WILL MANKIND CONQUER POLLUTION? or will pollution conquer man?
Donald D Schroeder
The global fight against pollution is being stymied before it has hardly begun. Yet the fact is, the battle will be won!
SUDDENLY, mankind is at an environmental crossroads. The fight against air, water and land pollution is being undermined by a host of economic, political, military and social crises in almost every nation. Just when intensive efforts must be made against massive outpourings of pollution and environmental degradation — even extreme efforts in some cases — the battle in almost every nation has to be delayed or ignored. Why? Many do not realize that strong antipollution controls have been a costly luxury affordable mainly only by rich, developed nations. Developing nations have rarely been able to afford them.
Luxury of the Rich Only?
Now, in these economically stressed times, strong antipollution efforts run counter to government and industry policies. Hence the growing downplay by many government officials and citizens who formerly supported them. Even the richest nations are struggling to find enough money, trained man power and resources to divert to environmental controls in the face of the cry for economic and industrial expansion to create new jobs. And to meet social welfare demands and energy and defense needs. What a dilemma mankind is in! Recovery from recession, and security needs are given priority over strong antipollution efforts. Heads of major industrial corporations around the world say stricter regulations will contribute to unemployment, curtail productivity and competitiveness, divert expensive energy and threaten to regulate them into bankruptcy. Nations everywhere feel impelled to improve their industrial and technological capacity even if it means more rapid pollution of the environment. Yet failure to control pollution and destruction of the earth's life-sustaining environment in this decade could seal the fate of all humanity. What many leaders, businessmen and citizens fail to grasp—or are blinding their minds to—is that new economic priorities are gambling with the lives of all humanity. Action against the onslaught of pollution must be taken now, or it will be too late!
It's hard to believe. But it was hardly more than 10 years ago that leading scientists, environmentalists and government representatives gathered for the first time in a historic conference to confront the unprecedented threat of global pollution to humanity. In June, 1972, delegates from more than 100 nations met at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. There delegates faced grim facts about the earth's rapidly degrading air, water and land. The facts compounded into the inescapable conclusion: Even if nuclear war doesn't destroy mankind, rapidly escalating pollution and destruction of environment will achieve the same result in a few decades unless it is quickly reversed. The delegates established the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Its purpose was to monitor humanity's progress in fighting environmental pollution and destruction. In retrospect, that conference—man's boldest attempt to save himself from extermination in his own industrial and technological filth—achieved its planners' primary objective. For the first time in history, leaders of the world together faced the reality that we are polluting ourselves to death. And yet, while this important conference objective was largely achieved, none of the laudatory resolutions for international cooperation, or for coping with international pollution problems, were binding, even on the governments that supported them. Again and again at the historic conference, delegates bristled with hostility at any proposals that appeared to conflict with their short-term economic interests. Leaders of developing nations, short of cash reserves, said costly pollution controls were an obstacle to industrial development needed to pull them out of poverty.
How Far Have We Come?
How far has mankind progressed in the fight against pollution since 1972? In all fairness, the Environmental Decade of the 1970s was a unique decade of widespread awareness of environmental destruction and of strong efforts to do something about it. Even many nations who said they couldn't afford strong antipollution controls felt impelled to do what they could within their means. One could report numerous localized examples and amazing success stories in cleaning up polluted air and water and ruined land. Environmental impact laws now temper runaway degradation in many areas where such laws did not exist before. Various industries have spent millions cleaning up their pollution. In some areas, certain air pollutants have been markedly reduced. There have also been remarkable reverses of severely polluted rivers, lakes and streams on various continents. These experiences demonstrate to all what can happen when intensive antipollution measures are introduced into a region. There have also been major advances, at least in primary research and development stages, in nonpolluting energy technology and in conservation technology. Amazingly simple and safe methods of generating power from solar and geothermal sources, biomass gases and wind have been designed and built. And concepts of tapping limitless ocean currents and waves for power have been put to design. Simple waste water purification and recycling plants using aquatic vegetation or bacterial organisms and designed for home or small communities have been experimented with — and they work. The recycling of animal and vegetative wastes by controlled biomass reduction has proven to be a safe and feasible source of heat, fuel and fertilizer. These and other nonpolluting technologies work in harmony with — not against — natural environmental systems. Much of this technology, known in decades past, if applied, could have gone a long way toward reducing man's degradation of his environment.
