Experts in climatology and other scientists are becoming extremely concerned about the changes to our climate which are taking place. Admittedly, climate changes have occurred on our planet before. For example, there have been several ice ages or glacial periods.
These climatic changes, however, were different from the modern ones in that they occurred gradually and, as far as we know, naturally. The changes currently being monitored are said to be the result not of natural causes, but of human activity. Furthermore, the rate of change is becoming alarmingly rapid.
The major problem is that the planet appears to be warming up. According to some experts, this warming process, known as global warming, is occurring at a rate unprecedented in the last 10,000 years. The implications for the planet are very serious. Rising global temperatures could give rise to such ecological disasters as extremely high increases in the incidence of flooding and of droughts. These in turn could have a harmful effect on agriculture.
It is thought that this unusual warming of the Earth has been caused by so-called greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, being emitted into the atmosphere by car engines and modern industrial processes, for example. Such gases not only add to the pollution of the atmosphere, but also create a greenhouse effect, by which the heat of the sun is trapped. This leads to the warming up of the planet.
Politicians are also concerned about climate change and there arc now regular summits on the subject, attended by representatives from around 180 of the world's industrialized countries. Of these summits, the most important took place in Kyoto in Japan in 1997. There it was agreed that the most industrialized countries would try to reduce the volume of greenhouse gas emissions and were given targets for this reduction of emissions.
It was also suggested that more forests should be planted to create so-called sinks to absorb greenhouse gases. At least part of the problem of rapid climate change has been caused by too drastic deforestation.
Sadly, the targets are not being met. Even more sadly, global warnings about climate changes are often still being regarded as scaremongering.
Most of us are now aware of the damage which our modern way of life is doing to the environment. This includes the harm which we are inflicting on many animals. Indeed, we are in danger of wiping out some species, if we have not already done so.
For millions of years, extinction among animals was a natural process. In fact, it was part of the process of evolution. In recent years, however, the extinction of some species has been the result of human activities. Had it not been for these, many more animals would have survived.
Some species have either been made extinct, or become endangered, because of hunting. Now, even the very earliest of humans were hunters, since they ate the flesh of animals and clothed themselves in their skins, and doubtless their hunting gradually contributed to the extinction of some species. However, it was the introduction of guns, with their accurate aim, which put certain animals at great risk, and from the nineteenth century on several species were on the brink of extinction.
By this time, animals were being hunted for commercial purposes, apart from the provision of food and clothing. For example, elephants were being hunted for their ivory. Nowadays, attempts are being made to regulate such wholesale commercial hunting, but it is difficult to control in some areas. Thus, animals continue to die to make profits for humans. Of course, not only commerce is to blame. Hunting as a sport has also played a part in the extinction of certain species.
A more modern threat to many animals is the destruction of their environment and the resultant changes in the ecology of whole areas. Our use of pesticides and other chemicals has polluted both soil and water, and this pollution has proved to be toxic to many of the plants which are part of the habitat of many animals. Furthermore, we regularly lay waste to land previously inhabited by animals, in order to make way for expanding populations or, as in the case of deforestation, to provide goods for wealthy nations.
Modern living has had a deleterious effect on the ecosystem. We must try to reverse this to save our wildlife.
Television and the media are regularly blamed for what is thought to be wrong with modern society. So it comes as no surprise that they are held responsible for today's apparent obsession with celebrities.
The strange thing about many of those who are considered to be famous these days is that there is little reason or basis for their fame. Some of them may be film stars, football players or popstars. Others, though, seem to achieve fame on the grounds, for example, that they are a friend of someone famous, that they wear rather strange, flamboyant clothes, or that they behave exceptionally badly in public. Indeed it is notoriety rather than fame that some so-called celebrities achieve.
Of course, other generations have had their icons, but in the past fame seemed to be based more on talent and was longer lasting. The fame of today's celebrities is often very ephemeral indeed and they do not remain famous for long. They are in the headlines for a few weeks, and then fade from the scene. Compare this with the fame of some of the Hollywood greats, such as James Dean. Many of them remain legends long after their deaths.
