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Green Planet or Grey Planet?

For as long as humans have existed, Earth has been known to all as the Green Planet, as it is the only planet in the Solar System with vegetation. Plants have existed for ages as some of the earliest living organisms on Earth, but lately, the rich green colour of plants surrounding us has turned sombre as if it were a photograph taken with a black and white filter. While filters are certainly popular, a detrimental grey one is certainly not one that catches the eye.

Since the Industrial Revolution, there has been a constant surge in the recorded atmospheric pollution leading to air pollution gradually growing to become the significant global crisis we know today. Over the past five years, outdoor air pollution has seen an increase of over 8% globally, owing to the massive-scaled growth of the population, industries, and the increased use of automobiles. This increase is more prevalent in urban areas. Over half of the global population is exposed to poor air quality, the majority of which reside in China and India. Particulate matter levels (PM2.5 and PM10) in certain places were so high that they were found to be 5-10 times higher than the levels recommended by the WHO. Air pollution in cities such as New Delhi, Kanpur, and Baoding forced residents to wear masks to protect themselves even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Forests and other woody areas are also often burned down to repurpose land for commercial purposes, spreading air pollution as well as deforestation; bringing down the green and building up the grey. The implications that air pollution has on humans are sickening, and in some cases, fatal. Sulphates, nitrates, and carbon present in smog and soot, among other substances, pose dangerous threats to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. While the effects of increased air pollution on our physical health are more commonly known, the deterioration of our mental and emotional health isn’t as prominent. Multiple studies have shown a definitive association between air pollutants and mental illnesses such as dementia, schizophrenia, depression, and autism.  Furthermore, excessive pollution can even lead plants to develop to be impotent, losing their ability to perform functions like photosynthesis. Pollutants also cause plants to change colour through the process of chlorosis and stunt their growth, subsequently reducing the regional plant density.

Even in the ideal scenario that every individual opts for eco-friendly alternatives, we won’t be able to make a significant difference to the current situation. With the current state of industrial developments, we’ll soon be greeted by smog instead of fog in the morning. However, there are a few things one can do to make their surroundings more habitable. One such option is to grow plants that are known to filter the air devoid of pollutants. Several plants like the Peace Lily, Chrysanthemum, Spider Plant, and the all-too-familiar Aloe Vera have air-filtering properties that purify the air surrounding them and can get rid of various harmful chemicals. The small addition of an air-filtering plant to your surroundings can considerably reduce the pollution around one’s home, making it a more sustainable green habitat.

In short, air pollution continues to increase and does so at alarming speeds. At this rate, a grey blanket will envelop the Earth, reflecting its dead and lifeless state. If developments proceed in the way they are now, ‘Grey Planet’ would be a more fitting title for Earth. This planet belongs not only to humans, and while it may be almost impossible to revert it to what it once was, we need to be aware and start making important decisions that don’t deteriorate the poor state of this planet any further.


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