Today's Pollution Reality
But at the same time that mankind is making limited progress in methods to reduce pollution, most areas of the earth have seen no relenting of pollution, no progress in lessening degradation of environments. Just the opposite. For most parts of the earth old pollution problems have worsened under the onslaught of concentrations of humans or animals, or from rapid and thoughtless applications of modern industrial technology. "Out of sight, out of mind" toxic chemicals have subsequently risen ugly heads from thousands of improperly used dumps and landfills around the world. Chemicals are leaching into water supplies and oceans or evaporating into the air. Experts tell us there is no quick technological bailout on the horizon to do anything about it. Now with governments everywhere stretched to the limits to handle immediately pressing social and economic problems, many fear that the Environmental Decade of the 1970s may be the last environmental decade. It is these developments that have produced the gloomy United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) report on the past decade's overall achievements. Speaking for UNEP, executive director Mostafa Tolba told more than 100 delegates meeting in Nairobi, Kenya last May that in the last decade, "on almost every front, there has been a marked deterioration in the quality of our shared environment." Man, he indicated, is not even holding his own against pollution, but is being overwhelmed. Mr. Tolba warned that governments had this choice: "Take action now or face disaster." Lack of such action now, he said, would bring "by the turn of the century" — less than two decades away — "environmental catastrophe which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust." UNEP's gloomy report concluded: "The concepts for ecologically sound management have been imperfectly or too slowly applied. In some cases they have been ignored entirely." Why, with today's explosion in knowledge?
More and more, scientists are discovering there is no careless disposing of human or chemical wastes that does not reap serious environmental penalties. All too many pollutants injected into the soil, water or air are coming back to haunt humanity. More and more it is being discovered that pollution engendered in one area often wreaks serious havoc and destruction far away — in some cases thousands of miles or even continents away. Polluted, air, water and land befoul not just populated or industrialized areas where it is engendered, but often are spread internationally by winds, rain and oceans. Acid rain is a major case in point. Tons of toxic chemicals spewed into the air by one nation's industry and motor vehicles end up being dumped on other nations, nearby or far away, depending on prevailing wind patterns. The tragic consequence is blankets of poisonous moisture and air moving from continent to continent killing off thousands of lakes, destroying many forest areas, vegetation and wildlife. "It is extremely unsettling to see rich soil and ample irrigation unable to produce a crop because the air cannot support the growth of healthy plants," said a U.S. congressman at recent hearings on ozone damage to agriculture. Pollution is international. It will require a global — not just a local or national-solution. If only a few nations expend extreme efforts to fight their pollution but the majority of other nations do not — the battle will be lost with the same fateful outcome for humanity. Is it too late to save mankind from destruction in his own toxic wastes? Few seem to realize that pollution cannot be solved merely by developing new technology to scrub contaminants out or disperse them. These temporary methods usually end up causing as many problems as or more problems than they solve. We don't want to face the real cause of humanity's global pollution crisis. All mankind is headed in the wrong direction. Life-styles, technology, purposes, motivations and values are wrong. Only a complete revolution in the nature of man will make every consumer properly dispose of wastes, make every industry use either nonpolluting technology or right pollution control equipment if pollutants are produced. Several years ago Leon de Rosen, head of the industry program of the U.N. Environment Program, said, "We believe that the only reasonable way for the future is to develop nonpolluting technologies." Other experts say there must be a wholesale shift away from heavy dependence on petroleum and polluting automobiles. But in our divided, confused competitive world, how could this happen? It is impossible! Almost everyone realizes that humanity is locked into damaging technological and social systems so entrenched in our world that humanity can't stop without creating world chaos and war.
And yet the good news is, global pollution will be stopped in its tracks. Air, land and water around the world are going to be cleansed. In the pages of your Bible, your Creator has revealed a plan to solve the global pollution crisis. Next month, you will read this astounding plan!
