Human Factor in Climate Change: What Can You Do?

Pollution Continues to Take a Toll Near Us

Human Factor in Climate Change: What Can You Do?

Gracelyn Perrine, Opinions Editor

It is proven that our world is slowly dying, taking ecosystems, species, and even human lives along with it. When many think of pollution and climate change, the initial thought of the weather usually comes along with it. What many don’t care to realize is how this also affects the human species and the health of our communities. Studies have shown that once so much damage is done, there will be no chance at restocking, rebuilding, or fixing our environments that make up the world. There are organizations and communities that are fighting to regain control over human usage of this earth, a main concern being pollution and depletion of resources; however, more and more instances of pollution and error are coming forward that are only sending our earth into a downward spiral. 

Recently, there have been many accounts of oil spills including California, and even here in the Midwest. Regarding California’s spill, it has been shown that the cause was a leak in an oil pipeline. This sent oil spewing into the environment harming wildlife, and potentially nearby human residents. This spill matches the size of other spills in the United States such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill; however, the true extent and effects will not be known until several weeks in the future. While this event has taken a toll on the state of California’s well-being and environmental soundness, it is also important to recognize the effects on ecosystems closer to home. Just recently, on September 26th, an unknown substance was reported to be discharged into the Burns Waterway, located on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan in Portage. Ultimately, this led to the closing of the Indiana Dunes Beaches and Parks due to the potential effects this could have on the environment and living species. This rusty colored liquid came from the U.S Steel Plant, raising another important question: What are the true effects of steel mills and how do they affect the environment?

A steel mill, or steelworks, is an industrial plant for the manufacture of steel. It may be an integrated steel works carrying out all steps of steelmaking from smelting iron ore to rolled product, but may also be a plant where steel semi-finished casting products are made, from molten pig iron or from scrap. It can be crazy to think that our own home produces copious amounts of pollution, but the Gary Works, a major steel mill in Gary, Indiana, on the shore of Lake Michigan, is to be largely held accountable and noted. For many years, the Gary Works was the world’s largest steel mill, and it remains the largest to date. The impacts that these mills have vary, including coke ovens emitting air pollution such as naphthalene; this is highly toxic and can cause cancer. Wastewater from the coking process is also highly toxic and contains a number of carcinogenic organic compounds as well as cyanide, sulfides, ammonium and ammonia. Including these emissions to air, comes greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, emissions to water such as the spills mentioned earlier, and waste that does not reach landfills. 

Accountability in adding to the pollution of the earth is vital in taking active steps towards a healthier and better environment. While many citizens cannot stop the harm of steel mills, it is important to note that every bit helps and that there are small things we can do to show our outrage and passion to better this earth. Looking at statistics, it has shown that 2021 will rank among the top 10 hottest years on record. To the blind eye, many may see this as a positive because ‘warm weather’ is the only thing that could stem from this statistic; however, it is so much more than ‘warm weather’. It is rising sea levels causing land to be destroyed. It is the warming oceans killing off aquatic species. It is the induction of weather events that destroy homes. Regardless of views or political stances, science proves that our climate is changing, and it is mainly us. While the earth provides us with beauty, nature, and love, all future generations deserve the same. Below are solutions that can help society fight back:

  • Composting

Composting saves water by helping soil hold in moisture, reducing water runoff and erosion. It also retains pollutants, improving water quality. 


  • Swap out products for more sustainable options

This reduces waste and plastic use as a whole! Try opting for washcloths instead of paper towels and bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones!


  • Eating less meat

While it is not ideal for many to entirely cut meat out of their diet, it is vital to understand the water and land use that goes into meat production. That water and land could be used for sustainable crops!


  • Think fuel-efficient

If there are better ways to travel or get to a destination, make it happen! Walking and biking are much more fuel efficient. These options don’t omit substances that can be harmful. 


  • Change light bulbs to LEDs

LED light bulbs can last 25 times longer than regular light bulbs and use around 75% less energy. Widespread use of LEDs over the next 10 years could save the equivalent annual electrical output. 


While these are just some of the small examples you can practice to better the environment and fight back against climate change, there are so many more! Taking the time to understand your carbon footprint and how you can alter it is the next step in this fight.