This week I heard from two congressmen- a Senator and a Representative. One was boasting how he is working to dismantle the EPA. The other was patting himself on the back for his efforts to “throw away” the nuclear waste that is accumulating in Illinois. To another state. I was so dismayed by the misguidedness of these two that I feel I must speak up here.
The premise for dismantling the EPA and the Clean Water Acts and other laws that protect our air and soil seems to be that they are hindering the growth of our economy. I must take issue with this- for one thing, if our rivers, lakes and air once again become so polluted (remember the river that caught fire?) that they do not sustain life, it won’t matter how wealthy we are. The health of our economy, and our country, very much depend on the health of our environment. I’m all for capitalism and freedom. But it is blind foolishness to think we can sustain economic growth indefinitely. There are only so many fish in the sea, so many trees in the forest. The ocean can only absorb so much CO2. Already the increases of CO2 have changed the chemistry of the sea, causing reefs to dissolve. Yes, dissolve. Freedom is a good thing, but not every corporation considers your freedom to breathe clean air or drink safe water important. That is what those laws are for.
I have written here before celebrating heads of companies that discovered they could run their factories without toxic chemicals going in or coming out, and show a healthy profit in the bargain. The truth is, we don’t need to poison our world to conduct business.
As to “throwing away” nuclear waste, I wrote to that Representative to ask what he was doing to prevent the build-up of nuclear waste in the first place. Not too long ago I drove through a wind power farm. Not, alas, in Illinois. It was kind of surreal, but peaceful. Like a giant Calder mobile. Beneath the large windmills crops grew and cattle grazed. This seemed to me a good use for land. I imagine the farmers get paid to host the windmills- doesn’t this make more sense than paying them not to grow crops? Wouldn’t you rather look out at windmills, knowing they aren’t throwing off dangerous radiation, than nuclear power towers?