Acid Rain From the Skies — An Immediate Global Threat
One would be strained to devise a more subtle, yet deadly and effective form of chemical warfare to destroy vast areas of the earth: rains more acid than vinegar; mists and fogs that corrode machinery, buildings and paint; snow that when it melts kills aquatic life with concentrated toxic runoff. And, in addition, these tragic results: slowed timber growth; reduced crop production; soil leached of fertility; corroded metal pipes; and increased toxic metal poisoning in drinking water. It's all caused by acid precipitation falling from industrially polluted skies. The pollution is carried by prevailing winds from city to city, nation to nation, and even continent to continent. It is a pollution time bomb already devastating many areas of the world's ecosystems. Many scientists and environmentalists regard acid rain as the world's most serious environmental problem. "The acidification of land and water is perhaps Europe's most serious environmental problem in the '80s," said Mats Segnestam of the Swedish Society for the Conservation of Nature. "It is hardly an exaggeration to call it an environmental disaster." About 4,000 of Sweden's lakes and more than 1,500 of Norway's have had all fish life destroyed. Thousands of other lakes are endangered. One authority estimates most of Sweden's lakes will be killed in a few more decades if nothing drastic is done. By then, groundwater will be undrinkable unless treated, and much of Scandinavia's forests will be destroyed. The major source of pollutants causing acid precipitation over large areas of several continents is the vastly expanded use of fossil fuels — mainly coal and oil — by industry and motor vehicles since World War II. Normal rain is slightly acid, containing carbonic acid formed from carbon dioxide occurring naturally in the atmosphere. Acid rain is created when sulfur and nitrogen oxides emitted by power plants, industries, motor vehicles and other sources combine with moisture in the air to form more dangerous sulfuric and nitric acids. About 90 percent of the sulfur comes from man-made sources. Scientists report rain and snow over many areas of the earth are many times more acidic than normal precipitation.
Vast Acid Scars
Areas most devastated by acid rain so far are North America, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. In West Germany, deformed limbs and gray skeletons of countless diseased trees; victims of acid rain, resemble the defoliated forests of a battleground. One West German forestry expert estimates 30 percent of West German woodland is succumbing to airborne contamination. In Bavaria, more than 50 percent of pine trees are endangered. This forestry expert believes the ground has been poisoned by decades of falling sulfur dioxide and heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. He feels such pollutants put trees in a state of permanent stress that weakens their resistance to drought, frost, fungi and bacteria. Other biologists report acid rain can also eat away leaves, leach nutrients from soil, interfere with photosynthesis and affect the nitrogen — fixing capabilities of plants such as peas and soybeans. In many places in Europe forest growth is slowing down. Forests in East Germany and Czechoslovakia are reported to have worse forest mortality than West Germany because of vast outpourings of industrial pollutants
Source of Tensions
Acid rain is the cause of growing tensions between nations. Scandinavians claim they are being "bombed" with other nations' pollution and the destruction seems little different from battlefield chemical warfare. They claim British, West German and other European factories' polluted air converges in their areas. The Swedes claim 75 percent of their acid rain comes from pollutants originated elsewhere; the Norwegians claim 90 percent of theirs does. United States and Canadian officials are up in arms at each other for failing to take proper action to reduce exports of industrial pollutants that turn into acid rain. Canada says it is worse off as it receives four times as many pollutants from the United States as winds carry from Canada to the United States. Hundreds of lakes in Canada and the United States, particularly in the northeastern regions of each country, have had fish and aquatic life eliminated. Aquatic reproductive cycles and plankton have been destroyed. Thousands of other lakes, streams and rivers in North America are threatened. The acidic haze that sometimes hangs over Alaska is thought by some authorities to come from Japan. It's ironic that the tall industrial smokestacks that were built in past decades to reduce pollution in areas surrounding plants are the major villains for spreading acid rain hundreds or thousands of miles away. These giant stacks merely spew pollutants higher into the atmosphere where they have more time to mix with moisture and fall as acid precipitation far away. There is one ameliorating factor for some areas affected by acid rain. If soils are blessed with limestone in their composition or bedrock, the acid in rainfall can be somewhat neutralized. But if soil covering is thin and the underlying rock is acidic granite, there is little to buffer the acid corrosion. Energy and economic crises have worsened the prospects for quick action to solve this problem. To the contrary, more coal, and particularly more high sulfur coal, is being substituted for oil in more power plants and industries. Industrial and auto emission standards are being relaxed in some areas to reduce costs for industries struggling to cope with inflation and recession. Although "scrubbers" can remove up to 90 percent of sulfur emissions in coal-fired plants, the costs of such equipment are staggering and prohibitive for many industries; Yet to do nothing now means more nightmarish environmental disasters in the future. Acid rain is becoming an international nightmare. It will require world cooperation and global changes in living patterns to solve it. But that cooperation is nowhere on the horizon.
