Vocabulary Development: Words Associated with Environment I
All of us operate or carry out our activities in an environment. In some places, certain days have been declared as Environmental Sanitation days. It is therefore important to be familiar with some of the words associated with environment.
First and foremost, what is the meaning of environment? The simple meaning of environment is ‘surroundings’ i.e. what surrounds a thing. Our environment therefore can be said to be everything that makes up our surroundings and this affects our being able to carry out our activities on the face of the earth. The air that we breathe in, the plants and animals, the water that covers most of the earth’s surface, forests, lakes, rivers, mountains, hills, rocks, deserts, soil, weather, climate, etc, constitute our environment. All these are environmental features which affect our lives as well as the activities of other living things. On the other hand, the activities of human beings also affect the environment.
There are many types of environment – physical, social or cultural, religious, etc. We shall concern ourselves with the physical environment.
The physical environment is in two parts – the natural environment which is not man-made and the various things made by man e.g. houses, skyscrapers, roads, towns industries, factories, bridges, etc. As a result of the activities of man and animals, the environment is sometimes made unpleasant to live in. One of such is environmental pollution.
What is ‘pollution’? This can be said to be the release of very harmful or toxic substances into the environment. The release can be through the activities of man or animals or even natural forces. This discharge of the substances can be harmful to the health and wellbeing of man, animals and other organisms. The substances released are called pollutants.
However, not all pollutants are harmful. Some of the pollutants e.g. pesticides, sewage, detergents are biodegradable. This means they can be broken down into harmless substances by bacteria. Some other ones, such as glass, metal, scraps, tins, plastic are non-biodegradable’
There are many types of pollution. They include: air, land, water, soil, radiation, noise, etc.
Air pollution can be brought about by carbon monoxide which comes from the burning of fuel in motor vehicles, aircraft, mining industries, home furnaces, generating sets, electrical power stations, etc. Carbon monoxide, when breathed in, is injurious to human health. It can cause suffocation and lead to death. Also carbon oxide is produced by burning of fuels. This is also dangerous to human health though it is useful to plants. Another is nitrogen oxide which can be from electrical discharge into the air, smoke and soot, burning of substances from industries, bush burning, etc. This can also be from dust particles from quarries and mining sites. These can cause respiratory tract diseases. Sulphur dioxide is another gas which is released into the atmosphere from burning of coal and oil and from smelting of ores, lead, zinc, etc. It can affect the lungs and even worsen cases of asthma and bronchitis.
The pollutants can be refuse from homes, markets, offices, sewage, etc. These pollutants cause pungent odour. Sewage which is not properly treated can be breeding ground for mosquitoes and can cause diseases. Metal scraps, abandoned vehicles, machines, etc., can cause traffic accidents.
Pesticides which are sprayed on plants and fertilisers can destroy useful soil organisms.
Water pollution is caused by dumping of wastes into bodies of water. Also drainage into water bodies causes water pollution. Household waste (refuse) and sewage, human faeces, etc., are dumped into rivers or streams. All these make water unfit or unsafe for human consumption. When such water is consumed in one form or another, the result is diseases such as cholera and it can lead to death. Crude oil spillage on water, apart from making water unfit for drinking, can destroy aquatic plants and animals.
Another major source of environmental pollution is noise. This is not often attached importance to but it has grave consequences.
Noise pollution can result from blaring of vehicle horns and sirens, aeroplanes, train engines, high-pitched musical sound from loudspeakers, heavy guns, factories, etc. Noise pollution can cause high blood pressure or hypertension, loss of hearing or deafness, lack of concentration, emotional disorder.
Another form of pollution is soil pollution. This is caused by erosion as a result of human activities such as deforestation and dumping of solid wastes.
Source: New Oxford Secondary English Course for SSS2 pages 124 – 125.
Read the above passage carefully and look up the meanings of the words and expressions in bold type