The celebrities of today will do anything to go on appearing in the tabloids. Image is all-important to them and they just love publicity. Often they claim that they object to the paparazzi taking photographs, but they simply cannot live without the attentions of the media.
Once they are in the public eye, they are desperate to stay there, it seems. The worst thing that can happen to them is that attention is paid to someone else. Anything they do is subject to hype, image-makers being employed to ensure that their entire lives are conducted in a blaze of publicity.
They seek wealth as well as fame, although most of this is spent on their extravagant lifestyles. If all else fails, they give sensational interviews about being cured of alcohol addiction, drug addiction or eating disorders. It's sad but many of today's heroes are not very heroic.
Recent legislation by the European Union on human rights has led more and more people to invoke these rights. In Britain, the most recently invoked of these is the right to die.
Currently, a woman is trying to prove that the British government is breaching the European Convention on Human Rights by causing her to go on living in inhuman and degrading circumstances. She is suffering from motor neurone disease, an incurable and fatal wasting disease.
The woman is claiming the right to die with dignity at the time of her choice. Having lost the use of most of her bodily functions, although her mind is still functioning, she wishes to be allowed to take her own life, since she no longer enjoys any quality of life. However, her physical condition is such that she cannot commit suicide without some help. Her wish is that the courts will agree in advance not to prosecute her husband if he helps her die.
She is being backed in her court appeal by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. Its members feel that euthanasia should be a real possibility for people who are in the final stages of terminal illnesses, and who are in such severe pain or in a state of such total incapacity that they do nol wish to go on living. They should legally be allowed to resort to assisted suicide, possibly physician-assisted suicide.
Over the years, many arguments have been put forward for legalizing euthanasia, but people are afraid that this might give rise to murder. unless there were very strict safeguards. Mercy killing is illegal in most countries although it was recently made legal in the Netherlands.
Several countries are currently considering the issue of living wills. Such documents are prepared by people when they are quite well and indicate that they wish to invoke the right to die. or the right to be helped to die, if they ever reach a stage at which death would come as a welcome release from some terrible incurable condition.
The decision of the courts in this case is not yet known. One thing is certain. The debate on this sad subject will continue.
It seems that a great many of us are getting angrier, or at least that we are expressing our anger more. We seem to be flying into a rage all over the place and rage is now so common that the English language has acquired several expressions to describe particular forms of it.
The first of these rages to be named was road rage. This is used of drivers who are so enraged by other drivers or pedestrians that they let their anger get completely out of control. Often they get out of their cars and shout and make threatening gestures at the people who have annoyed them. Sometimes they are so beside themselves that they attack the people physically, and there have even been cases where drivers have gone berserk and killed people. It frequently does not take much to provoke drivers who are easily angered. Even overtaking them quite legally can enrage them.
Police are sometimes called to people's homes when rage gets out of control. In the worst cases, people who cannot control their tempers become guilty of domestic abuse and beat up their partners. This often leads to the break-up of the family and sometimes to the imprisonment of the violent partner.
The supermarket is another place where people get angry. People often get frustrated if they have to queue at the checkouts, sometimes becoming so furious that they are driven to trolley rage. Then they deliberately bang into others, with their trolleys, sometimes causing injury.
Passengers in planes also sometimes fly off the handle. Known as air rage, this form of anger is usually directed at members of the cabin crew. It is common for passengers who lose their tempers in the air to have taken too much alcohol in the airport bars and to be spoiling for a fight when they board the aircraft. Their violence is dangerous in the air and they have to be restrained.
Try not to let any of this happen to you. Take a deep breath and keep your temper!
A healthier diet and improved living conditions, together with advances in medical treatment and diagnosis, have meant that most people, in the developed countries at least, are living longer. This is very good news for the people concerned, especially if they remain reasonably healthy and mobile.
However, the increase in life expectancy has led to problems for many governments. Many older people require a good deal of care, either help with personal care or nursing care. Often, this care has to be provided in a residential home or a nursing home, when the elderly people do not have family who are able or willing to look after them. Governments are finding it increasingly difficult to find the money for this and the elderly people often do not have the money to pay for it themselves.
