Germany is located amid other heavily industrial nations whose air pollution and water pollution enter the country with the wind and rain, and in the rivers. Also every summer many automobiles, including those from other European countries, drive across Germany’s autobahn on their way to vacations in southern Europe. Among Germany’s homegrown environmental problems, the most important are probably those connected with industrial overdevelopment and automobile traffic. A densely settled country, Germany has limited land, air, and water in which to bury and dissipate all the toxic wastes produced by its intensive industrial development. Pollutants released by factories and automobile exhausts are blamed for the widespread destruction of forests from acid rain.
Agricultural development results in fertilizer and pesticide runoff into lakes and streams, contaminating the groundwater supply. Germany also received some nuclear fallout at the time of the 1986 Chernobyl’ reactor meltdown in Ukraine (Chernobyl’ Accident). Public resistance halted the development of nuclear energy in Germany as people objected to the proposed sites of nuclear plants.
With unification, West Germany inherited the enormous pollution problems of East Germany, whose government had not dealt with serious environmental damage. Among the worst problems were the open remnants from strip mining and the legacy of the chemical industry, both located in southern East Germany. The poisoning of soil and groundwater by uncontrolled industrial and agricultural development required enormous expenditures for cleanup. The burning of brown coal, the only kind of coal abundant in East Germany, has led to health problems, including respiratory ailments and lung and heart disease.
Germany has developed a number of measures to address environmental problems, ranging from controls on industrial emissions to identification of additives in food to smog control devices on vehicles. In the 1970s an environmental protest movement developed, and the Green Party—a political party that focuses on environmental issues—was formed. These two events led the major political parties to devote more attention to the environment because they felt they had to compete with the Green Party. The most remarkable result of this increased environmental awareness was the development of an “eco-industry,” a new manufacturing sector that makes pollution-control devices and other environmentally useful equipment. This industry has also produced new jobs, helping counter the fears of both trade unions and existing industries that environmental controls would cost jobs and handicap business.
In addition, Germany has ratified various international environmental agreements on air pollution, biodiversity, global warming, endangered species, oceans, the ozone layer, wetlands, and whaling. © "Germany" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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