March 26, 2022

The Cost of Keeping Up with Trends

. The Cost of Keeping Up with Trends: Your Fast Fashion Addiction Has Polluted Nearly Half of China’s Rivers

It has been years since many Chinese residents have seen the natural color of a river or lake. With about 28% of companies worldwide outsourcing their industrial production overseas to China, it is no wonder that Chinese waterways have become a global dumpsite. Lacking the infrastructure to treat the obscene amounts of toxic wastewater produced from millions of factories each day, China’s vital natural resource is facing the brunt of Western fashion trends.


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The fast fashion industry’s 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater contaminates approximately 70% of the rivers and lakes in China
The Textile Industry’s Hidden Secret

China is currently the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of textiles, producing over half of the world’s clothing. In the U.S. alone, China’s textile industry accounts for more than 40% of all the clothes sold in the country. The low factory wages and vast production capacity has been seducing fast fashion brands into higher profit margins—but at what cost? Across all its industries, textile manufacturing is by far the most damaging pollutant to water in China as we know it today. Chemical compounds used in textile production, such as fungicides, pesticides, dyes, and metals, are some of the toxic elements that cause serious freshwater contamination. Because of the cheap production of fast fashion, most of this clothing is low-quality and meant to last a short amount of time, ensuring more waste, production, and pollution.


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Three of China’s biggest rivers, Pearl, Yellow, and the Yangtze, are too contaminated for human contact
How Fast Fashion Impacts the Chinese Population and the Planet 

Approximately 5.3 billion kg of contaminants are released into China’s seas daily. Over time, this assault on China’s waterways has left residents with a host of issues, from water shortages to terminal illnesses. One of the most jarring impacts of China’s polluted waterways are the “cancer villages”, where rates of cancer have grown drastically due to pollution. More than 100 cancer villages have been identified along the Huai River, many with a death rate 30 % higher than the country’s average. Eventually, the toxic water from China’s rivers and lakes also leeches into the oceans. Industrial runoff is responsible for deteriorating aquatic ecosystems, putting species at risk of extinction, and interfering with algae production, which produces a large part of the world’s oxygen. Despite our distance from these contaminated landscapes, every time we purchase a fast fashion item, we are directly contributing to habitat loss and terminal illness.

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Buying one less pair of jeans each year can save up to 10,000 gallons of water from being contaminated

While we may not have control over the exploitative and destructive practices of the fast fashion industry, or the environmental regulations overseas, we do have the power of individual choice. Social media and fashion marketing tactics are designed to keep us craving the new seasonal trends and always having a new outfit to wear. If we don’t fundamentally shift the way we think about clothes and fashion in general, China is on its way to a freshwater crisis. One way to reduce our impact on China’s waterways is to invest in quality pieces that we know will last rather than constantly chasing fleeting trends. The only trend cool enough to last is sustainability


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March 25, 2022

Behind The Screen: Our Smartphones are Exploiting Children

Behind every new smartphone, we buy is a hidden market of illicit child labor,
toxic emissions, and mine-related illnesses and injury

The production of just one smartphone requires massive open mining operationsall over the world, all
of which contribute to severe landscape destruction, polluting water, and releasing CO2 emissions.
Cobalt, one of the key rare-earth metals in smartphone production has been wreaking havoc on
the communities of Southern Congo. With over half of the world’s cobalt produced there, the
mines of Congo are responsible for the majority of the world’s smartphones.

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How Does My Smartphone Support Child Exploitation in Congo?
40,000 children, some as young as the age of six are exploited in Congo’s Cobalt

The increased demand for smartphones in recent years is exasperating Congolese landscapes and citizens.
Over 250,000 workers rely on the mining of cobaltas their main source of income. However, the increased
demand has not resulted in a living wage for any of these workers. Most workers do not earn more than
$2-$3 a day, even while facing numerous safety risks, such as collapsing tunnels and respiratory
illness. Overall, the deregulated cobalt industry is negatively affecting the economy and destabilizing
communities. Apart from the human cost of smartphone production, each new phone purchased
contributes to habitat destruction, species endangerment, and on-site casualties.


