Earth Day 2013

[Ed. note: I noticed an odd punctuation error the evening after writing this and added some text as well when I got in to fix it.]

Today is the 43rd annual Earth Day.

The Weather Channel showed a clip of Walter Cronkite from the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. He said,

"Someday, we heard today, the world will be a better place -- if it listens and acts. But in the meantime, perhaps for a generation or more, it will be frighteningly costly to each of us to clean up the mess each of us has made.

"But the cost of not doing so is more frightening. That's what today's message really means. And those who marched today, and those who slept, and those who scorned, are in this thing together.

"What is at stake, and what is in question, is survival."

I was 7 years old on that first Earth Day. The spirit of environmentalism was instilled in me by popular culture and enforced well enough that I am fastidious in both cleaning up after myself and in not making a mess in the first place. (Outdoors, at least.)

For example, even though I smoke, I do not throw cigarette butts anywhere. Sometimes I'll be at somebody's house (an admittedly rare occurrence for a hermit like me) and when they see me searching for an ashtray, they'll say "just throw it in the yard," I won't do it.

If I don't have an ashtray or bucket available, I'll empty out the remaining tobacco, roll up the filter and paper, and stick it in my pocket. Lisa taught me about tobacco offerings, and I always say a few words when I "give the tobacco back to the Mother". Lisa approved of this practice.

But Earth Day is more than just an artificial demi-holiday. The Cuyahoga (why didn't my spellchecker know that name?) River Fires -- yes, there was more than one, it was almost a tradition for 100 years -- were one of the most glaring examples of the rampant pollution. But the pollution was more than just dirty rivers and chemical dumps like Love Canal.

Whenever someone complains about environmental regulations - especially someone my age or older - I ask myself, "Where were these people during the 1960's and 70's?"

Here's my $0.02 on part of what Mr, Cronkite said in 1970, to wit:

"But in the meantime, perhaps for a generation or more, it will be frighteningly costly to each of us to clean up the mess each of us has made."

He was right about that. I would add that the cost of remaining clean will continue. Yes, regulations lead to increased costs for businesses and consumers. But I'd rather pay a bit more along the way than pay billions of dollars in tax money in lump sums to clean up all the new Superfund sites that would rapidly appear should the regulations go away.

Corporations rarely police themselves well enough to justify removing regulations. And the occasional new regulation wouldn't hurt much, either. And why is that? why don't they police themselves well enough? Because they are run by human beings, and humans are imperfect and often greedy. Humans are often willing to make a disgusting mess rather than spend some money. This occurs from the low level of a cigarette butt thrown out a car window to raw sewage flowing into open running streams and rivers.

A bit of trivia: for seven months in the mid-1990's I worked designing circuit boards for a company that designed and manufactured equipment that could detect the type and amount of pollution in water. The engineers would take prototype units down to a nearby creek that ran behind McDonald's. They told me that there were a lot of fats in the water after it ran past McDonald's that weren't present on the other side, so it was good for checking out new designs.

The weather is chilly again, and so on this Earth Day I am watching hummingbirds at the feeder with the American flag blowing in the breeze behind it. When it warms up later I'll take the boys out.

No comments:

Post a Comment