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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

No one ever accused me of being an environmentalist or a ‘treehugger.’ Heck, I smoked and threw the butts out the car window, and, like you, I peed in the ocean when I felt the urge to go. And while I don’t remember it really well, I probably left a few empty beer bottles behind in my younger, wilder [Ha!] days.

Of late I have come to realize that I was not the only slob in the world. From the time man first set foot in North America, it appears that we have been trying to destroy the world in which we live. We have polluted our land and air, our lakes and streams, our oceans, and have been responsible for the near extinction of certain animal species that are our very life blood. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jumping up on a soap box here, but I just find it difficult to believe – now that I’m in my dotage – that we all have been such idiots to believe that we could take the “business as usual” attitude and not realize that somewhere along the way there would be consequences.

I suppose that anyone can come up with a definition of pollution. This one was pulled from the Internet: “Pollution occurs when pollutants contaminate the natural surroundings; which brings about changes that affect our normal lifestyles adversely. Pollutants are the key elements or components of pollution which are generally waste materials of different forms. Pollution disturbs our ecosystem and the balance in the environment. With modernization and development in our lives pollution has reached its peak; giving rise to global warming and human illness.”

We’ve been polluting our environment for centuries, over-fishing, over-hunting, over-planting, and using rivers, lakes, oceans, and land as dumping ground for some pretty serious stuff. If the environment itself cannot find a way to eliminate an element that man has created that element can screw up the ecosystem and raise hell all over.

I won’t bore you with talk of how the South over-planted cotton and tobacco and caused much of the land to become infertile. I won’t even discuss what happened in the thirties when the dust bowls came along and blew the top soil off the mistreated land. However, I do want to mention a several things that I find exceedingly disturbing in light of the minimal research I’ve done on our much screwed up environment. The two that bother me the most are radioactive waste and oil pollution.

In reading Climate Viewer News, I came across this little tidbit: “The Hanford Site in Washington, was an integral part of the US atomic bomb project, manufacturing plutonium for the first nuclear bomb and “Fat Man,” used at Nagasaki. As the Cold War waged on, it ramped up production, supplying plutonium for most of America’s 60,000 nuclear weapons. Although decommissioned, it still holds two thirds of the volume of the country’s high-level radioactive waste — about 53 million gallons of liquid waste, 25 million cubic feet of solid waste and 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater underneath the area, making it the most contaminated site in the US.”

As if we hadn’t screwed things up enough in our dealings with Native Americans, the largest radioactive spill in the United States occurred in Church Rock, New Mexico in July 1979 when a dam at an evaporation pond broke on the Navajo Reservation, releasing 94 million gallons of radioactive waste to the Puerco River, which flowed through nearby communities…that’s according to a 2014 report from the United States General Accounting Office. The radioactive material was a mixture of water and mill tailings, leftovers that retained toxic contaminants from the mining process that converted mined uranium into yellow slurry, known as yellow cake. The tailings were “placed in unlined evaporation ponds at the mill site,” the report says, meaning the radioactive goop that washed into the Puerco River and flowed through communities downstream was a public health hazard. Just how bad was it? According to former L.A. Times reporter, Jody Pasternak, writing in her book, Yellow Cake, “The water, filled with acids from the milling process, twisted a metal culvert in the Puerco and burned the feet of a little boy who went wading. Sheep keeled over and died, and crops curdled along the banks. The surge of radiation was detected as far away as Sanders, Arizona, fifty miles downstream.” Today, nearly “…30 years after the spill, the majority of mines await clean up while thousands of Navajos lead lives potentially in harm’s way due to the legacy of uranium mining on the reservation.” That is an absolute sin.

Is America the big bad wolf of radioactive waste? Not by a long shot. Russia, China, India, Iran, Brazil, France, Spain, and the Middle of the Mediterranean Sea, have their problems with radioactive waste materials. Once more, man has developed an element that cannot be destroyed by the natural environment without creating harm to itself, and we are left with pollution that could have a half-life of thousands of years and wind up killing or mutating man himself.

Let us move on. On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez entered Prince William Sound in Alaska. The ship hit a reef, tore open its hull, and released eleven million gallons of crude oil. A storm blew in and blew out the oil, spreading it over more than 1,000 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of fish and animals perished. Even today, on many Alaskan beaches you can still find remnants of the tragedy that was the Exxon Valdez.

More recently, the Gulf of Mexico became a site for a disastrous spill. On April 20, 2010, the oil drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon suffered an explosion on board, cause the leakage of 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf. This spill, the largest in U.S. history, killed wildlife, damaged fisheries and severely harmed the overall economy of the Gulf.

As I read and research some of these frightening things, I find it difficult to believe that we, the human beings of the world, the animals that are supposed to be the most intelligent of the species, can so badly harm the world in which we live. Okay, some folks don’t give a damn…the win at all costs mentality. The only problem with that is that there are no winners. We are killing ourselves and other living, breathing species on the planet and we’re too bloody dumb to realize it. We can’t begin to reverse our stupidity during the lifetime of my children or even my grandchildren, but somewhere, somehow, someone has to begin to speak up, or it may well be that I will never have any great, great great grandchildren. Naw, I won’t be around anyway, but I sure wish they could be.

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