5 Stupid Things Quietly Destroying the Planet

Despite what Captain Planet taught us, one or two evil guys don't cause most environmental disasters. Instead, they unfold over time as the consequence of lots of shitty decisions adding up. 

If there's any good news, it's that most of these aren't lost causes just yet. The bad news ...

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5
Fashion Trends Are an Environmental Calamity

While we're happy with the finest of hoodies and sweatpants, some you crave more. The more fashion-oriented among us look to upgrade their closets on the reg, and the fashion industry depends on it. Estimates suggest the average consumer only wears an item of clothing seven measly times before ditching it like a diva. 

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It doesn't help that as part of the game to offer cheap knock offs of high-end designers, so-called "fast fashion" ends up being as awful as strip mining or oil extraction due to the mess it leaves in its wake. 

Fake leather (polyurethane) is environmentally harmful. Real leather? Even worse, and unimaginably terrible for the health of the workers who make it. Denim, however, is arguably the worst clothing product you can buy. It takes enormous amounts of water to grow cotton and manufacture jeans. Not to mention the runoff produced by manufacturing acid-washed, dyed, or distressed fabrics oozes chemicals by the barrel. Satellite photos show whole rivers stained a stunning Prussian Blue. Admittedly it's hard to spot the problem when the river is dyed the same hue as a suffocating smurf. Up close, it's a different story. It looks more like blue diarrhea. Whether skinny jeans or those floppy flares that the nu-metal kids wore, styles change, but industrial sludge remains the same:

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Just in case you're still in denial Jncos were a dumb idea.
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Polyester? Bad too, just in a different way. Every time you wash your poly-blend items, you are flushing thousands of tiny little synthetic fibers into waterways. Approximately 1,900 fibers detach in the washer every cycle, microfibers inevitably clogging up marine life organs, stunting their growth, and hitting them with chemicals like Bisphenol A.

While numerous obnoxious PETA stunts have informed us that fur is murder, evidently, so is everything else.

4
Old Russian Ghost Subs Litter the Arctic Ocean Primed to Sabotage the Arctic for the Next Couple Millennia

The Cold War gave us some cool stuff, Bond movies, NASA, that brutalist architecture that makes everything feel like RoboCop. It also left us with one other thing that will never, ever go away, no matter how irrelevant. No, not Tom Clancy books.

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The risk posed by a fleet of nuclear subs doesn't subside away when they are decommissioned. Traditionally obsolete submarines were hauled away and dismantled or left at the bottom of the ocean. Many more simply sunk and were forgotten, left to rust. It's easy to see why environmentalists are getting antsy. You don't need a rogue sub commander to destroy the planet; the subs are practically designed to do that themselves.

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More sunk sub damage than Jared Fogle ads.
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Dubbed a "Chernobyl in slow motion," these naval graveyards present a threat long after their service days. The enriched-uranium-powered K-27 submarine was most prominent. Designed as proof of concept for the Soviet nuclear arsenal, it was eventually scrapped as the reactors too unstable to be practical. So how did they handle the situation? They just dropped it, and its 200 volatile pounds of nuclear materials, in a ridiculously small body of water, against international regulations

Also a threat: the K-159, which lies beneath the waves in a watery grave with the skeleton crew it took down too. Now it's inevitably poised to leak an uncontrollable release of radioactive particles, drifting around the coasts of western Russia and Norway, wiping out the fishing industry in a nightmare scenario. 

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In the Atlantic, the remains of the K-8 sits off the Spanish coast, the nuclear weapons still sitting in the decaying husk. The K-278 was lost in 1989, sealed up in a sarcophagus to prevent the nuclear-payload torpedoes from leaking. But that's only a temporary fix, so that'll be a huge priority for Putin to deal with in his next five terms.

3
Beach Goers are Killing the Coral Reefs

Nothing ruins a trip to the beach like other people. Now we know what coral feels like. With 6,000 tons of sunscreen entering the ocean every year, the reefs are paying the price. No wonder the Great Barrier Reef is on life support.

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Besides being a beautiful natural wonder and valuable ecosystem, reefs serve an essential role as carbon sinks, like the ocean's Amazon forests, scrubbing the water for us. Sunscreen contents such as oxybenzone and octinoxate have been designated contributing factors to the rapid demise of reefs worldwide. 

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Damage is easy to spot. Coral reefs, soaked in a brine of oily benzylidene camphor and nano-zinc oxide, cannot sustain themselves, rejecting the colorful symbiotic algae, suffering endocrine deficiencies, and soon dying, reduced from a vibrant patch of diverse lifeforms like this ...

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... to a dismal white skeleton:

Amgauna/Wikimedia Commons
If you're wondering where the colorful fish went, we can only assume they died of despair.

Not that legislators in vacation hot spots haven't taken notice. Hawaii cracked down on noxious sunscreens in 2018, and Key West followed suit. In addition to reefs, sunscreen kills generally poisons marine life in its path through a myriad of ways, including destroying vital algae growth, spurring deformities in urchins, causing infertility, damaging DNA, and killing dolphins. Please do your part and keep urchins sexy and healthy by not buying any sunscreen with the aforementioned substances.

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2
Solar Panels Are Poisoning the Ground and Air on a Massive Scale

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic cells, revolutionized the energy industry. The rising demand for clean energy has driven production through the now 100% eco-friendly roof.

Except, yeah, about that "100%" part ... There's a dark side to the "clean energy" boom. Solar panels don't last forever, and definitely not your lifetime. Hell, they're so fragile that sometimes they don't even last through their warranty. You try to give that ingrate, Mother Nature, a hug, and she rains down a tempest of golf-ball-seized hail in an attention-seeking fit of rage.

King Ropes Access/Shutterstock
"Well, you should have called more often."
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Where do the busted panels go? Since they contain no valuable metals worth extracting, and recycling isn't widespread, the same place your Jncos from the previous entry went, taking space in landfills. One environmental expert in China has called the junked panels a "ticking time bomb."

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1
E-Waste is Rendering Chunks of Africa Into Uninhabitable Hellscapes

Because of a semantic loophole wherein e-waste is designated as "second-hand" electronics, old, broken, and useless monitors, computer accessories, and other peripherals are hauled away and dumped onto the shores of third-world nations under the guise of reusing and recycling. In essence, "electronics-recycling," as it operates today, is an ingenious plot to transport toxic waste.

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The most depressing part? The very machine this sentence was written on and the one you are reading it on right now are all contributing to the problem. There's not really much you can do, unless you want to swear off modern conveniences and experience your own personal Ted Kaczynski fantasy camp

Sometimes the valuable mineral components (gold, silver, etc.) are extracted from the machines via bonfire. This is even worse than burying it or dumping it in open-air landfills. The plumes of plastic-reeking fumes filling the air with dioxin, while bromide, arsenic, lead, mercury, and other runoff spills into the waterways, wiping out all the fish, making the water impossible to drink. In the process, ironically destroying any chance at honest sources of income to sustain one's family, leading to more people harvesting your trash for copper wiring for food money ... 

Aline Tong/Shutterstock
"25 more incinerated fax machines and dinner is all mine."

Only in the last five years has there been any action taken to curb the flow of our old e-shit. And it'll take a hell of a lot longer than that to rehabilitate the land already ruined.

Top image: King Ropes Access/Shutterstock

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