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Commentary: How much longer will we ignore environmental dangers?

  • Updated
Rick Baumann

Rick Baumann

So, here we are, many decades after legislation to protect our air and water quality were thoughtfully applied using the limited scientific knowledge of those times to guide us.

More modern science has identified so many dangers that were not known when the Clean Water Act and other bills were passed to protect our environment and human health. A half century later, some of the mandates of these actions have still not fully taken hold.

Many of the newer dangers, more recently discovered, have not even been fully acknowledged by authorities, much less acted upon:

We have witnessed and learned the consequences of denuding our land, and replacing the trees with concrete, asphalt and steel or rooftops and driveways, which have greatly accelerated rainwater runoff to create the unprecedented flooding of our rivers and neighborhoods.

We have learned that many of our chemicals of convenience, such as fertilizers and pesticides, are cancer-causing toxins that also decimate ecosystems and wildlife.

We now are fully aware that coal-burning power plants distribute massive doses of poisonous mercury and other toxic chemicals and compounds into our air and water. We also know that extracting and burning petroleum products has dire consequences for the planet.

We also are fully aware, and dutifully notified by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, about the dangers of eating too much (or any) fish that have ingested these toxins. There are big yellow signs in our estuaries that announce that shellfish in many areas are unfit for human consumption because of other ways of poisoning ourselves that we have created, accepted and continue to tolerate, even though we know better.

Are these acceptable trade-offs for “human convenience”?

We know so much, and yet we are so pathetic in our responses.

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In recent articles, Nat Geo and Audubon have brought attention to the fact that the North American continent has lost 40% of its wild bird population in the past 50 years. Species are going extinct at an unprecedented rate. Bees, the apex pollinators of all our plant food, are now an endangered species.

Scientists and researchers have uncovered a massive amount of data that documents the plastic plague we have created: many thousands of square miles of rafting plastic garbage patches in our oceans. Micro plastics in fish; dolphins and whales dying with hundreds of plastic bags clogging their digestive tracts. Remote and uninhabited Pacific islands with their beaches obliterated by mounds of plastic and Styrofoam that have traveled many thousands of miles to rest there, with thousands of bird carcasses mixed in, their gullets full of soft drink caps.

PFAS and other dangerous chemicals in municipal drinking water. Plastic particles, arsenic and more in “purified” bottled water.

And what is our reaction to all this, as the most intelligent species on Earth: massive deregulation of the decades-old safeguards designed by older science, and no action at all on these newer issues and compelling science that begs for swift remedy.

So I ask you: Just how much longer will we ignore these facts and the scientific findings that enlighten such a clear path? How much longer can we delay and tell our grandchildren that this is all “a hoax”? Just how much more of this “stable genius” do you think we can stand?

There are lawsuits pending by groups of children accusing our government of “ecocide” for ignoring the science and failing to act, thereby stealing their future health and their right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

The government has exerted great efforts in (unsuccessfully, thus far) trying to thwart these cases from seeing a courtroom. What an embarrassment it would be for these children to show the adult world just how selfish and irresponsible we have been.

Rick Baumann is the founder of Murrells Inlet Seafood. He has received the Jefferson Foundation Award for public service and is a recent graduate of the Riley Institute for Diversified Leadership at Furman University. He serves on several boards, including the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

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