When my dear old pappy was a young feller (we’re talking medieval history here), it was said that a standard issue human could walk across Lake Erie, and the poor housewives of Pittsburgh, after hanging out their clean washed laundry to dry, would find it covered with black particles emitted by the nearby steel mills. The tributary rivers emptying into Lake Erie were so polluted with industrial wastes and inadequately treated municipal wastes that in 1969 the Cuyahoga and Detroit rivers actually caught fire.
Local officials in cities along the rivers finally began massive clean up efforts and our good old U.S. Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, plus Canada and the US established water pollution limits in an International Water Quality Agreement. As a result of the new regulatory actions, by 1999 there was convincing evidence that Lake Erie was moving back to health.
As early as 1963, the Federal Government began passing Clean Air legislation and passed regulatory controls in 1970, 1977, and 1990. The Environmental Protection Agency was established to develop and enforce regulations to protect the public from airborne contaminants. Though most industries in the U.S., including the steel mills, were able to afford the costs of pollution control, old Pittsburgh cleaned up its air by shuttering many of its mills. This hasn’t been all bad for the town because without its steel based economy it has been able to move into new technologies very well. In total, steel production in the U.S. held up very well at around 100 million metric tons per year until the last decade when it has contracted along with most of the industrialized world, with the important exception of China which has gone from about 100 million to nearly 800 million metric tons. Unfortunately for the environment, much of the Chinese industrial production and electric generation is fueled by coal, the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels.
Which just shows to go you that we have, on occasion, been able to clean up our act here in the good old U.S. of A! Of course all the foregoing legislative action came at a time before half of the inhabitants of our dear old country had acquired a distinctly overt disdain for the other half and vice versa, and began electing intellectually-challenged partisans to go to Washington to battle each other over each and every issue before them instead of seeking ways of improving the lot of all our citizens. So very sad!
Of course, the environment and the devastation thereof is not just our U.S. of A problem, but a worldwide disaster. Enjoying their newfound economic rewards, Chinese people living in Beijing now regularly wear gas masks due to the level of pollutants in the air. Just a few other cheerful examples of humanity’s lack of respect for our poor old Mother Earth are cited here for your entertainment (well, y’all love to watch disasters on your tellys, don’t you!):
- How about the magnificent oceans which cover over 2/3 of our earth – they are fast becoming enormous water graves with nasty flotillas for our prodigious blobs of wastes.
- Or consider the number of cities across the world, from Los Angeles to Tokyo, which need to alternate between cars with even and odd numbered license plates allowed on their streets every other day.
- We even spread some polluting materials purposely when we are attempting to enhance food production and doing other positive things through the use of pesticides which include herbicides, fungicides, and other substances used to control pests such as pesky insects, animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, etc. Old pappy was able to locate some info on pesticide usage after contacting a very helpful EPA employee. Guesstimates for 2007 indicate world use of some 5.2 billion pounds of which our good old U.S. of A represents about 22%. It’s always amazing how such a relatively small population can garner such a large share of whatever is being consumed!!
- All this excitement and we haven’t even mentioned antibiotics being copiously used throughout our food chain to prevent disease and fatten animals we will eat. Together with the meds we all take, this bit of massive consumption happens to create “super bugs,” which defy eradication.
- and then…..Of course, in polite company, we never mention radioactive waste from our nuclear power plants, or where to store it for the next thousand years or so.
Even Mount Everest hasn’t been spared – recently this majestic pinnacle has been dubbed, “the world’s tallest trash dump.” Nepal has had to impose a fine on “climbers” who abandon their junk on the mountain. If they return without at least 5 pounds of trash, they forfeit a deposit of $4,000.
Last week’s tragic avalanche which resulted in the death of at least 12 guides reveals sad commentary on the excesses of modern “adventurers.” The guides, known as Sherpas, were fixing ropes for the aspiring climbers and were stocking supplies at the base camps in anticipation of the many hopefuls coming for the main Spring climbing season. These climbers, many of whom are inexperienced have spent many thousands of dollars for the opportunity to attempt the climb.
Are ya beginning to acquire an inclination that we human beans are not being very good stewards of our wonderful planet. It’s probably well past time that we begin considering the dire consequences of our destroying our sole habitat – after all, its still a very long way to Mars!
Please check back on me in a couple weeks, kids, when I’m planning to chat about our military, and it’s potential for good.
A tout a l’heure!