“Mucky green slime” These were the words which came out of my mouth as I stepped foot in the Chesapeake Bay for the annual Polar Bear plunge. How could this once crystal clear estuary be filled with so much green algae. Unfortunately, the answer lies in the methods of farming for some of the staple foods we eat every day.
Often, crops are pumped with heavy levels of nitrogen-containing fertilizers in an effort to increase crop yield. Unsurprisingly, with these marginal pros come a list of cons mounting to negative effects, many times more severe. Upon seeing the disaster first hand, so close to my home in Baltimore, I decided to see how such an issue could affect the world stage. Specifically, to further show the impact of such fertilizers, I took it upon myself to compare varying levels of fertilizer consumption with the quality of life in the respective country (seen to the right). Unsurprisingly, developing nations like India and China had the highest levels of nitrogen consumption. However, it wasn’t these countries that experience such high levels of standard of living but those which in fact consumed far lower levels. Countries which had the highest standard of living tended to be those which were highly efficient in terms of both production and consumption. For example, according to the Independent, Denmark has pledged for a zero food waste future. Such a reality
would enable the nation to consume far less nitrogen. Now, why is nitrogen so bad? Nitrogen, being a fertilizer, ignites rapid growth in organisms. Seems like a good
thing right? Nitrogen is vital for organisms however, when in large quantities, the element can cause algal blooms. These algal blooms, reduce the amount of sunlight
able to pass through, killing aquatic plants, fish, and in turn hurting the economy of the surrounding inhabitants. In essence, those countries which consumed large amounts of nitrogen seldom had high standards of living. What is the one glaring exception to this statement? The United States. Through some miracle, the US has managed to consume high levels of nitrogen for agriculture indicating high values of food wastage while maintaining a high standard of living. Nevertheless, until and unless we, as a world, come together in an effort to seize over consumption of nitrogen and in turn end the horrible side effects like mucky estuaries, the fate of our Earth remains in the balance. To address these concerns, I call for all of you to end the wastage of fertilizers like nitrogen from your end. How can you? By simply never wasting food. Agriculture is the largest source of nitrogen pollution and by ending food waste, farmers’ interests shift from over producing to efficiently producing.
Call of Action:
Sign this Change.org petition to reduce the nitrogen footprint YOU leave behind: https://www.change.org/p/everyone-reduce-nitrogen-pollution?recruiter=591602411&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition
Discover Magazine: The Latest in Science and Technology News, Blogs and Articles, discovermagazine.com/sitefiles/resources/image.aspx?item=%7B65F89CE7-97E9-4B68-B204-B547E1B052B7%7D&mw=900&mh=600.
Rodionova, Zlata. “Denmark Reduces Food Waste by 25% in Five Years with the Help of One Woman – Selina Juul.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 28 Feb. 2017, www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/denmark-reduce-food-waste-25-per-cent-five-years-help-selina-juul-scandanavia-a7604061.html.