Part 16: Pollution of our planet
Americans pride themselves with their clean water laws, air pollution laws and environmental protection agencies. Everyone ‘talks’ about their ‘green’ actions and practices. However, they might be surprised to note that a scant 30 percent of citizens recycle with any regularity. No matter how ‘clean’ they might think their air, over 150 million Americans breathe toxic air in cities across the nation.
One look at rivers, lakes and roadways shows billions of cans, bottles and plastic containers tossed carelessly across the land. Everyone reading this series may have seen a six pack of beer bottles left in a parking lot at a motel.
The fact remains, Americans continue as one of the most wasteful and pollution creating countries on the planet. Along with that wasteful culture, this country races pell-mell toward adding another 100 million net gain to the United States by 2035—a scant 25 years from now.
In his book, Too Many People, Lindsey Grant addresses our energy predicament. You may find his book at www.sevenlockspress.com and www.amazon.com. Grant is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Population Affairs.
“As to solid wastes, 27 percent of municipal waste is now recycled in the United States,” said Grant, “but 116 million TONS still go into landfills each year.”
Since less than a half dozen states enjoy a five cent to ten cent deposit/return law, Americans happily toss their containers to the four winds. The result: as shown on the Oprah Show, a giant plastic waste dump larger than Texas and up to 60 feet deep, known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, floats in a vortex of ocean currents. Scientists tell us that plastic containers number 46,000 on every square mile of our oceans. Those plastics in all forms kill millions of marine creatures in our oceans.
No matter how much we ‘clean’ our exhausts, Americans love their SUVs and trucks. Added to that, since 1965, America added 100 million people within 40 years—reaching 300 million in October of 2006. Currently, the population clock ticks at 309 million in the USA. The planet adds another one billion people every 13 years on its way to adding three billion humans by mid century. That many people continue creating pollution!
SULFUR DIOXIDE, NITROGEN OXIDE, OZONE, LEAD POLLUTION
“The twin culprits here are energy generation and the automobile,” said Grant. “Technical fixes are harder to come by than with sulfur dioxide, and our national love affair with the automobile has dampened our legislators’ enthusiasm for doing anything serious.”
The American Lung Association said, “More than 132 million Americans live in areas with dangerous levels of smog.”
Lead in the air creates poison in the blood of humans. If you breathe it, you absorb it. We lessened it by taking it out of gasoline and paints, but: “Lead is leaching into groundwater from mining tailings, dumps, and other sites all over the country. Lead is getting into the biosphere at a rage unknown before the industrial revolution,” said Grant.
“There is immense pressure building on the environment as poor nations seek to live the “good life,” and the rich demonstrate that they are not inclined to abandon it,” said Grant. “In so far as the world cannot or will not pay for expensive technologies to manage pollution, we would be well advised to reduce the population-driven demand that multiplies it.”
WATER AND HEALTH
Grant talked about poor countries. Having personally ridden my bicycle through much of the third world, I witnessed the incomprehensible poverty affecting two billion people on this planet. I’d say at least one to two billion people on the planet do not use a toilet. They use an outhouse or the ground. Their human waste pollutes ground water, rivers, lakes, streams and oceans.
What Americans do not understand accelerates all around them. As humans add an almost mind-bending 77 million annually, they cannot be fed. Thus, they migrate, and their migration accelerates as desperation grows around the planet.
“Urban populations in the less-developed countries have grown six fold since 1950, from 304 million to two billion; they are expected to pass four billion by 2030. Those dry numbers do not convey the horror of expanding slums, festering in the breakdown of urban services and the lack of basic necessities like clean water. Some 90 percent of the sewage in those cities goes untreated into ditches and water sources, and much of it is re-used immediately by people with no other options.”
Thus, as reported by Bill Ryerson at www.populationmedia.org , countries like India suffer 1,000 children dying DAILY from water borne diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea and parasites. By the way, in excess of one million Indians squat for their morning constitutional anywhere upon the land. The Ganges, although a holy river, runs in raw sewage 24/7.
No wonder millions clamber to move to the United States and other Western societies. Some demographic experts predict 50 to 100 million environmental refugees trying to enter first world countries within the next two decades.
Denver Post Your Hub April 16, 2010