• Ed Flattau

Environmental Crises

The focus on environmental crises has been on “short-term” impacts, and rightly so. But, in the process, the “long-term” impacts of these crises have been ignored to the detriment of the environment and human populations.

In the latter part of the 20th Century, the pollution of New York State’s Love Canal from industrial discharge was not the only major environmental crisis. Alaska’s Prince William Sound was polluted by a spill from an Exxon-owned oil tanker. The spill was the largest in the nation’s history and contaminated the coastal tidal zone for years after. Much to the unpleasant surprise for Exxon, the oil company found itself still in court to this day, fending off financially distressed fishermen. There is ample evidence that the pollution destroying fishermen and fisheries alike is not going away in the foreseeable future.

Another recent marine spill is British Petroleum’s blowout of one of its rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The malfunction of the British Petroleum’s oil drilling is the nation’s longest on record. Much to the chagrin of British Petroleum, the damage to tourism and the environment from the blowout continues with no end in sight.

Then there is China’s Three Gorges Dam which currently serves 38 million residents. Those people are directly in the path should the walls of the dam collapse. Indeed, those walls did in 1982, killing 114 million residents living there at that time. Breakdown of the dam and accompanying deadly flooding is projected to occur in the next 20 years.

Hurricane Katrina had the effect of causing the evacuation of half the New Orleans population. Louisiana’s actions to remove its coastal wetlands – that had served as barriers to frequent hurricanes – to make way for development has cleared the way for the destructive storms emerging from the Gulf of Mexico. Ecological destruction of these coastal wetlands exceeds the pace of recovery of spawning grounds in what was once one of the world’s richest fisheries.

The eruption of Washington State’s Mount St. Helen’s volcano in 1982 damaged surrounding human settlements and farmland. After being driven out by the blast, nearby communities return to their original locations despite being in the path of another cataclysm also projected to likely occur in the next two decades.

In 1994, Bhopal India’s disastrous explosion at the Dow-Chemical Union-Carbide pesticide plant killed an estimated 2300 citizens, and, within four years, the factory had shelled out 895 million dollars in compensation to their families.

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein purposefully burned his oil fields to create noxious fumes against American troops and in the process created long-term threats to the Middle East environment.

Then we have a President who blames the California water shortage for slowing the flow of his shower for grooming his hair; believes natural river flow contaminates the coastal Pacific waters; thinks most forest fires are caused by human activity; considers water conservation to be the reason for the malfunction of toilets; and supposes hunting restrictions result in the environment being overrun by “pests” such as wolves and grizzly bears.

Like most Americans, Trump still won’t make the connection between human activities and the likely long-term adverse impacts of environmental crises.


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