I'm finishing the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which if you have not read, I think you should. Even though it was printed in 1962, the historic systematic poisoning of our environment is something all people should be aware of and it just makes me want to know more about what is happening now.
Rachel was a marine biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and she blew the whistle on the use of super strength industrial poisons in the water, air and soil, meant to kill a pesky plant or bug but actually killing humans and wildlife and their children for generations to come.
Her observations are supported by studies and stories of rivers where all the fish were killed, sprayings that killed livestock, and people dying of nervous system damage and cancer.
The book was widely read when it came out and lead to public outrage (as well as death threats) and the banning of DDT one of the worst offending pesticides. But as Al Gore points out in the introduction, we still produce DDT, we just ship it off to foreign countries for them to use.
Some of Carson's arguments are very relevant today. She compares the fight against cancer to the fight against infectious diseases of the last century. Instead of just treating people who had diseases like Tuberculosis, scientists looked for the environmental causes and prevented the disease (by removing contaminated communal pump handles). For some reason, though, we think of cancer as a disease we fight through treatment of the afflicted. We don't spend research dollars removing carcinogens from our food, air, soil and water. And she points out, there will never be one magic pill to cure cancer because it has too many causes and forms in the body.
I thought this was going to be an environmentalist book about the planet. But, it turns out this is a book about humans and how we have poisoned ourselves.
Some of the things we can do to combat all this is think about the soap, detergent, bug spray, air cleaner, bathroom cleanser, fertilizer, paint stripper we use and how we use it. Even phosphates in the water can make us more susseptible to cancers. We can think about where our food comes from and how it was treated while it was growing and what was in the soil it grew in and the water it was watered with. We can learn about the companies we live around and buy from and the by-poducts of their manufacturing. And we can learn about the historic dumping and desecrating of our surroundings. I found out recently the place where I work is next to land where lead was being processed for decades. Yikes! We can also support great folks like the ones below: GRID magazine is a Philly free magazine focused on local sustainability. What more could we ask for. I love all of their projects, restaurants, articles, it's just great. The Green Project is in New Orleans and I wish we had one here in Philly. They recycle paint and housing materials and household items, fixtures and furniture. This stuff just heads straight to the landfill in Philly. They have awesome craft workshops, used clothing redesign contests, art supplies and a warehouse and yard full of items for your house. It's fun to look at their items on flickr.
On the upside Philly is now doing Recycling Pays! Yeah! They scan your bucket, weigh your recycyclables and you can redeem points for stuff online! Now if I can just find a container big enough...