Since the beginning of time, humans have learned to make use of many things in nature such as fire and electricity. From the early times through the Industrial Revolution to the Space Age, humans have produced inventions that use many of the earth's varied energy resources to make living easier. In many cases the energy comes from burning fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas.
Some of the inventions that make our lives easier are also causing pollution. Pollution is the release of harmful substances into the environment. One form of pollution is acid rain. Acid rain can damage plants, animals, soil, water, building materials, and people. Scientists have discovered that burning fossil fuels creates acid rain through air pollution. People burn fossil fuels such as coal and oil to make electricity. Electricity heats and lights buildings and runs appliances such as televisions and video recorders. Fossil fuels power our cars, buses, and airplanes. The air pollution created when these fuels burn does not stay in the air forever. It can return to the earth as acid rain. And when it does, it may weaken the plant and animal life it contacts. Acid rain is only one form of pollution that results from burning fossil fuels. It is one of particular interest, however, because it can be transported over long distances. Scientists, engineers, and researchers are learning how to measure the amount and effects of pollution in the air, forests, water, and soil. They are inventing ways to reduce the amount of pollution that enters the environment and prevent new damage in the future.