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Shouldn't The "Me" In Environment Be "We"?

Jul 22, 2008
When I think environment, I think Smokey Bear. Smokey was created in 1944 by the Ad Council and has been part of the longest running public service campaign in U.S. history. In 1952, however, song writers Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins tried to change Smokey's name. When they wrote their hit "Smokey The Bear", they gave Smokey "The" for a middle name to improve the rhythm of their song. Obviously, they couldn't deal with the bear facts.

Americans can't deal with plastic bags. Plastic bags are everywhere - blowing in the wind, stuck in bushes, clogging roadside drains and filling bellies of sea turtles. Because these bags are cheap, sturdy and easy to store, they have taken over 80% of the grocery and convenience store market since being introduced in the 1970's. Between 500 billion and a trillion bags are used worldwide every year. The bags that make it to landfills take hundreds of years to decompose; and as they decompose, toxins seep into the soils, lakes, rivers and oceans. Countries like Australia, South Africa and Ireland have taxed these bags. In fact, the tax in Ireland has caused a 95% reduction in the use of plastic bags. Is it just me or does a tax make good cents?

Plastic bottles are everywhere too - in parks, along roadsides and filling landfills - but that isn't the worst part. Ninety percent of environmental damage from plastic water bottles occurs before they are opened. This is because those bottles leave a carbon footprint big enough to trip over. Twenty-nine billion plastic water bottles are used yearly in the U.S. Making those bottles requires nearly 900,000 tons of plastic, which is the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of crude oil. Pumping, processing, transporting and refrigerating the water increase the amount of oil used to 50 million barrels. That's enough to run 3 million cars for a year. While we're drinking water for our health, we're killing the environment by ignoring facts that hold water.

Unfortunately, other environmental threats aren't as obvious as plastic pollution. Nitrogen trifluoride is used to make flat screen televisions and microchips. Scientists say this gas has 17,000 times the global warming effect as carbon dioxide. Nitrogen trifluoride isn't measured in the atmosphere and it isn't regulated by international treaty. Nitrogen trifluoride is one of the unseen threats to our environment. What we need to see is change.
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KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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