AWESOME ASSAULT ON MODERN MAN
INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS: Scores of thousands of man-made and other toxic byproducts of manufacture pour by tons into air, water, land. MERCURY, LEAD, CADMIUM and other heavy metals from industrially polluted air, water, food; high levels lodge in living tissues damaging vital organs and brain. RADIOACTIVE WASTES from nuclear tests, industrial isotopes that escape into air, water, and food, lodge in various organs threatening cell destruction or cancer. TOBACCO: Smoke-filled offices, homes, public places; smoking, a known cause of cancer, emphysema, lung diseases. PESTICIDES, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and agricultural chemicals; residues often endanger farm or home users, or soil and foods. OVER-REFINED FOOD AND DRINK: Daily diets of devitalized food and drink laced with chemical feast of additives, many potentially dangerous or suspect. ULTRA-HIGH ELECTRICAL POWER AND RADIO WAVES: Areas near high-power transmission sources carry potential health risks. AGRICULTURAL DRUGS and antibiotics used in livestock: Residuals in meat passed to humans with growing evidence of threats to health. TRANSPORTATION, MACHINERY POLLUTION: Carbon monoxide, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, particulate emissions; oil spills bombard environment, ugly dumps litter landscape. MEDICAL DRUGS: Thousands of potentially dangerous drugs and compounds are overused and abused by scores of millions. Abuse now a major cause of health problems. ILLICIT DRUGS: Heroin, cocaine, LSD, PCP, marijuana, hallucinogens, etc., chemically destroy the health and minds of many. RADIATION: X rays and ultraviolet light misused or over used cause serious health consequences. SYNTHETIC AND DANGEROUS FIBERS: Synthetic fibers may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions; asbestos in association with smoking triggers lung diseases. PLASTICS: Polyesters from plastic can lodge in tissues with uncertain long-term effects. MILITARY WEAPONS TOXINS AND CHEMICALS endanger workers in chemical-biological weapons manufacture; actual combat use has killed and destroyed health of thousands; Agent Orange defoliant used in Vietnam suspected culprit in serious health problems to soldiers and certain civilians. HUMAN AND ANIMAL WASTES improperly disposed of in many areas carry filth, disease, stench into air, water, land and food.
