Guest Article by Benjamin Sanders
Being a citizen in the western world during the early 21st century means being constantly nagged on television for money; the elephants need saving, the rhinos need saving, the fish stocks are running low etc. Obviously these are all very worthy causes and nobody wants to see elephants wiped off the face off the earth. However one particular cause, which has recently been taken up by Sky News, is being purposefully mishandled. This cause involves the pollution of our oceans, seas and rivers with plastic waste, industrial waste and other objects and substances.
From all of the coverage over the last decade or so, you would think that the world’s waterways are being polluted by evil westerners hell bent on putting their economy ahead of environmental concerns. Of course the west does have a lot of progress to make in ensuring its waterways are environmentally friendly, yet at the same time it is so irritating that the bleeding obvious is ignored.
The reality is that between 88% and 95% of the entire world’s ocean pollution comes from just 10 rivers, and every single one of those rivers is outside of the western world. The culprits are as follows: Yangtze River (Asia), Indus River (Asia), Yellow River (Asia), Hai He River (Asia), River Nile (Africa), Ganges (Asia), Pearl River (Asia), Amur River (Asia), Niger River (Africa) and the Mekong River (Asia). America, the world’s largest economy, dumps 77,000 tons of waste into the oceans every year, which is less than 1% of the world’s total. Meanwhile the 2nd largest economy in the world, China, dumps over 2.4 million tons a year.
These findings have been found in numerous studies, including in the journal ‘Environmental Science and Technology’. Very little progress has been made in developing countries when it comes to combatting their titanic mismanagement of waste, a fact that means there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, according to some scientists. This would obviously be catastrophic for marine life, though thankfully there is still time to turn things around.
Instead of continuously lambasting westerners for their waste mismanagement, charities should instead be focusing their attention on the situation in Asia and Africa. The reality is that Europe and North America already have very good systems to combat ocean pollution, and contribute very little to the tarnishing of marine habitats. The main problem in the west is littering on beaches and pipe leaks, problems which can easily be rectified.
Instead of asking westerners for money, it would probably be more effective if charities simply lobbied governments and bureaucrats. They in turn could lobby and apply diplomatic pressure to governments in Asia and Africa to do more in stopping an impending environmental disaster. The introduction of legislation in developing countries which prohibited the dumping of waste in rivers would probably solve this problem, as would the introduction of recycling and inland landfill sites.
China, which is the biggest polluter, can easily afford proper waste management, but it often chooses not to implement such practises because the communist government is paranoid that such measures will slow economic growth. Meanwhile in India, the government spends money on a space program, whilst its rivers are falling into a state which is near the point of no return.
The only thing stopping western governments and charities from blaming the polluting countries in Africa and Asia is political correctness. These countries need to be told: act now or face environmental catastrophe in the decades to come.