The trouble is that, as the numbers of old people are increasing, the numbers of young people are decreasing. Reliable modern methods of contraception have led to successful family planning with many people choosing lo restrict the number of children they have to one or two, feeling, perhaps, that that is all they can afford or cope with.
The combination of a falling birth rate and an increase in life expectancy is likely to cause problems for governments. It is the young and the middle-aged who do most work and pay most taxes. In other words, it is they who keep the country going, for it is the revenue from taxes that pays for public services and state benefits.
The lack of balance between the number of young and old is, thus, very worrying in financial terms. There are too few people working to provide the necessary funds to pay for a state benefit system which looks after those who are, for one reason or another, unable to work.
One rather draconian solution is to increase greatly the rate of taxation payable by those who are in work. Another is to increase the age of retirement, and yet another is to try to attract healthy people who are already in retirement back to work. None of these solutions may appeal to those concerned, but some kind of successful strategy has to be found. Otherwise society will collapse.
A major American bank is being sued by the US authorities for allegedly discriminating against its female employees. It has been alleged that women in the firm do not have as good promotion prospects as the men and that their salaries are not on a par with those of their male counterparts.
Gender discrimination in the workplace is against the law in America and in many other countries. However, there are still obstacles in many firms which prevent women from achieving the promotion that their talents and qualifications deserve. Many women are promoted quite rapidly through the junior jobs in a firm, but face the glass ceiling, when they apply for any of the most senior posts. So it is that, although there are many women in middle management positions in many firms, there are very few in top management posts.
Many women blame this situation on the old-boy network. Others see it as evidence that many men are resistant to change and are still chauvinists at heart, while some may feel that failure to promote women to top jobs is a result of feelings of insecurity in the men who are making the appointments. Perhaps they are afraid of letting women become too powerful.
Not many years ago the power which women have today would have seemed an impossible dream to many women. Before the rise of the women's movement there were no such things as equal rights or equal opportunities for women. For the most part, women were expected to get married and then be responsible for childcare and for carrying out all the household tasks. If they worked, it was probably in a part-time, often rather menial, job.
Feminists saw this as sexism and a waste of women's talents, and set out to change things. Although some people, women as well as men, now do not have a high regard for feminism, women owe to feminists many of the improvements in their work situation. Without them, there would be no positive discrimination, no job-sharing and no parity with men in the workplace.
More and more young people lire choosing to take a gap year between finishing school and starting university. 'They feel that they want a breathing space between periods of study. Alternatively, they may decide to take a gap year between graduating from university and embarking on a career, feeling the need for some time out before joining the rat race.
Most students see the time as an opportunity to travel, with backpacking still being popular. The idea of travelling to as many foreign places as possible, staying in hostels or other budget accommodation, appeals greatly. Doubtless, some of them will hitchhike although hitchhiking can be a dangerous form of travel. especially if students are travelling solo.
A large percentage of gap-year students have wealthy parents who can easily subsidize their travel. Others have to save up before they go, often taking after-school jobs to do so. They are mostly travelling on a shoestring, and frequently find that they have to look for some form of employment while travelling, in order to make ends meet.
For example, they may work on local farms or in local hotels. By doing so, they not only earn some money, but they are likely to meet local people and acquire some understanding of their culture.
There are some students who choose to work for the whole of their gap year. A number may decide to get work experience, either at home or abroad, in an area which they hope to make their career, such as medicine or computers. A large proportion of students are now choosing to work with a charity which arranges voluntary work in various parts of the world. The projects provide hands-on experience of a very varied nature, from teaching to helping build roads or dams.
The gap year is not just an adventure. Young people can benefit greatly from encountering new and varied experiences and from communication with a wide range of people. Perhaps most importantly, gap-year students have to learn to stand on their own two feet.
A rather worrying statistic shows that, in some countries, gambling is the fastest growing leisure pursuit. It appears that many people like to bet and are prepared to gamble on everything from horseracing to bingo to state-run lotteries.
