Nature Meditation #23 – Two Roads Diverge … Danger Lies Ahead

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy; a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. the other fork of the road – the one “less traveled by” – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

For many of us, the book Silent Spring was our introduction to the dangers of pollution. It was the 1960s, and, because there were NO environmental laws that required companies to limit, or even acknowledge that they were polluting the land, the water, and the air, people in the United States and around the world were getting sick. Birth defects were rampant, tumors, cancers and any number of disorders were becoming commonplace. Carson alerted us to a world without songbirds, one possible result of the rampant pollution that was taking place in the U.S. after WWII.

Thanks to Rachel Carson, an oceanographer, and others who cried “Enough!” the overwhelming evidence became common knowledge. Eastern Rivers were so polluted that people could not drink the water, much less hope to swim in them. Developments like Love Canal, built on top of hazardous chemical waste dumps, existed all over the country. And the air, especially in our largest cities as well as manufacturing centers like Detroilt, was filled with an acrid yellow-brown haze that was impossible to breathe. Extinctions in the natural world were climbing.

Carson and many others  fought hard for laws to require limits on processes and chemicals that caused air pollution, water pollution and toxic waste dumps. Yes, these laws required the companies to use new equipment, find new sources of fuel, and use filters and other devices to prevent pushing these pollutants out into the environment. Yes, it was expensive for the companies and in the long run for the consumer, but the results were good. The waters eventually became clearer, and so did the air and the land in areas where the laws were enforced. Human health improved, and so did the quality of life in the affected areas.  Government was working on behalf of the people.
 
Currently in America, there is an outcry against big government. Many proclaim, “get the government out of my life!” But I cringe to think that the requirements of these all important environmental laws, the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, and even the Endangered Species Act, may be reduced to mere words, and that the ability to enforce these laws, a task given to the Environmental Protection Agency, may be restricted.
 
We need to preserve the earth – and to fight for our rights to be healthy and safe from pollution in our homes and cities.

“When my son runs down the hill through the trees, shouting for mama and laughing as freely as only a baby can laugh, I cup my hands in stubborn hopefulness, making to him the promise my mama could never keep to me. I will make this place safe for him, bring him back to this landscape throughout his life, this wild country of beauty and hope and mystery.” – Dorothy Allison, “Promises”

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