mankind as the leading culprit of this heinous crime towards the environment. However, while I give my assent to the fact that man’s irresponsibility is the major cause of haze, it must be justified that there are other henchmen lurking in the shadows which have contributed greatly to this form of aerial pollution. Besides man’s irresponsibility in waste management and fuel emissions, Mother Nature itself has a part to play with its dry weather.
Man’s irresponsibility manifests itself in various forms, one which is in waste management. Improper waste management is one of the primary reasons which cause haze. In Saddleworth Moor, between Sheffield and Manchester, it was bonfires which caused such a ravenous fire that it took three weeks and more than 100 firefighters to put out the blaze. The smoke caused by the horrific flames were clearly visible on satellites, charting a high air pollutant level of 8 upon a scale of 10 in nearby counties, and a much higher rate in the moor itself. Closer to home, various palm oil companies in Indonesia order their workers to burn their palm oil plantations instead of felling them to save costs, causing the annual haze that looms over the Straits of Malacca, affecting not one but three countries including their own, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Ironically, despite numerous talks between the three countries, it took many years for the Indonesian government for concede to a stricter implementation on environmental protection laws in the country. Despite this, certain estates have not given up on their selfish ways, and their workers, out of habit and encouragement from superiors, continue this irresponsible matchstick-striking year after year. Although haze caused by this can be easily curbed by taking more environmentally-friendly measures to dispose of agricultural and domestic waste, man often choose to seek the easy way out by playing with fire. Fire, like words, is a double edged sword, but our materialistic money-makers see it as an economical device of disposal instead of a destructive weapon which kills not only the environment, but themselves as well. Sadly, they do not pay the price alone, instead inducing suffering and disruption all round.
In addition to this, man’s irresponsibility extends to fuel emissions in developing countries and developed countries. Fuel emissions come from various sources, such as factories gaseous emissions of sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide and vehicular emissions of the deadly carbon monoxide. Take for example India, where the traffic menace in densely populated cities such as Delhi play a big role in contributing to the hazardous smog, giving it the undesirable title of most polluted city in the world of 2018. In Beijing, China, heavy industrialisation causes its infamous smog every year, which was so intense that when the Beijing Olympics were held in 2008, drastic measures had to be taken by temporarily moving factories to the outskirts of the city to reduce the air pollution in the sporting arenas. Looking back in history, London’s signature pea-souper smog during the Industrial Revolution springs to mind, to the extent that it had become a staple feature of literature of the era, such as Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Man has to shoulder the blame for all these choking fumes, for their inventions of fuel-driven cars, plastic and other synthetic inventions of the last century did not come with solutions to balance the toil taken on the environment with the benefits they reaped from these conveniences. Today, with environmentalists cooking up solutions to filter and cleanse these fuel emissions, many still choose to do without them, an irresponsible choice for which they will suffer the consequences for later in life.
Apart from man’s irresponsibility in the aspects above, dry weather, uncontrollable by Man’s hands, play a significant part in inducing haze. The toxic combination of dry climates and intense temperatures lead to forest fires in California and bushfires throughout Australia naturally and annually. Australia is especially prone to bushfires due to its extensive eucalyptus plantations with high oil content, rendering them highly flammable hazards in the dry seasons. In the year 2018 alone, forest fires have accounted for 1 million acres of destruction in California alone, and the raging fires still burn are we speak, with the casualty counter rising rapidly. Needless to say such infernos cause enormous clouds of smoke as a direct result of burning, which result in looming haze days and weeks after the fires have been extinguished. To further illustrate the truth that man’s irresponsibility is not completely to blame, allow me to call to your attention the Paris Agreement 2015, a global pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which was signed by all countries save the United States of America. However, statisticians predicted that even if all signatories cooperated fully by reducing their carbon emissions by the pledged percentage, the global carbon footprint will only be reduced by 0.02% by the year 2020. Thus, man’s irresponsibility may be a major player in the contribution towards carbon footprint, but its effects no matter how huge are only a dent in the Earth’s shield, and there are greater forces at work.
In conclusion, man’s irresponsibility is indeed the major cause of haze, but nature’s dry spells playing into the field have to shoulder some blame as well. The government should take measures to enforce environmental preservation laws, as well as educate the general public on the damaging effects on haze, not simply through school children’s textbooks, but through age-transcending platforms such as mass media and public awareness campaigns. We as educated members of the public should also play an active role by making a change by installing fuel catalysers in our cars, and calling out acquaintances to make this small change to become more responsible towards the environment.