April 22 is Earth Day, one small day to celebrate and focus on the many wonders of our beautiful planet. Unfortunately, not all feel so inclined to promote and protect our world.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed in 1970 to do just that, to monitor the health of flora and fauna, the soundness of our soil, air and water. Isn’t that a good thing?
Some in Washington do not feel that way. They would have the EPA defunded to the point as to make it unable to provide the functions it was created to perform. Why? Well, protecting our habitats include such measures as caps on carbon emissions, less logging in old growth forests, fishing limits, and no offshore drilling, to name just a few. These measures would give us a better environment but take money out of the pockets of CEO’s. Yes, the upper echelons of big business would gain financially at the expense of the earth.
Let’s look at some reasons why we should shore up the EPA. Do we really want to live in a world without elephants, tigers, and polar bears? They are already at risk. Some that have already gone the way of the dodo, thanks to humans: the Passenger Pigeon. They darkened the skies in the millions before the arrival of the Europeans. Martha, the last one, died in the Cincinnati Zoo at age 29 in 1914. The California Grizzly Bear, gone by 1924. The Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine), hunted out of existence by 1936. The Bali Tiger, gone by the 1940’s. The West African Black Rhino, no more in 2011.
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One scientist, Sir Ghillean Prance, director of Kew Gardens, fears we are losing species before we can discover them (National Geographic, February, 1999). And he goes on to point out another reason we should save all we can: “Every time we lose a species...we lose a potential cure for AIDS, or a virus resistant crop. So we must somehow stop losing species, not just for the sake of our planet but for our own selfish needs and uses.”
Our own health is another solid reason why we should be wary of how we treat our environments. In her ground breaking publication, “Silent Spring” (1962), author Rachel Carson relayed a startling event In WWII a new pesticide, DDT, was widely and freely used in the dusting of many thousands of soldiers, refugees, and prisoners, to treat lice. DDT was also used in agriculture. You may remember the chemical came under scrutiny when it became related to the near extinction of our national symbol, the, bald eagle. The chemical caused the bird’s egg shells to be so thin that they would break before the eaglets could grow to maturity.
Once DDT, as with many other toxic chemicals, enters the body, it becomes stored in many organs. The problem is, once the poison has entered the body, it is there for the life of the organism. For us, this means that not only can a developing fetus be exposed while still in the womb, the toxin is passed from mother to child via breast feeding. Unfortunately, some of the chemicals passed onto infants during this time, DDT, PCB’s, dioxin, mercury, and others, may stay in their systems long enough to be passed on to their offspring.
Agencies test various items, etc. that we may come in contact with and dub them safe or not However, no one has, and probably, no one can, test the effect that the combination of the hundreds of thousands of potentially dangerous chemicals will have on ourselves or the environment. This is why we need the EPA, and other similar protections, to come between us and those that would cut corners and thus do harm. Damage has already been done. Let’s put the brakes on while we can.
The writer is a Myrtle Beach resident and native of South Carolina.