Imagine a house that has…maybe five bedrooms in it, a living room, kitchen, two bathrooms, and maybe a game room. Now let's say you and four of your friends move into that house. At first, you'd probably be living the life of luxury. Everyone has their own room, you can all hang out in the living room if you want, move to the game room if you're bored. You've got a pretty nice set-up. But what happens when more people want to move in? First they can throw sleeping bags down on the living room floor, and when more people come to move in, they can camp in the game room. But after a while, every time you want to go hang out in a different room, you'd be stepping over sleeping bodies and pushing other people's stuff around just to get around. And think of all the garbage that would pile up if people didn't clean up after themselves! I don't even want to think about the stinky bathrooms! Eventually, you would just run out of space. You'd all be too cramped to enjoy your little house, and there would be empty room for you to just get away from everyone else.
In a way, that's exactly what's happening to our planet. The world population has gotten so big that we're crowding the cities and making a great big mess of the place! More people means that the land gets more crowded, and we produce more waste and more garbage. The population is exploding so quickly that soon enough cities won't be able to accommodate everyone. It's just like we're running out of rooms in our house. So why can't we just make the cities bigger? Well, what happens when we try is a phenomenon called urban sprawl. This means that people are developing land outside of cities irresponsibly and inefficiently. One study showed that in the late 90s, we were developing land at twice the rate that the population was growing.
It seems like most people are saying, "Well, if the population keeps growing, let's keep on building!" But one way to stop this cycle is to slow population growth. We can do that by educating people around the world about birth control and responsible reproduction. Groups like Planned Parenthood do just this.
Another good solution is to create greenbelts, or areas that are designated as 'off limits' to builders. This means that no matter how big a city gets, there will be some nature nearby.
In the story of your imaginary house, you can see how important it would be to clean up your messes. It's just as important to clean up your messes in real life too. Think about it. Do you recycle your cans, bottles, and paper? Or just throw them away? Recycling is very important for a couple of reasons. One is that recycling paper means that we don't need to cut down more trees to make new paper. That keeps the air cleaner, and the land greener. Also, when you just throw things out, they add to the big ugly landfills that take up space, and can contaminate soil.
Another result of the growing population is something that you might only see if you live near a big city: traffic. More and more people mean more and more cars. We are dumping more exhaust into the air now than ever before. In January, the United Nations released a study proving that the toxins we've put into the air are dramatically affecting the global temperature. That means that we're changing the ecology of every plant and animal on the planet, and some organisms can't live through such severe temperature change.
So what can we do about it? Drive less. Take public transportation. A program in Seattle is challenging families to give up their second car, by reimbursing them for carpooling and taking the bus. You also might notice some futuristic-looking cars cruising around town. Some auto-makers have come up with electric cars, and hybrid cars that run on both gas and electricity. When cars run on electricity, they don't spit out all those gross fumes that fill the air and lead to the greenhouse effect.
So what is the real impact of the booming population? Well, here are some of the results:
I don't know about you, but I think this is a little freaky. You'd think that the U.S. government would be freaked out too, right? Well, get this: George W. Bush, your president, has just decided that he's not going to go along with something called the Kyoto Protocol. This is basically a treaty that many countries made to try to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air over the next few years. It was going to be great: an effort to improve the condition of the environment made by countries all over the world. Only George W. says he doesn't want to go along with it because China and India won't go along with it. Now, what I want to know is: When did America stop thinking for itself? When did we become a country that only does things if other people do them first? Our nation was founded on the idea that we would create something good, no matter what we were given. Our leaders used to be independent thinkers. We used to lead the world in environmental issues because we knew it was important to our well-being.
Now, George W. seems to think that it's just too much work, and it's not fair for us to make changes if other countries aren't doing it too. I, for one, think this is ridiculous and unacceptable.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take steps to make sure that America isn't represented as a country of people who don't care about the world's ecology. Write to George W. at The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also support Planned Parenthood, which takes steps to educate women all over the world about contraception and safe sex. Their web site is at:Planned Parenthood
This is something that just can't wait. Take action now. Get out there and save the world!
Stephanie - Your life is in danger if your neighbor is a toxic dump