Does the Problem Affect You?
DOES the pollution problem really affect you? Well, do you breathe air, drink water and eat food? Do you care about the quality of your life?
Then it is already affecting you whether you realize it or not. This is so no matter where you live. True, the situation in the cities is worse than in rural areas. But the problem is now so widespread that all areas are affected to some degree.
What makes pollution such a worldwide problem is that it respects no national boundaries; it easily crosses frontiers. The air we breathe today may have been in use in another country a week or a month ago. Water flows from rivers and lakes into oceans where it is circulated to far-flung areas.
The American Medical Association says there is “overwhelming evidence that man-made water, air and noise pollution as well as maldistribution of solid wastes, insecticides, preservatives and other toxic materials are rapidly approaching the point where human and many other forms of life are threatened.”
Ecologist Dr. Barry Commoner echoes these words by saying: “We have come to a turning point in the human habitation of the earth. . . . I believe that continued pollution of the earth, if unchecked, will eventually destroy the fitness of this planet as a place for human life.”
Are such persons referring to something that may take place centuries from now? How many years are they talking about?
The Canadian Magazine of April 4, 1970, says: “Beautiful Canada will be dead in 10 years. Unless we start to save it today.”
England’s Guardian declares: “Within the next two decades, life on our planet will be showing the first signs of succumbing to industrial pollution. The atmosphere will become unbreathable for men and animals; all life will cease in rivers and lakes; plants will wither from poisoning.” And former U.S. presidential adviser Daniel Moynihan estimates that man may have less than a fifty-fifty chance of surviving until 1980.
Are these people ‘calamity howlers’? Not at all. Many of them were optimistic years ago. In fact, as recently as 1962 much of the press and scientific community ridiculed Rachel Carson when she wrote her book Silent Spring, in which she predicted dire consequences from man’s constant pollution.
They no longer ridicule. Most of her predictions have come true. The cold, hard facts have forced scientists and the press to recognize the truth about what is happening. Man is indeed taking a course that could lead to his extinction.
The Thin Layer of Life
The earth still seems pretty big to most people. It measures some 25,000 miles at its circumference and its atmosphere stretches out some 600 miles into space. In the opposite direction, the immense oceans have trenches that go as deep as seven miles.
True. But actually we and the other living creatures and plants all live in what may be described as a very thin “envelope” girdling the earth. That thin “envelope” is called the “biosphere” because within it is found all earthly life known.
Calling it “very thin” is no exaggeration. Aside from a few floating spores and bacteria, life exists only within the first five miles of earth’s six-hundred-mile atmosphere. Actually, the far greater number of air-breathing things—humans, animals, birds and plant life—live within just the first ten thousand feet above sea level.
So, too, some life is found seven miles down on the ocean floors. But the vast majority of marine life exists in just the upper five hundred feet of the oceans. More than that, it is mainly concentrated along the “continental shelves,” the shallower waters bordering the continents, as well as similar waters around islands.
The biosphere, then, is a twelve-mile life zone around the globe. Thin, indeed. But in reality, fully 95 percent of all life on earth is found in a far thinner layer less than two miles thick. Within that remarkably thin “envelope” circulate air and water that are used over and over again by earth’s living things. Now consider what’s happening to that air and water, as well as the land on which we live.
[Diagram on page 5]
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Almost all air-breathing things live within the first ten thousand feet above sea level. Most marine life exists in just the upper five hundred feet of the oceans
ZONE OF LIFE
[Picture on page 4]
UN Secretary-General U Thant has said that the polluting of our environment is now so serious that, unless immediate steps are taken to correct this, “the very capacity of the planet itself to sustain human life will be in doubt”