So I picked up my copy of the Star Tribune on dead tree (bad for the environment, but old reprobates like me are creatures of habit) this morning,and saw an article from Randy A. Salas, informing me that today is the first Blog Action Day. Apparently some 15,000 bloggers are taking part to "raise awareness about environmental issues -- global warming, pollution, anything they want," according to Salas.
Far be it from me to ignore the clarion call of Blog Action Day. So I'm choosing option C - anything I want. After all, the combined voice of the other 15,000 bloggers (in a blogosphere that numbers in the millions) will be the equivalent of spitting in the ocean, despite the front page play in the Strib. Herewith, my tale of environmental awareness.
Many years ago, during my idyllic childhood in Appleton, Wisconsin, I regularly used to cross the railroad tracks on Outagamie Street. There were actually two sets of tracks - the spur that ran near Pierce Park along the river, and the main Chicago and Northwestern line that bisected the town. We used to walk along the main line from time to time as a shortcut to get downtown. One day, I think around 1979 or so, I noticed a shiny puddle of goo on the main line tracks just west of where I crossed on Outagamie Street. The puddle remained there for a long time - weeks, I think. It was clearly a spill of some sort of substance that I couldn't identify - maybe mercury, maybe something else. As my primary purpose for crossing the tracks was to get to Goodland Field, home of the mighty Appleton Foxes minor league team, I didn't pay a lot of attention to the spill.
Around that time, environmental degradation was much in the news and the federal government instituted the Superfund program, which was designed to expedite cleanup of environmental disaster areas. In those days, there was much harrumphing about places like the memorably named Love Canal, which combined the twin attributes of enviromental disaster and a pretty darned good double entendre. We heard endlessly how the Superfund program, under the auspices of the Carter-era Environmental Protection Agency, would finally clean up places like Love Canal. Since I was an impressionable teenager at the time, I probably even believed it.
Well, as the years went on, we learned a few things. First, the supposed environmental degradation at places like Love Canal were not nearly as dire as originally posited. Second, Superfund designation actually slowed cleanup of environmental problems, because such designations made the sites magnets for litigation. And the puddle of goo I'd seen on the tracks west of Outagamie Street? Turns out that it was a chromium spill and the tracks were now a Superfund site. I moved away from Appleton over 20 years ago and I don't know whatever happened with the tracks, but I know this much - it didn't make that much of a difference for the people who lived nearby. These days, I live about a mile south of another Superfund site - the Bell Pole Yards, where big pine logs are soaked in creosote and turned into telephone poles. Sometimes, when the wind is just right, you can get a whiff of the chemicals at my house. But I don't worry about it much.
Nearly 30 years later, global warming (or global climate change, or whatever) is the big story. We are three days removed from Al Gore receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his tiresome PowerPoint presentation turned feature film. We are being told that we need to turn over vast if unspecified amounts of treasure and liberty to Mr. Gore's acolytes, many of whom were the same people who presided over the Superfund progam. Guess I'd rather go for a swim in the Love Canal.