Some people gamble only occasionally. For example, they may choose always to have a flutter on a horse of their choice in a particular race every year, sometimes attending the race meeting and sometimes going to a betting shop. For the rest of the year, they simply do not give horseracing a thought and never go near a bookmaker's.
There again, a group of friends might occasionally spend an evening at a casino to try their luck at roulette, hut stop before they spend more than they intended. A popular pastime, especially with some older ladies, is to attend a bingo hall to see if they can hit the jackpot by having all the numbers on their cards called. Most of them think of it as just a bit of fun.
Doing the football pools is a common form of household gambling. People fill out football coupons by predicting the result of various football matches and send them off to the pools company running the scheme.
Then there are the various national lotteries. In order to win one of these, and the odds are often extremely high, someone has to have purchased a lottery ticket which bears the same numbers as the ones officially selected as the winning numbers. Lotteries are often in aid of good causes and so people do not usually see such gambling as a vice.
Gambling can be a harmless form of entertainment, but it can lead to a serious form of addiction. There are many compulsive gamblers who simply cannot stop themselves from placing bets and bring ruin on themselves and their families.
The only thing for them to do is to give up gambling altogether. For them, there is no such thing as the occasional flutter. Help is available from organizations such as Gamblers Anonymous, but first they must try to help themselves.
A man received a life sentence for murder in London recently. What is unusual about this is that the murder took place 18 years ago. At the time the murder was committed, the man, Anthony Ruark, was questioned by the police, but their investigations did not reveal enough evidence for them to charge him. He claimed to have an alibi for the time of the crime.
Ruark clearly thought that he had got away with the murder. The murdered woman, who was strangled, had been his girlfriend at one time and he continued to be friendly with her family after her death. He showed no signs that there was a murder on his conscience for all these years.
His conviction was partly due to modern advances in crime detection and partly to chance. Genetic fingerprinting, based on DNA patterns, is now an important part of forensic science, but it was not developed in the UK until after the murder. The process depends on obtaining a sample of the suspect's blood, saliva, skin, or other material that contains body cells, and so DNA. It has been discovered that the number and pattern of certain repeated sequences in human DNA appear to be unique to each individual, making it a valuable and accurate means of identification.
Computers also played a part in Ruark's eventual conviction. When he was convicted of a minor theft last year, details of his DNA were automatically included on a police database. At the time the police were already re-investigating the 1983 murder, and Ruark's possible part in it, following a telephone tip-off from a member of the public.
A forensic sample taken from the murder scene was analysed, using DNA profiling, and the analysis revealed that the DNA matched
Ruark's. He had left some body samples at the scene of the crime and this is what led to his conviction so many years later.
This has been seen as a great victory for modern forensic techniques. It was the murderer's own body that proved him guilty.
Computers have become so necessary to modern living that it is difficult to believe that they are a relatively recent invention. Undoubtedly, they have proved to be of great value, but they also have their disadvantages. For one thing, they have added to our already large number of crimes.
Hacking was the first computer crime that most of us became aware of. By using their computing expertise, people known as hackers can gain unauthorized access to someone else's computer and make use of the data which they find there. They may, for example, get hold of lists of the names of their competitors' clients and use these to build up their own businesses, or they may use hacking as a form of industrial espionage to find out a rival company's plans. Other hacking activities may be more obviously criminal, in that hackers may log on to financial data in someone else's computer and either alter it illegally or use it for fraudulent purposes.
The possibility ot serious financial fraud has been greatly increased by the modern practice of purchasing goods through the Internet. Apparently, the use of credit cards to pay for such purchases has led to record levels of fraud with a great many people being swindled out of a great deal of money. Banks are working hard to improve online security and to provide safeguards for customers, but fraudsters are working just as hard to improve their crooked techniques.
Many computer users worry in case their systems are affected by computer viruses. The people who introduce such bugs into other people's computer programs may not intentionally be committing a crime, but may be doing so as an act of mischief or spite. The motive does not really matter to the people whose data has been deleted or altered or whose files have been corrupted.
Computers are part of a highly technical method of working, in which there are constantly new developments. Unfortunately, there is also a constant stream of new developments in the fraud industry associated with them. All computer users must be on their guard.
