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Categorized | Outdoors

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Protect people and nature

By Ranger Steve Mueller

The closer someone is to our own life the more we care about their health and wellbeing. Clearly, we do not want our children brain damaged by lead in our water in order to receive less expensive water to balance the city budget. Flint has gained temporary national news and the economic cost will far exceed the cost of having continued purchasing water from Detroit. The greatest cost is social and environmental.

Such stories are common and are quickly forgotten. The PBB fire retardant that was accidentally put in cow feed was buried with the cows in St. Lewis, Michigan, and was perhaps as bad or worse than the lead in water. Now the PBB incident is far from people’s minds. The PBB disposal site is still one of the most serious toxic waste dumps and many think it is not adequately confined. People claim deaths are attributed to the contamination leaks and are likely still occurring. That is partly due to the public not wanting to know about it. We are good at burying our heads in the sand like ostriches.

How many recall the Times Beach, Missouri incident from the 1970’s? A school was built on buried toxic waste. The grown children are experiencing 33 percent miscarriages and their surviving children have the same percentage of chromosome damage as their parents. Do you recall the Love Canal, New York Dioxin incident?

Who remembers the groundwater salt contamination by Dow wastewater injection into well water before the Clean Water Act of 1973? People can no longer use well water. It has become more expensive to obtain clean water and it removed a valuable resource from community use.

My first job upon graduating from College was as an urban forester in Midland. My job was to select trees on Dow Chemical woodlots to vegetate the city. I had a crew prepare 15-foot-tall trees for transplant to reforest the city. Air pollution from Dow had killed most of the trees in Midland. The Clean Air Act of 1973 required industries place pollution scrubbers on chimneys. Many fought the new regulation because it would increase the cost of doing business. Like the lead problem in Flint, the cost in human lives and lung disease as well as life loss to plants and animals was not factored into the business cost. The cost was passed on to individuals, medical insurance premiums and to government programs that private companies did not include in their bottom line.

In 1962, Rachel Carson brought the DDT insecticide problem to public awareness. Unlike many other scientists, she was skilled at writing in a manner that connected with non-scientists. She was able to make the written word readable for those not trained in scientific terminology and complex methodologies. Aldo Leopold also wrote about the essential importance of wilderness for recreation, science, and wildlife in 1949, in a manner understandable for the general public. As a result of their communication abilities, they share the designation as the two most outstanding environmentalists of the 20th century. Read their books.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is partly due to Carson’s book “Silent Spring” building a critical mass of people to support the connection between human and nature niche protection. We could use a writer like Carson to write a similar book about climate change that connects with the general reader. Like the DDT issue, there is massive money being spent to discredit climate change even thought nearly all climate scientists agree evidence supports it is human caused. People prefer to believe what they want instead of evidence supported studies.

Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac,” was important for building the critical mass of American citizens to support the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. We had a more bipartisan Congress during those decades that acted with concern when people were dying from air, water, and pesticide contamination and for future generations health. Now elected officials have become so interested in serving only a portion of the citizens that elected them, they ignore nearly 50 percent of citizens. Consider supporting politicians that work for all Americans instead of just some people. The downside of that is nobody gets all what they want. I always maintain no one should complain about government. We should complain about our neighbors. The problem is not with government; it is with neighbors that elect government officials to serve only them instead of serving all Americans.

Elect those that understand how important nature’s ecological processes are for long term community social, economic, and ecological sustainability. The present is fleeting. The future is forever.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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