Our Dangerous Synthetic Environment
Of all the assaults bombarding mankind, none is more subtle, yet more potentially devastating and difficult to control than the accelerating tons of toxic chemicals. We dump them into our air, water, land and food. Pesticides, herbicides, plastics, synthetic food additives, drugs and thousands. of chemicals now exist that were never experienced by former generations. Industrial Age man is now polluting his environment hundreds of times faster than the generation of even a century ago. "We're fouling our own nest, and we can't survive if we continue," says Dr. Irving Selikoff, of Manhattan's Mount Sinai Medical Center. In the last 50 years a revolution has occurred in the chemistry of the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the food we eat and the places we walk, work and play. Modern chemists have developed the capacity for an infinite variety of man-made chemical compounds and for varying existing ones. For relatively few man-made chemicals do we know the long-term effects on health or at what levels they cause health problems. As many as 1,000 new chemical concoctions come on the market every year. Around 35,000 of the 50,000 chemicals now available on the market have been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as either definitely or potentially hazardous to human health. "The further chemists get from natural chemicals the greater the danger [of environmental disruption] becomes," said one EPA chemist. Many of man's chemical creations differ markedly from those found in nature. Many are not readily broken down (biodegraded). They build up in tissues of plants, animals and man and are passed in ever increasing concentrations up food chains to affect the health and procreation of all things. By the time a chemical suspected of risk emerges from scientific scrutiny, its uses are often so entrenched in modern life that banning it is extremely difficult no matter how dangerous it might be. DDT, chlorinated hydrocarbons in pesticides and many plastics are examples. What's worse, sometimes it takes several decades for the horrors of a particular chemical to show up. Chlorine, the widely used chemical to kill waterborne bacteria, for example, is now suspected of producing potential cancer-causing substances when it reacts with other chemical pollutants in water. This points out an enormous dilemma. Many chemicals sometimes behave totally unpredictably. As compounded and intended for use they may be predictable. But when they come in contact with other chemicals in the environment some act synergistically — one chemical enhances the toxicity of another, or one interferes with the actions of another. The World Health Organization has estimated that between 60 percent and 90 percent of all cancers are the result of "environmental factors." In the broadest sense this includes everything from chemical agents to radiation, to noise pollution and even human stress. Scientists, long worried about potential cancer-causing chemicals in the workplace and general environment, are concerned about another worry: brain and behavioral disorders caused by chemicals. Known causes of mental and behavior disorders have been traced to excessive amounts of lead, mercury, the pesticide Kepone, certain food additives and heavy metals. What these findings mean is that a substantial proportion of future generations is highly vulnerable to learning and behavior problems because of toxicity from chemicals in our environment. A few years ago, a high official of the EPA said, "We look back on the Middle Ages, and we say, 'No wonder they had bubonic plague — they used to throw garbage in the streets Generations to come will look back on this generation and say, 'No wonder they had problems — look at all the chemicals just carelessly introduced into the environment, uncontrolled.'"
No Nation Has Escaped
There are few places on earth with growing populations that are not burdened down with worsening human or industrial effluent. Most big cities in developed and developing nations alike are frequently smothered in noxious smog. Mexico City, Santiago, Chile and Caracas, Venezuela have as dangerous air as Tokyo, Chicago or New York. Caracas was found to have a carbon monoxide level 15 times the danger level established by the World Health Organization. In Ankara, Turkey, on a bad day, chimneys and industries pour our lung-searing smoke, which, say some experts, have the same effect as smoking 200 cigarettes. They predict the city will not be able to sustain life in a decade or so at present rates of pollution. In Athens, Greece, carbon monoxide, lead and other pollutants far exceed international safety levels. In Eastern Europe, environmental problems abound. Forests are dying; industrial soot covers the cities. One Polish marine specialist, who did not want to be identified, said the Vistula and Oder rivers were "practically waste water channels into the Baltic." Major seas and lakes in Europe are seriously polluted. The Baltic and Mediterranean seas are dying from human and industrial wastes. Lake Baikal in the Soviet Union is beginning to slowly recover only after decades of poisoning by wastes from pulp mills and industries was reduced. Coastal waters of the South Seas are fouled by human and chemical wastes. Coral reefs are dying. Pesticides from Africa have been found in the West Indies. The Zambesi River, tumbling over Victoria Falls, is fouled with the filth of five African nations. At least seven nations dump their wastes into the North Sea. Soot from the industrial Ruhr in West Germany discolors snow in Norway. The Rhine is called "the sewer of Europe" — a slimy river of sewage, 2,000 chemicals, sediment, organic wastes and pesticides from agricultural runoff. Yet it is still a major source of drinking water for millions of Europeans. All over Latin America many nations struggling to industrialize are strangling on the wastes of the very industries its leaders hope will pull their people from poverty: In Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, nearby rivers have been turned into little more than black and fetid sewers. One river is covered with suds, another boils with chemicals, a third is so hot it steams. In Sao Paulo, the levels of sulfur dioxide, which impairs breathing and damages vegetation, are from two to six times higher than World Health Organization guidelines. Water samples from a river dumping into Jakarta Bay, Indonesia, were found to have 62 times the international safety level for mercury pollution. Industrial plants along the river introduced most of this toxic metal problem as well as other toxic metal pollution. In many developing nations it is difficult if not impossible for governments to impose costly pollution controls on their industries without forcing owners to go bankrupt. No nation by itself can solve its pollution problems. Pollution is international. It is global. It will take a global — not a piecemeal-solution. Any measure short of that will lead humanity into global pollution disaster!