There is much concern among doctors about patients who are overweight. Many of us are taking hardly any exercise and are consuming far too many calories for our sedentary way of life. So it is that more and more of us are suffering from obesity and this can have dangerous consequences for our health.
On the other hand, doctors are also worried at the increase in the number of people who are suffering from anorexia. This is an eating disorder in which people think that they are disgustingly overweight when, in fact, they are far too thin. Often they pretend to eat at meal times, but hide the food, disposing of it later. The disease is sometimes known as the slimmer's disease, but it is far more serious than such a name implies. Anorexia can result in malnutrition and later the complete collapse of the body, eventually leading to death.
Excessively thin or skinny fashion models and other celebrities are often blamed for the spread of this disorder since the young and impressionable regard them as role models and try to copy them. Yet, some experts claim that anorexia is an emotional disorder. Until recently the disorder seemed to affect mainly young women, but now young men are acknowledged sufferers also. Furthermore, the age of the sufferers is getting younger and younger. Some are as young as six years old.
At the same time/ a growing number of people are suffering from bulimia. In the course of this disorder, the sufferer often has times when they overindulge and binge on various foods and then vomit to get rid of it. Sometimes they take laxatives for the same reason. This condition is also a serious one as it can have a bad effect on the bulimic's general health, as well as causing rotting of the teeth. Again it has been suggested that this disease can be emotional in origin.
It is all right to go on a diet for a short time if you want to lose weight, but you should avoid crash diets. It is far better to eat a balanced diet all the time and take some exercise.
Statistics show that more and more of us are suffering from stress and that much of this is caused by our jobs. It appears that many of us are working too hard and this is taking a toll on our health.
There is, experts tell us, simply too much pressure put on many employees these days. In many jobs, in sales or production departments, for example, unrealistic targets are set for the workforce. People are, in fact, trying to do the impossible and making themselves ill by doing so.
In many countries, more and more people are working longer hours. Some workers have to do this to cope with their workload, while others think that staying late will impress the boss so much that he will promote them. This extended presence in the workplace is known as presenteeism.
Such overwork often results in extreme fatigue, or even total exhaustion, with many people also suffering from insomnia. When the workers get home, instead of resting or enjoying a leisure pursuit, they simply cannot switch off. Their minds are still full of work worries.
Most people used to be able to leave behind the tension and anxiety
of the workplace when they went on holiday. Unfortunately, modern communication systems, such as mobile phones and email, have made this a thing of the past. We find it almost impossible to leave our work behind.
Neither the body nor the mind can go on doing too much indefinitely. Workers reach a point beyond which they cannot cope, and have to take time off. Some may experience burn-out and some may become mentally ill. Meanwhile, a study by some American universities has shown that stress can weaken the immune system.
The fact that stress at work leads to illness is supported by findings by the British Health and Safety Executive. These indicate that 60 per cent of absence from work is a result of stress. It is time for us all to take stress seriously and to reconsider the ethos of modern working conditions. Working hard is important but everyone must realize that even productivity is less important than our health.
We are used to regarding blood transfusion as a process which saves lives. Now, there are fears that it may spread disease.
The president of the American Red Gross, Bernadette Healey, said recently that she would be afraid of having a blood transfusion in Britain, even as part of emergency treatment. She would be worried in case she contracted the disease known as vCJD, which is short for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Crcutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a rare and fatal disease which affects the human brain. It has been suggested that the new variant form of it can be caused by eating meat taken from cattle suffering from BSE (short for bovine spongiform encephalopathy), and that vCJD is the human form of BSE. This disease was first identified in Britain in 1986 and is known as mad cow disease because cattle suffering from it keep staggering and falling down.
Much speculation and uncertainty surround how vCJD is contracted, but one thing is certain. No one has yet contracted the disease by means of a blood transfusion* Scientists do not yet know if this is even possible.
However, fears remain that blood donors who are infected with this disease, or who are carriers of it, might pass it on in their blood. The American Red Cross, which supplies about half the blood used in transfusions in the United States, recently placed a ban on blood donors who have lived in, or travelled in, Europe for more than six months.
Reducing stocks of blood is likely to cause problems for American doctors, since the country is already suffering from a chronic shortage of blood in its blood banks. More blood is being used since many modern medical and surgical procedures require a great deal of blood. On the other hand, fewer people seem to want to become blood donors.
Members of the British National Blood Service have defended the safety of its blood supplies, emphasizing the precautions which they have put in place, such as the screening of donors. However, people remember those who were infected with HIV by means of blood transfusions and the fear remains, however unfounded.
Asthma is a respiratory disorder that we have known about for hundreds of years. However, there is still no cure although drugs, such as steroids, and inhalers can alleviate the symptoms of an
asthmatic attack, and there is still no known cause. Worryingly, the number of people who suffer from asthma is increasing rapidly. In some countries in the world the disease is becoming more like an epidemic.
Because of the huge increase in the number of cases in the last 30 years, there is a widespread feeling that some kind of lifestyle change is to blame. Since asthma is a disease which impairs breathing, many researchers have thought that a reduction in air quality might have caused the increase in it. However, it is now thought that although the pollution in the atmosphere might exacerbate the condition, it is unlikely to be the cause of it.
For some considerable time, household dust mites were thought to be a possible cause of the condition, but attempts to keep these to a minimum have not reduced the numbers of asthmatic sufferers. Far from it.
Now researchers are looking to diet to find the culprit. The period over which asthma has increased dramatically in some countries coincides with a period when there have been major changes in diet in countries which have seen the highest rates of increase. It was first thought that some kind of dietary allergy might be a major factor.
At the moment, researchers looking for a dietary trigger for asthma are considering whether a lack of antioxidants could be responsible. Their possible protective powers have been much discussed in connection with other diseases. Now, doctors are wondering if a diet rich in things known to contain high levels of antioxidants, such as fruit and vegetables, would prevent asthma, especially if such a diet was followed by pregnant women.
Meanwhile, the schoolbags of more and more children contain an inhaler as well as books and notebooks. Something at school could trigger an attack and they must be prepared.
Education is a very important part of a child's life, and yet an increasing number of children are showing reluctance to attend school. It is not that they find the work too difficult or are afraid of the teachers. No, it is because they are being bullied.
School bullies can make other children's lives a misery and their bullying takes different forms. Often they will use their physical size to intimidate those who are smaller and weaker than themselves. They will threaten their victims with a beating if they don't do as they say, often using physical force to extort money, and will steal possessions from them by force.
Bullies use verbal abuse as well as physical abuse on their victims. The butt of this abuse may often simply be slightly different in some way from the rest of the class. A child may have red hair, wear spectacles, not have the latest fashion in shoes, have only one parent, or be of a different race, for example. This can make them a target for the school bully, who will indulge in the most insulting name-calling.
Some psychologists say that the desire of the class bully to dominate the others is a result of an inferiority complex or some personal unhappiness, but this does not help those who are on the receiving end of the abuse. So great is the bullying problem that many schools have been forced to draw up an official strategy for dealing with it.
Teachers encourage the victims of bullying to report the matter to one of them, but many of them are afraid to do so, for fear of more physical assault or more taunts. The bullies will accuse them of telling tales and make them suffer more. Furthermore, those who browbeat others, although domineering, can often appear to be charming to those who are in authority.
Because it is so difficult to get victims to report bullies, and often difficult to prove coercion, many bullies escape unpunished. We must protect our children from this persecution. They have a right to enjoy their schooldays.
It happens to us all, however hard we may try to delay the process. We grow old. Cosmetic surgery may remove the wrinkles, skin which has sagged may be tightened by means of a facelift, and hairdressers may dye grey hair a more youthful colour, but we cannot remain young forever.
Advances in medicine have made it possible for more people to stay alive longer. However, what is important is the quality of life and people age differently. Some people remain quite well and able to look after themselves when they get old, but others of the same age are not so lucky. They have to go into sheltered housing or even into a residential home or nursing home in order to receive adequate care.
