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by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.
Blotch on the Landscape
It happened again yesterday. I was driving along the interstate behind a gleaming, black Lexus, when suddenly a cup flew out the window and tumbled to the side of the road. It was a Styrofoam cup -- non-biodegradable and now a permanent blotch on the landscape.
Signs of such disregard for the environment abound. Contaminated ground water pollutes town wells; fish die mysteriously in lakes and streams; posted signs warn against swimming in scum-covered ponds. I never saw such signs as a child. When we swam near a waterfall, we thought nothing of opening our mouths under the spray for a refreshing drink. I would never do that today.
Recently, our household drinking water turned brown. When I called the water department about it, they told me they had been repairing a pipe under the street in our neighborhood, so we should expect some discoloration of the water for two or three days. Three weeks later we still had brown water. The next suggestion was that the muddy water caused by the repair efforts might have backed up into our hot water tank, causing the water to remain discolored longer than usual.
After another few weeks living with undrinkable water, we had a filter put on the water main coming into the house and replaced the hot water tank. Success! For the time being anyway, we have clear, tasty water again.
I no longer take potable water for granted -- nor does my friend Gail, who wrote to me last summer about a spoiled fishing outing with her sons.
"My two boys and I," she wrote, "hiked along a stream through the state park to a waterfall and watched the water tumble over the rocks to a wide basin below. Our attention was naturally drawn to the basin, to a dazzling fluorescent green covering that had collected in the calm area on the far side of the falls. What we noticed in this algae-like scum was trash -- soda bottles, juice cartons and other man-made debris. We looked around for trash cans, but seeing none, walked farther along the stream to a shallow pool where we could see fish jumping for insects -- a perfect spot for the boys to cast their fishing lines.
"I began a peaceful nap," Gail continued, "interrupted when the boys returned saying they no longer wanted to fish. Why? Because they had seen two young mothers come down to the water's edge, change their babies' diapers, roll up the soiled ones and push them between some stones in the stream! This foul sight brought our planned idyllic afternoon to a discouraging end."
How do we raise the awareness of every citizen to take responsibility for protection and preservation of our natural environment? We obviously need to do more.
As Chief Seattle, an influential Native American of the Suquamish tribe, reminded us in the mid-1850's:
"The rivers are our brothers. The air is precious, for all things share the same breath. This we know. The earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. So if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. We may be brothers after all."
Individuals -- young and old -- and leaders of government and business must take the initiative to eliminate air and water pollutants, rather than responding grudgingly when threatened with fines, lawsuits, or worse. Recognition of exemplary leaders who successfully reduce waste and pollution will challenge others to do the same. We need everyone’s cooperation and participation to restore and preserve the spectacular natural beauty of our environment. Future generations are depending on us.
Author's Note: The above story is an excerpt from Beth Bruno's book, Wild Tulips, available from amazon.com
Discussion of Chief Seattle's speech of 1854:
Earth 911 - Recycling, Beach Water Quality and Environmental Information:
Gazette Articles by Beth Bruno:
Beth Bruno [email protected]
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