Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Can we talk?

If, like me, you follow the environmental news, you know there hasn't been much to be optimistic about for awhile. This morning I did come across some good news I want to share. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency [MPCA], as part of their release of a survey of Minnesotans' three top water quality concerns learned that we want to be able to safely eat the fish we catch. The Agency also "admitted they don’t have a strong system for disseminating water quality information to the general public." Admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it. The MPCA's web site has been reorganized and given at least a limited redesign. I commend the Agency for these efforts. As we've learned with global warming, and "O'BamaCare," scientists, technical types and policy wonks (that would be folks like me) need to communicate more effectively if we want to be able to convince the public and their officials to do something, anything, meaningful. It was encouraging to read “We’ve been working pretty hard to take this technical information and boil it down to something people want to read,” Rude-Young said.

late Spring, St. Croix River
late Spring, St. Croix River
Photo by J. Harrington

Back in 1972, the Muskie-Blatnik bill became Public Law 92-500, The Clean Water Act Amendments of 1972. That law set a 1985 goal of the elimination of the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters and an interim 1983 goal of water quality sufficient to support fishable and recreational uses our waters. We're still working toward those goals. I also recall that Congress set a 1949 goal of the “realization as soon as feasible of the goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.” We continue to work toward the attainment of all of these goals and more. Unfortunately, the examples we've set ourselves in attaining water quality and housing goals don't bode well for our ability to successfully respond to our global warming situation. Maybe our fourth estate (the media) can assist us, and MPCA, and the legislative and executive branches understand the significance of failing to respond to clearly articulated, although complex, issues that affect all of us. Might it be possible that the media, and our environmental agencies, could help initiate a national dialogue to replace out national gridlock? If so, I'll sign up right now to help. How about you? It's not always as simple as Sharon Chmielarz would have us think.

New Water

By Sharon Chmielarz 
All those years—almost a hundred—
the farm had hard water.
Hard orange. Buckets lined in orange.
Sink and tub and toilet, too,
once they got running water.
And now, in less than a lifetime,
just by changing the well’s location,
in the same yard, mind you,
the water’s soft, clear, delicious to drink.
All those years to shake your head over.
Look how sweet life has become;
you can see it in the couple who live here,
their calmness as they sit at their table,
the beauty as they offer you new water to drink. 


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