Environmental Risks: Opposing Views

Introduction

Three articles provided points for discussion, focusing on environmental risks and the opposing views of the three authors. The identified risks are industries and manufacturing plants, agriculture activities and the use of fertilizers and insecticides, solid waste from households, hazardous waste in landfills, gas emission from transportation, migration, and noise in the city. The purpose of this essay is to provide an analysis of the three articles, focusing on the environmental risks and the risk perceptions of the authors.

Summaries of the articles

Pollution (Opposing viewpoints in context, 2012)

The first article is about pollution, its causes, and its effects. Factories, industries, and various modes of transportation release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Pollution is a major cause of lung diseases. Most people know the causes of pollution and its effects like haze and smog, but they ignore it and continue to be an instrument of this man-made environmental problem. Other harmful chemicals destroy vegetation and damage the earth’s ozone layer, our only protection from extreme ultra-violet rays of the sun. Pollution is one of the primary contributors to global warming since greenhouse gases (GHG), such as carbon dioxide and methane, are stored in the earth’s atmosphere. As the earth’s temperature rises, sea temperature also reacts and the polar ice caps in the Antarctic melt causing ocean levels to rise.

Air pollutants are produced and stored in the atmosphere. In the U.S. atmosphere, there are approximately 160 million tons of toxic chemicals that affect air quality. To control pollution, the U.S. government has formed the Environmental Protection Agency to administer and enforce environmental laws and rebuild the environmental damage (Opposing viewpoints in context, 2012).

Climate change (Opposing viewpoints in context, 2013)

The second article is about climate change and its emphasis on prevention. There is only one countermeasure introduced in this article, which is the practice of green consumerism, or the buying of green products to protect the environment. Businesses and small organizations have recommended to consumers to buy eco-friendly products, organic food, and “sustainable building materials” (Opposing viewpoints in context, 2013, para. 1). Larger organizations take their share by manufacturing green products.

Buying “green” products can help in reducing climate change but there are consumers who do not support it because they do not know the relation between green products and environmental preservation. For example, approximately 80,000 chemicals of various types, mostly toxin, mix with the atmosphere and are inhaled by humans and other living things. Knowledge of this relevant information can motivate consumers to start buying green products.

Critics of green consumerism argue that buying green is not enough to alter climate change because this will continue if yearly emissions are not drastically reduced at least by half by the year 2050. Critics also argue that consumerism can even encourage buying not environment-friendly materials. A study conducted in 2010 found that although exposure to eco-friendly products had a positive effect on consumers, the participants tended to lie and steal than consumers who preferred other products (Opposing viewpoints in context, 2013). Green shoppers tended to buy more, thinking that they had switched to eco-friendly products, rather than control their impulse to purchase more products.

Can PlaNYC make New York City “greener and greater” for everyone?: Sustainability planning and the promise of environmental justice (Rosan, 2012)

This last article focuses on urban sustainability and provides a framework for industrial cities to become greener. PlaNYC was conceived by city planners to formulate New York’s sustainability plan. Most specifically, it focused on environmental justice (EJ). EJ refers to communities where the poor and people of color live and have to bear the environmental risks due to government neglect. The article recommends that by focusing on the disenfranchised communities, environmental conditions can be improved (Sze, 2007 as cited in Rosan, 2012, p. 961).

Cities with programs on sustainability “use the framework of the three Es of sustainability: equity, economy, and environment”. PlaNYC aims to eliminate discrimination and environmental injustices, as experienced by people of color and low-income communities.

Comparison and contrast of the risk perceptions

The article on pollution identifies various environmental risks but it also describes the causes and effects of pollution. Industrial plants produce carbon dioxide while some irresponsibly discharge their industrial waste through streams and bodies of water. Fertilizers and insecticides for agricultural processes are pollutants when carried and mixed with water. Local solid waste from households and businesses also contribute to pollution. Hazardous wastes are deposited in landfills, which is not safe and can cause environmental degradation. Population, urbanization, automobile emissions, and noise in the city are all risk factors for pollution.

The climate change article focused on consumer risk behavior, i.e. consumer actions become a risk if they buy products considered an environmental risk. When consumers do not know what green products are, it becomes a risk. Consumers should know the relation between what products they purchase and the damage it can do to the environment. Products contain industrial chemicals and many are considered toxic. This becomes a risk if consumers continuously buy them; more so, if they buy more than what they need. What consumers do affect the environment, one way or another, but environmentalists recommend that consumers should make changes in their buying behavior in favor of sustainable products.

Environmental risks mentioned in the third article are about economic development and the growth of cities. These factors become risks if they are not sustainable. PlaNYC is a framework for sustainable development to reduce risks. Disenfranchised communities, which are subject to environmental justice, become risks when they are abandoned and not included in the city environmental planning.

The articles have different concepts of environmental risks. The first one focused on the causes, the second article emphasized the effects, and the third one was more on prevention. The cause and the effect are sometimes interchanged.

Environmental stressors

Environmental stressors mentioned in the articles include smog or haze which harm human health and cause respiratory illnesses. The components of smog, like sulfur oxide and nitrogen, travel in the high atmosphere and can become a part of acid rain that attack the environment. Other stressors include air quality, noise in the city, and environmental injustice. Environmental injustice is the result of misalignment in city planning where attention is given to “favored groups”.

My perception of the risks

Almost everything we do involves environmental risks. Buying more than what we need is a risk. The article on “Climate change” which focused on green consumerism is a wake-up call for me. It is a wake-up call because what we buy affects the environment. However, the article contradicts itself by arguing that green consumerism can even create a negative influence on consumers by encouraging them to be unethical (Opposing viewpoints in context, 2013, para. 5). Of course, this contention has got to be explained further by providing more examples in the literature that was examined. Green consumerism enhances the value and meaning of the product. The material goods we buy are like indicators that define our values and social status (Harrison, 2006, p. 398). When we buy green products, we define our culture and values.

Conclusion

This essay provided a comparison and contrast of three articles which were all about the environment and the risks involved. The articles provided risk perceptions and stressors which were properly analyzed. The last part of the essay concluded with our risk perception in the context of the three articles. Our analysis is that all of our actions tend to affect environmental risks. We should be responsible for what will happen and be ready to provide change.

References

Harrison, B. (2006). Shopping to save: Green consumerism and the struggle for northern Maine. Cultural Geographies, 13(1), 395-420.

Opposing viewpoints in context: Climate change. (2013). Web.

Opposing viewpoints in context: Pollution. (2012). Web.

Rosan, C. (2012). Can PlaNYC make New York City “greener and greater” for everyone?: Sustainability planning and the promise of environmental justice. Local Environment, 17(9), 959-976.