"Time Bombs" Coming Back to Haunt Mankind
Like awakening sleeping giants, lethal soups of thousands of different toxic chemicals, formerly thought harmless and disposed of — "out of sight, out of mind" — are now beginning to seep from thousands of dump sites into water supplies. Or bubble to the surface in ugly puddles, polluting the air and landscape. Or in some cases, literally explode like ammunition dumps. "There are a lot of time bombs out there waiting to go off," said a senior U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official of chemical dumps in America. A study for the EPA found that 90 percent of the landfills in the eastern half of the United States are leaking toxic substances into groundwater. These "ticking time bombs" — like forgotten land mines of bygone wars — are only beginning to be associated with a variety of serious human health ailments. "Toxic waste will be the major environmental and public health problem facing the U.S. [and we must add, other nations] in the '90s, " said a health official. "At least half of the wastes [in the United States] are just being dumped indiscriminately," says Gary Dietrich of EPA. Anytime you put hazardous waste in the ground it will eventually leak into drinking water, say other health officials. People living in a beautiful area may not realize their aquifer is being contaminated from a source 50 miles away. A few years ago the EPA estimated only 10 percent of U.S. chemical wastes are disposed of by properly controlled incineration, chemical treatment, recycling or in landfills properly lined with impervious material to prevent leakage. Of the remainder, 80 percent is dumped in non-secure landfills, ponds or lagoons, and — 0 percent is incinerated without adequate controls. (Improper incineration just spreads residual polluting agents invisibly over broad areas of the countryside.) Chemical and toxic waste disposal in the past has been so haphazard that deadly mixtures of chemicals have simply been carted off to municipal dumps, or mixed with garbage or hidden in farmers ' back fields for a price. Some haulers have pumped liquid wastes into tank trucks and driven down rural roads with the cock valve open. Or dumped them into the nearest sewer, stream or lake. The long-term environmental or health effects on future generations? They are not even considered. At one dump site thousands of rusting barrels of chemicals improperly labeled and left to deteriorate for a decade finally went up in an explosion and raging fire. At another landfill, a bulldozer operator hit a canister of phosphorus and was incinerated so quickly he died with his hand on the gearshift. Government officials investigating this site found a horrific arsenal of chemicals-some of which were so volatile they ignite when exposed to air. Also found were wastes with high levels of lead, mercury and arsenic, plus dangerous solvents, pesticides, plasticizers and even picric acid, which has more explosive power than TNT. At another earthen dump site, sludges of paint and chemical oozes of benzene, toluene and naphthalene seeped from rusting barrels. This caused a concerned citizen living nearby to say, "Every time we have a thundershower, I pray, 'God, don't let lightning hit out there.' " Unlike surface water or the air, groundwater is all but impossible to purify once it has become chemically polluted Normally the earth 's surface is a natural filtration system — a kind of geological "kidney" to cleanse naturally occurring wastes by water filtering through it. But the system simply cannot handle or break down into harmless substances the toxic overload often poured upon it. Many man-made chemicals cannot be broken down naturally and will be toxic and dangerous for hundreds or even thousands of years State and local authorities often refuse to face up to these problems. Even the vast oceans cannot continue to absorb and dilute all the dangerous wastes. Many smaller seas are already dying from a variety of man-injected pollutants Some developed nations still dump low-level nuclear wastes into the oceans. European nations burn dangerous chemical wastes on incinerator ships because pollution controls are less stringent at sea. Pollutants nevertheless escape into the air and water we use. Poisoned sky. Poisoned water. Poisoned earth. It will take a miracle to rescue mankind from millions of tons of carelessly disposed toxic wastes.