What Is Environmental Pollution?

What is environmental pollution? One thousand years ago, the question wouldn’t have even made sense. The very concept that human beings could be killing the planet by trying to make it easier for themselves to survive wouldn’t have made sense. But in our modern world, the question What is environmental pollution? not only makes sense, it makes too much sense. And in many ways it’s a question that doesn’t need to be answered. We all know too well what environmental pollution is and what the consequences are of ignoring it.

Burning CoalThe first real record in the Western world of a concept of environmental pollution came in during the reign of Edward I of England, who banned the burning of sea-coal in the late thirteenth century.

Medieval Arab scholars discussed issues related to environmental quality and environmental protection from the ninth century forward, which makes some sense considering the delicate balance of the ecosystem necessary to maintain a nomadic hunter/gatherer lifestyle.

(Anyone who’s read “[popup_product]Changes In The Land[/popup_product]” is familiar with the environmental awareness among the American Indians, one of the major reasons the arrival of the Europeans was so disastrous for that group is that European development destroyed many of the native ecosystems of the Indians, making it impossible for them to maintain their non-agricultural lifestyle.) But other than these glimpses, there was no concept of contamination, no answer to the question What is environmental pollution.

The real concept of environmental pollution started to emerge at the same time as factories emerged in Western Europe. Suddenly the consequences of taking full advantage of the earth became real and obvious as the air around London darkened and thickened and the water in the Thames slowly changed to poison.

Environmental pollution entered the legal sphere fully in the late nineteenth century when major American industrial centers like Chicago and Cincinnati passed some of the first clean air laws, with mixed results.

A Smoking Factory ChimneyYet these was still a sense that environmental pollution was mythical and the concern over it alarmism. After all, humans had exploited the land for millennia with no ill effects,  why should trouble start now?

Never mind that for millennia humans hadn’t had the power to damage the land that they do today, without an answer for the question What is environmental pollution?, there was no possibility of addressing the critics.

Today, as we said, there’s almost no need to ask, as everyone knows the answer to the question ‘what is environmental pollution?’. Environmental pollution is the sting in our nose when we breathe, the years taken off of our life when we drink the water, the feeling of doom we get when we look at the rising price of dwindling oil supplies. We know what environmental pollution is, and we know that at last, we need to do something about it.