Monday, November 09, 2009

Ubiquitous Pollution

Within the last couple of weeks, I have posted numerous environmental articles on Brownfieldsway more than normal. Speculating as to why there is a sudden interest in Brownfields in the local media, I thought of several possible factors: There’s a rash of Brownfields actually springing up; or, the media is clearing their desks of Brownfields related articles; or, because localized pollution events oftentimes show up randomly anyways; or, the media are becoming more attentive to what our policies towards recklessly releasing man-made chemicals into our environment has wrought. Possibly, because the United States does not have strict regulations on the chemicals used in our products or released into our environment (as the Europeans do) this irresponsible policy is catching up with us.

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe there’s more federal stimulus money suddenly ending up in local coffers, so it’s OK for the media to launch a story or two on why we need to clean up these old polluted sites. Because unless there is a pollution event (toxins bubbling up to the surface from where they were dumped) the media usually finds little incentive to continually remind us that most man-made pollutants don’t merely breakdown and reenter our environment as warm and fuzzies. Get real: Dangerous toxins don’t merely go benign because we they’ve left our field of vision—like down a drain, or into a stream or lake.

The list of toxic chemicals [] grows all the time. Moreover, despite all the attempts to ignore the ugly specter of the symptoms caused by our own pollutants, they resurface. Cancer, endocrine disruptions (hermaphrodite frogs), you-name-it (and some have []), they come back with a vengeance.

Pick your most convenient reason as to why we collectively approach the issue of Brownfields with such monstrous neglect. But the truth is that those dangerous chemicals we’ve allowed to go out and mix in our environment accumulate somewhere, perhaps in our bodies, as the body burden []), in fish, or in our dinking water.

My guess is that besides the specter of global warming for those who come after us, an increase in pollution outbreaks will be commonplace. Our environment never has been able to ‘take care’ of dangerous man-made chemicals. It’s just that in the past we were better able to fool ourselves that the stuff we cooked up in the labs and released without testing, would just disappear. Simply go away with nary a thought. Out of sight, out of mind.

When you think of how many centuries it took to evolve all of those cool chemicals in Nature (say bee venom, or that stuff spiders inject to make the guts of insects ready for a tasty meal) you have to wonder what our species were thinking when we concocted a zillion man-made chemicals and instantaneously spewed them into this 4 billion-year process on Earth called ‘life.’ Think of a single element or compound Nature didn’t test.

No comments: