Protect The Planet

Protect+The+Planet

Nargis Suleman, Editor-In-Chief (2022-23)

Over recent years, the substantial and steady increase of pollution, through air, water, and ground, has reached an epidemic-like high. As of 2020, The World Bank has estimated pollution to be the leading cause in environmental deaths, leading to over 11 million premature deaths. And while the effects may seem distant enough, the focus being on regions within the global south, the fact of the matter is, we are seeing the effects of heightened pollution right here in the United States, and even closer; our own state of Kansas. To get a better understanding of what pollution looks like, why there is so little discourse concerning pollution and the environment, as well as what we as a community can do to better help combat pollution, we talked to a few students here at Blue Valley West, in hopes of gaining a better understanding.
Let’s first begin with the bigger picture. Every year, thousands of communities are negatively impacted as a result of waste and air pollution, both as a result of big industries and corporations, as well as civilians and their day- to-day actions. The effects of both, and any types of pollution, have occasionally been catastrophic among these communities. Oftentimes the countries that are impacted most, are those with high population densities. The more people there are, the more susceptible countries are to seeing an increase in pollution over time. Take Pakistan in recent months as an example. During September and Octobor this year, the world saw an increase in monsoon-like floods terrorize Pakistanis, in a seemingly abrupt manner. But this was no “abrupt” or “surprising” event that the civilians there experienced. In fact, data analysis by a group of international climate scientists in Pakistan, Europe and the United States, reached the same conclusion that the Pakistani government had been claiming all along; the heavy rainfall was most likely caused by an increase in global warming, as a result of heavy amounts of air pollution. And while this a very much a true fact, Pakistan’s large population has also had an effect, so the impacts of warming cannot possibly be blamed solely on the concept of pollution itself.
Unfortunately Pakistan isn’t alone. Kenya, Haiti, and Afghanistan all rank higher on the Climate Risk Index than Pakistan, and the same deadly effects could reach them sooner than we think. Believe it or not, even the United States, specifically Overland Park, has experienced many forms of pollution, just at significantly lower magnitudes.
When considering pollution in Overland Park, US-69 Highway, the front of Blue Valley West behind the shrubs, and the medians in the road in and around Town Center all have one thing in common: trash.
“Pretty much any time I am out, I see trash all around the school and Overland Park”, says senior Mira Becker. This is a norm for many. 11/15 students at Blue Valley West said that in their day to day activities, they encounter trash littered across the streets, and even their own school. And while it may seem minute and irrelevant, this is the way that large scale impacts of global warming reach various communities in the long run. Fortunately though, while other cities in Kansas, like Kansas City rank as high as the 62nd most polluted city in the entire country, Overland Park remains relatively safe in the amount of pollution that poses a risk today. But that doesn’t mean that we leave it to Kansas City to address pollution, while we continue throwing QT cups out of the grass at the front of the school.
And while recycling plastic bottles outside our teacher’s rooms seeming to be a good starting point, some, like senior Lauren Meixner feel that they “…don’t know if our students, and the overall community, are concerned about environmental issues past the basics such as reducing and reusing”
One way that we can try to address pollution within our very own community at Blue Valley West, that goes further than throwing plastic bottles into bins, is through joining clubs that are striving to create meaningful impacts, like the Environmental Club.
“An organized club can ensure that if we notice an environmental issue in our school or Overland Park, we have an established group that can solve these issues.”, says Meixner, who is a part of the Environmental Club here at west, run by Mr.Quillin. The club has been able to accomplish amazing tasks, including picking up trash around the school premise at least once a month! Becker also states that “We also take action to protect our environment by doing trash cleanups and participating in environment-related community service.
”From picking up trash and volunteering for community service groups, to joining organizations, and even clubs aimed at creating meaningful change, there are clearly a variety of ways that we as a community can assist in bettering our environment, and reducing pollution, both inside and outside of school.
With all of this information, it is normal to feel overwhelmed with how much the environment, and seemingly small actions like littering contribute to high numbers of pollution and accelerated global warming. So, where do we begin? Becker mentions that “one of the biggest environmental issues is big companies not being held accountable for their impact on the environment”, and Meixner goes on to agree, citing fast fashion as a primary factor in increased levels of pollution. A way to start on your positive impact on the environment, is to start there. Reducing your consumption of fast fashion brands such as Shein, Amazon, and Forever 21, and switching to more sustainable brands, or thrifting is just one way you can start. But other options like joining clubs and organizations aimed at addressing pollution reduction, as well as participating in forms of community service are all amazing alternatives to helping reduce the negative impacts of pollution on our environment.
So the next time you think about placing a $400 order on Shein to get a better “bang for your buck”, or feel too tired to walk to the nearest trash can to throw away your bag of chips, remember that your actions could have a more significant impact than you think. If we as a community, just here at Blue Valley West, could start being more mindful about the decisions that we make everyday, just imagine what the impacts could be not only in our city, but the world.