14. Environmental protection (Ochrana přírody)
Civilization has brought people many advantages but its products also damage the environment in which we live. Pollution affects air, water, land, forest, people, animals and plants.
Air pollution is the biggest problem in large cities and in areas with concentrated industrial production. Substances such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NO) cause changes in environment which can lead to climate changes. These substances mix with water in the atmosphere and sunlight turns them into poisoned oxidants which fall in the form of rain (acid rain) or snow on trees and gradually kill them. Everybody knows that trees are important for our life because they are the lungs of our planet. They absorb carbon dioxide from the air and give out oxygen in return. In some parts of the world trees are not threatened by pollution but by people. The great rain forests are being destroyed for firewood and building materials. Amazon rain forest covers an area large as the whole Europe and contains one third of the world’s trees but scientists believe that it provides 50 % of the world’s annual production of oxygen. If we lose tropical forests, it will become more difficult, perhaps even impossible, to breathe. With more carbon dioxid in the air, the temperature will rise, the icebergs at the North and South Poles will melt, and the sea level will rise. The result will be the flooding of many coastal cities.
What is the “greenhouse effect”? An overproduction of greenhouse gases (nitrogen oxid) prevents the heat of the Earth to escape. The result is a rise of the Earth’s temperature, the melting of arctic ice, …. There are many animals and plants that are not able to adapt to new conditions and die-out.
Smoke from coal fires also represents a big problem in large cities and threatens life.
How can the problems of air pollution be solved? First or all, people should try to use alternative sources of energy, such as solar, water, wind, geothermal … energies, or at least to burn smokeless fuels and to use energies more effectively.
There are more ways to reduce air pollution caused by road traffic. First it is possible to switch the transport of goods from roads to railways and to support public transportation. Also, people should drive at the speed limit in order to use fuel more effectively. Another way is to encourage tree planting, because trees absorb carbon dioxide. All new petrol-driven cars will have to be fitted with catalytic convertors, we should encourage the use of unleaded petrol.
Water pollution is getting better nowadays. If we want to have cleaner waterways, the water from industrial process should be controlled. We should also find technologies for saving water and reduce chemicals that may threaten life in the water.
Another problem to solve is domestic rubbish. How do we reduce the waste which seems to grow more and more? Much domestic rubbish is disposed of in landfills. But many of them can be avoided by recycling. Plastic containers, paper containers, bottle bin containers, can containers, ……should be installed everywhere and they can reduce the amount of landfills.
It is very important to protect not only human beings but also all animals and plants on the Earth because the balance of species is necessary. National Parks and nature reserves provide protection to endangered species.