There are three very unique environmental catastrophes that have threatened the productivity of our natural systems, human health and well being as well as our other beloved green....money.
- The Dust Bowl Era- Farming practices and severe drought led to soil erosion affected 100,000,000 acres, created what was called "black blizzards, dislocated 3.5 million people which is about 3% of the population in 1935. This also impacted the economy, the price of land dropped, and whats interesting is that some of the economic downturn was a result of the inability or unwillingness to adapt through shifting to other agricultural products. Even when the system was not capable of sustaining for the legacy crops and practices some just were not ready to accept that. This teaches us that "riding it till the wheels falls off" approach is using your optimism to double down on disaster. The response of President Roosevelt was not to ignore this issue it was to address the practices and utilize the expert scientist to discover how this happened and the ecological strategies that connected to it for resolution. The government invested in science and used the crisis as an opportunity to protect agricultural assets and rebuild a sector of our society to protect food, job, and environmental security for generations to come. They recognized the threat, they saw people suffering and more importantly the innovation was the relationship between the community, the government and scientists.
- The general use of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane "DDT" - Yet another cascade effect of human innovation gone awry, and a story of heartfelt passion for the use of science to show the connection between human actions, environmental consequences and what we call a crisis in ecology. The application of this chemical indeed has saved lives protecting soldiers during the later half of World War II from contracting malaria and typhus. Oddly enough the insecticidal properties of this chemical was learned in 1939 by a swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller. I'm starting to see the mid to late 1900's as the age of environmental enlightenment. A time in which our intellectual advancements in science and ecology allowed for us to decide how we can reconcile our societal profits at the consequence of our environmental quality. We seemed to genuinely want to not destroy the society we fought so fiercely to protect. With the publication of Silent Spring by author and biologist Rachel Carson our worlds were turned upside down, now connecting our beloved insecticide solution to harming animals and causing cancer. With diligent research as well as necessary government intervention after 30 years of its use the chemical was banned in the United States. Yet another example of how policy, scientists and the community at large worked together to address this system wide issue.
- Ozone depletion- Oddly my favorite story of socio-environmental accomplishments this was a global issue unlike the localized former two. The transport of man made chemicals into the stratosphere created a global crisis for the books. All of earth humans, terrestrial and aquatic life was assumed to be threatened.
"The international response to the ozone threat has been perhaps the most successful of all global environmental efforts" - Levin Institute SUNY
With 96 of ozone depletion chemicals being completely phased out in developed countries people across the world developing nations now are following suit as well. We say we are leaders....and I love the game follow the leader unless they are leading me into a pit of poverty. The Montreal Protocol initiated resulted in an annual decrease of CFC's from 1.1 million tons to 35,000 tons.
Energy has gotten us to where we are today and I understand the profit driven, capitalist, industrialized society we have created. Yet we have not gotten here by accident and without some tragic consequences. Risking water quality, environmental integrity expecting nature to figure it out is a tragic optimistic and reductionist insult to our dynamic earth. To visit our solutions with a fine tooth comb may allow each side to see the fears of the other. Again this crisis is an opportunity. I love this earth, I love my city, and I love my country! I owned a business and I loved my profits. What I am saying is that I believe in our ability to create huge problems though our innovation but I also believe in is our leadership in acknowledging; our disinvestment in poor practices that result in the destruction and impairment of earth systems. We need to regroup with our scientists and evolve a new society ready to show the world just how badass the United States is. We save the world and it is our time again to put on the damn cape, stand behind our scientists and innovate in a way that saves us green, and makes us more of the kind that we love so much.