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Mining Cobalt for your Smartphone Kills Landscapes, Humans, and Gorillas
In 2019, 43 artisanal miners were killed in a cobalt mining-related landslide

In addition to ongoing health and incident-related casualties, Congo’s increased mining activity has been
resulting in landslides, deforestation, and excessive carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions across
the country. Globally, smartphones created about 17.4 megatons of carbon dioxide in 2018—that’s the
equivalent of 37 million cars being driven for a year. Landslides and deforestation are placing even further
environmental stress on communities that are already struggling to survive. In addition, mining-related
deforestation has wiped out 80% of the Grauer Gorilla population, leaving less than 4,000 gorillas remaining
today. Despite these very real consequences, people all over the world continue to fall prey to marketing
campaigns convincing us that we need the newest smartphone technology. With so much reckless human,
animal, and environmental destruction, we must ask ourselves: is our burning need to constantly have the
newest model worth this level of exploitation?


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Each new smartphone produced 80kg of CO2 emissions during
production alone

There is no doubt that smartphone technology has become an integral part of our daily life, with many
jobs making it compulsory to have one. We do not, however, need to buy whatever new phone is on the
market each year. Although many companies have implemented trade-in programs, these don’t
necessarily reduce the amount of rare-earth metals, such as cobalt, being mined every day in Congo.
If we can extend the life of our smartphone by even three years, we can save up to 240 kg of carbon
emissions, while also demanding more sustainable production practices. Smartphone users can also
consider supporting new brands that employ ethical and sustainable practices. The next time you
see an advertisement for the latest phone, remember the people and landscapes of Congo.


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February 17, 2022

The oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate in 300 million years. How bad could it get?

Ever wondered how our lifestyles could lead to environmental disasters! Certainly not. Because turning ON the light of my room the entire night is such a small act that it can't harm the environment. Is it? YES, definitely. The practices in our daily life have a significant impact on the environment.
Ocean acidification is an example of an environmental issue whose causes are traced back to our daily life practices. The effects of these practices vary from alteration of the marine ecosystem to food security and ecological disaster in the long run.

The average pH of the ocean is 8.25, which supports the marine ecosystem's everyday activities. The pH of oceans has decreased over the past decades, and now it is around 8.14. A suitable pH is required for marine plants and animals to perform their functions properly.
Ocean acidification is a serious environmental issue that will severely impact the ecosystem. But the question is, what exactly ocean acidification is?
Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is combined with seawater, and after a series of chemical reactions, it increases the concentration of hydrogen ions. Ultimately, the pH of ocean water goes down, and the phenomenon is termed Ocean acidification. The reduced pH over an extended period affects the behavior of calcium-producing animals and non-calcifying animals.
Let's head out to the causes of ocean acidification.

Causes of Ocean acidification 

The ocean absorbs around 30 percent of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The more significant the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is, the more will be absorbed by the atmosphere. So, increased concentration of carbon dioxide is directly linked with ocean acidification. The absorption of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides in water also reduces the pH of ocean water. However, acidification is relatively low as compared to carbon dioxide.
Ocean acidification is caused by several natural and anthropogenic activities. However, natural causes have little to no environmental impacts.
Burning of fossil fuel for industrial activities
With the rise of the industrial era, humans started burning fossil fuels and degrading their environment. Results were seen with an increasing concentration of pollutants in the air. Carbon dioxide is among those air pollutants whose concentration started increasing in industrialization. Now, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is around 450ppm.
Increase in Number of Motor Vehicles
The human population is exponentially increasing over the last hundred years. That most enormous number of people require transportation to move from place to place. However, with every passing day, the number of vehicles on roads increases. A documentary named "Under the dome" reported that people in China do not walk even the distance of a Block's length. They prefer to use their cars. Just imagine the population of the world and their transportation patterns. Obviously, transportation will create a massive impact on the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere and ocean.
Transportation is the largest source of air emissions. Especially the fuel used in vehicles releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the air. It results in an increasing concentration of carbon dioxide.


