This article linked here: http://csmonitor.com/2006/0505/p01s01-woap.html contains a photograph of the Pearl River taken right where we walk every day. The bridge in the background is a really pretty bridge, don’t you think? I have a bit of fun by asking my Chinese friends whether they think the design of the bridge supports is meant to be fish or birds. Almost everyone (including me) answers that they think it’s birds. David, on the other hand, thinks it’s fish.
Anyway, this article reminded me of a shocking scene I saw a few weeks ago. I saw some people out swimming in the Pearl River! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wondered what kind of idiots they were, or how they could ignore the smell to swim in that water. Remarkably, there seem to be fish in the water. I’m not sure how they survive! But let’s not use too much of a double standard here. From S’s activities and science projects, I know that all the yard chemicals that you and I put on our lawns, as well as things like the ibuprofen that I take that gets metabolized by my kidneys and then excreted into the public sewer system — all of that makes it into the watershed. I’m also surprised that fish are able to live in Cary’s Lake, an urban lake near our house in our medium sized US city. One time I happened to be swimming in that lake when a summer shower began. There was no lightning so I didn’t get out of the water. Almost immediately, however, I found myself engulfed in oil and nasty smelling water as rain washed the surface water and pollutants from the land down into the lake itself. Not a fun experience.
The next year, S’s science project (guided by environmental experts and teacher, not by mom) was to measure levels of specific pollutants before, during, and after a rain storm to see how the pollutants varied with rainfall. If I had known then what I learned as a result of S’s project, I would have gotten out of the lake immediately when that rain runoff started! For the following year’s project, S was encouraged to measure toxins in the sediment of the lake bottom, but it was too expensive and too much trouble to apply for a grant. But the general consenus was that that she would find toxins, just a matter of figuring out exactly which ones and how much.
We all need to do our part to protect the environment. And that doesn’t just mean recycling. There are three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. They are listed in order of importance.
And if you want to complain about environmental regulations, just come to China to see what happens when there aren’t any. Whole villages where everyone is dying of cancer. Think about it, there is always a cost.