The worst aspect of ageing is that often the mind becomes less alert. As people grow older, they often experience loss of short-term memory, although they may well be able to recall quite easily events that happened long ago. Later they may suffer from dementia, often in the form of Alzheimer's disease, a disease which gets gradually worse.
By no means all elderly people are in this category. Many senior citizens are in possession of all their faculties and see retirement as a time of freedom. Not only that, if they have a generous retirement pension, they are likely to be quite well off, with money to spend on holidays and other luxuries. Because of this, both businesses and government have a new respect for what is known as grey power.
By no means, however, does everyone treat OAPs with respect. There are some cultures which are noted for the great respect with which they treat their old people, but many people regard the old as having a very low status in society and treat them accordingly.
People in these latter cultures are often guilty of ageism and regard old people as geriatrics who have one foot in the grave. Someone should remind them that they, too, will be old one day.
TEXT 1 GREEN PACKAGING
Manufacturers are currently competing with each other to produce a form of green packaging. Packaging is an important part of marketing these days, but much of it is a threat to the environment. There are two reasons for this. The production of such packaging uses up a great deal of energy and the cartons, wrappers, etc are often difficult to dispose of when they become waste material.
People in most countries have become aware of the damage which modern living is doing to the environment, and many of them are concerning themselves with the conservation of the environment for future generations. Thus, both politicians and scientists are now looking at the issues of energy-saving and waste disposal with a view to making them more environmentally-friendly.
As far as packaging is concerned, it is vital that it is either recyclable or biodegradable. For example, instead of throwing out newspapers and glass bottles with their household rubbish, people in several countries are being encouraged to put these in special containers to allow the material to be recycled. Some household waste, such as vegetable peelings, is naturally biodegradable and so decomposes gradually until it disappears.
Man-made goods are not so easily disposed of. Goods and packaging made of plastic create waste material that is particularly difficult to get rid of. This means that huge landfill sites have to be dug out so as to bury the plastic waste underground, possibly causing problems for future generations.
Just as much of a problem is industrial waste, since the effluent from factories often contains chemicals which can lead to the pollution of water supplies. Waste from factories has to be monitored carefully in order to avoid this.
Technological advances using nuclear power have added to the waste problem. The disposal of nuclear waste causes particular concern because it is radioactive and so possibly dangerous to life.
The high standard of living, which the people of many countries now enjoy, has resulted in a huge increase in waste material. This could have a terrible effect on the ecology of the planet. There is no doubt that urgent action must be taken to save our environment from possible disaster.
Many of the problems which face governments nowadays are international ones. Take traffic, for example. All the major cities of the world are having to try to find ways of dealing with too many vehicles and the congested roads which they cause.
A large number of the vehicles which clog our cities are private cars. Motorists are very reluctant to leave their precious cars behind and go to work on public transport, despite the constant traffic jams. They regard buses, trams and trains as being for other people, while they themselves like to drive from door to door. Thus, our roads are chock-a-block with traffic.
Of course, parking space is not always available. Some firms provide car parks or garages, where at least some of their employees can leave their cars. Most people, however, have to rely on public car parks, often multi-storey ones, or else try to park in the street. Since this is usually highly restricted, with many parking meters in evidence, parking is a source of frustration to many motorists.
People who are otherwise quite law-abiding are apt to take a bit of a risk when it comes to traffic offences. Thus, they ignore both signs that say 'NO PARKING' and lines painted down the edge of the road which indicate parking restrictions. Should they be away from their cars for longer than the amount of time allowed by the parking meter, they are not worried—until they see that the traffic warden has left a parking ticket on their windscreen, and realize that they will have to pay a fine.
The authorities in more and more cities are trying to keep cars out of the city centre. With this aim, they have pedestrianized large areas and introduced park-and-ride schemes so that people will leave their cars at the city boundary and complete their journey by bus.
Still, there are fears that ever-increasing traffic will cause gridlock in cities, particularly at rush hours. With so many tailbacks and bottle-necks on so many roads, motoring is no longer a pleasure. Why, then, do so many of us persist in using our cars?