The Winner of $500 University Scholarship 2019
List and discuss the various types of pollution in the world. Offer, describe, and define viable solutions to resolve these types of pollution.

Name of Winner: Sunny Bao Trieu

Winning Essay:

As the human population continues to grow, this will increase the pressure that we are placing on our already dwindling raw resources here on Earth. Besides pushing our consumption beyond sustainable consumption rates, we have been responsible for polluting much of the Earth and its resources which include but are not limited to water bodies and the atmosphere. This is alarming because even with our best efforts, there is a limit of how effectively we can utilize the limited resources that we have. We need to focus our efforts on undoing the damage that we have done to the environment and creating sustainable practices that will enable us to continue to use these resources in the future. Water pollution is defined as the contamination of water bodies by the addition of foreign substances. Two major causes of water pollution include the improper dumpage of raw sewage and garbage by people into the waterways and agricultural runoffs. Besides contaminating the water and making it unsuitable for human consumption and use, these pollutants are responsible for changing the chemical composition within the water bodies, affecting aquatic life. For example, the raw sewage and chemicals from the agricultural runoffs (fertilizer) would increase the levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the waters, causing eutrophication. This would lead to increased frequency of algal blooms, leading to decreased levels of dissolved oxygen in the water and killing off the aquatic life that we rely on for food. In order to combat these issues, we need to implement different viable solutions like establishing a zero-waste lifestyle within our communities and increasing tree coverage on land. Similar to what residents have adopted in a Japanese town called Kamikatsu, we can adopt a zero-waste lifestyle as a community and establish an extensive organization system in recycling centers where we can be actively involved in organizing and disposing of our recyclables. Besides reducing the amount of waste that we produce, we give opportunities for businesses to repurchase and repurpose some of the materials, reducing their expenses and waste production. Through this, we can reduce our waste production as a whole and simultaneously educate everyone in the community about the effects of improper disposal of trash in the waterways. By doing this, we can also decrease the number of people improperly disposing of their waste in the waterways. In addition to being a carbon sink, trees are also responsible for filtering out water and preventing soil erosion, which can be utilized to our advantage. By establishing a community program that actively educates and involves the community members with planting trees, we can increase the tree coverage on land. This will slowly help us filter out any toxins and pollutants in the water as water moves through the soil. From this, we can slow down the runoff rates of agricultural chemicals and purify our water supply at the same time. Air pollution can be defined as the addition of foreign substances or naturally occurring substances at excessive levels into the atmosphere. Some of the major causes of air pollution include vehicle emissions, burning of carbon resources (fossil fuels, forests), and agricultural activities. In addition to contributing to climate change, many of these pollutants, especially the microscopic ones, are able to enter our bodies and have been correlated to many human diseases which include cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, and lung disease. With these issues in mind, we need to consider implementing solutions that will reduce our emissions of these pollutants into the atmosphere while increasing the rate of removal of these pollutants from the atmosphere. In addition to utilizing standardized scrubbers to remove toxic substances from our emissions, we should consider converting some of the greenhouse gases into a source of clean energy that can be utilized to power our vehicles and machines. We already have found much success with converting methane (a very potent greenhouse gas produced from a variety of agricultural sources) into methanol that is utilized to power our clean-energy cars. In addition, there have been many strides made in developing an artificial leaf that will allow us to develop liquid fuels (a source of clean energy) from carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water. Not only will we gain a new source of energy that can be used to power our everyday activities, but we are also actively removing greenhouse gases from our atmosphere. At the very least, we will be balancing out our emission of greenhouse gases with our removal of greenhouse gases through this. Tackling the issue of pollution at its core has shown itself to be a formidable task due to the complexity of the issue. It is imperative that we continue this stride and recognize that this issue is an ongoing issue that will continue to develop even with our best efforts. Despite these grim circumstances, we are making much progress in learning more about the effects of pollution and developing different solutions to resolve this issue. However, this is not enough if it is only being implemented at a small-scale. In order to be successful at reversing the damage that we already have done, we have to recognize that we need to implement these different solutions and changes to our lifestyles on a much wider scale. Individuals are not solely responsible for this issue but we as a community are. By implementing changes worldwide, not only will we become more aware of our impact on the environment as a whole, but we are also actively working together to combat the issue on different fronts.