Land Use Change

Before the rise of the human population, mainly the land was wild - covered with forests. But agricultural and industrial eras changed land usage. The wild area has been converted into agricultural land, or industries are installed there. The remaining land is used by humans for their living. So, the natural land cover is totally altered within a century and a half.
Now, what happened with land-use change? How does it cause ocean acidification? Well, the answer is pretty simple. Forests are considered as lungs of nature. How nature can survive and perform well when the vital organ is being destroyed?
Agriculture and industrial activities release potent greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. So, the individual human practices for food and comfort affect the whole ecosystem.
Effects of Ocean Acidification
Calcium carbonate is the building block of sea animals. It is the building block for shells and skeletons of life in seawater. The concentration of calcium carbonate is high in areas where life is present in water. Thus, more calcium for calcifying organisms to sustain life. Nevertheless, with the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide, oceans absorb more fraction of it and make the water undersaturated with life-sustaining calcium carbonate. This affects the ability of organisms to produce and maintain their shells.
Since the industrialization era, the pH of the ocean surface has fallen by 0.1. Although it looks like a small change, the pH scale is logarithmic. A figure of 0.1 represents a 30 percent increase in acidity. If the emission scenario remains the same, acidity near the ocean surface will be 150 percent higher at the end of this century. Oceans haven't experienced this pH level in the previous 20 million years.
Impact on Biological life
A disaster for one organism could be an opportunity for other organisms. Algae and seagrass benefit from increasing carbon dioxide concentration as it helps them carry out photosynthesis. On the other hand, a decrease in the concentration of calcium carbonate due to acidification has a dramatic effect on calcifying organisms. It may alter the whole ecosystem. Humans will definitely be affected by this because a large population depends on seafood. Change in the aquatic ecosystem might cause food security.
Low pH reduces the ability of coral reefs to produce their skeleton. Another study has shown that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is causing under saturation in aragonite.


Since ocean acidification is linked with human activities, a change in human habits and practices could be effective to reduce its disastrous impacts. Move to a sustainable lifestyle such as use of renewables and chose cycling or walk in place of vehicles can make a significant difference.

Every human activity has an impact on its environment. A rise in human population and intensive industrial practices increase the emissions in air. Since ocean absorb the pollutants from air, its pH reduce that makes the aquatic ecosystem at risk. We, humans can opt alternative options which are more sustainable to minimize the ill-effects of ocean acidification.


November 28, 2021

Nearly 1/5th of the Amazon Rainforest is Cleared; How Long Before We Make Changes to Our Food Consumption?

With 17-20% of the Amazon cut down in the last 50 years alone, natural regeneration rates cannot keep up with our current global eating patterns.

The Amazon is one of the most vital living ecosystems on our planet. Not only is it one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, but it also plays a key role in purifying the atmosphere by converting CO2 into oxygen. Unfortunately, the main organisms responsible for this crucial task—trees— are being wiped out at an alarming rate every year to meet global demands for certain high-demand food products.


Every minute, an area the size of a football pitch is cleared in the Amazon rainforest;most of this land is cleared for cattle farming.

Deforestation and The Meat Industry

Most people don’t think of the 8-ounce steak on their plate when they think of deforestation. However ,approximately 80% of the land cleared in the Amazon is used for animal agriculture. With the average American consuming around 200 pounds of meat per year, it would require 4 planets for the global population to consume this type of diet. The land cleared for meat production is not only used for physical space that cattle take up; in fact, most of this land is used to feed animals, which consume a much denser diet than humans. For just one pound of meat to make it to your plate, 10 pounds of grain are used, not to mention 2,400 gallons of water involved for processing—for an American diet, that’s an average of 2,000 pounds of grain produced per person, for meat consumption alone.

Why Should We Care About Deforestation?

In short, the Amazon is like a vital organ of our planet. Its biodiversity, rich canopy, and indigenous population provide the earth with species preservation, freshwater sources, and carbon sequestration just to name a few. As more land is cleared for animal agriculture, there are fewer trees left to offset the effects of global pollution and climate change. The cooling and oxygenating effect of the trees is lessened, and ambient temperatures rise, contributing to the global climate change crisis.

With an estimated 10% of all life on earth residing in the Amazon rainforest, current rates of meat production are threatening a wealth of species whose extinction could disrupt entire ecosystems. Most of all, the western diet is affecting indigenous communities who have been living in harmony with the land for centuries. It is at this point that we must ask ourselves: how much do we really need and how badly do we need it?


In fact, while a plant-based diet requires 1/6th of an acre to feed one person per year, a meat-eater requires 3 acres—that’s 18 times more land! 


One thing is for sure—shifting towards a plant-based diet reduces the demand for land-intensive foods such as meat and other animal products. Even though we cannot control how much meat is being pumped out by massive agricultural producers, we can reduce demand by making more sustainable choices. Even swapping out meat a few times a week can save an entire acre of Amazon every year. The next time you are at the grocery store, remember that you have the power to rescue vital rainforest from being cleared, all from the smallest everyday choices.

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