This I Believe

Judith - Bethesda, Maryland
Entered on November 8, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: environment
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Having grown up in Pittsburgh I used to wonder what would happen to the ground where all the coal and oil was extracted. I’m not sure if there have been sink-holes, but I know they are taking off the tops of mountains in West Virginia without regard to where the rain run-off and resultant sludge will go. I remember cutting out an article in the Washington Post last year where a whole village was inundated.

In recent years there have been so many instances of devastation due to over-doing a good thing or just poor planning that the mind boggles thinking what disasters are looming around the corner due to our thoughtless interference with the environment. When the federal government takes a “major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment” it must first consider the environmental impact in a document called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). I can’t help but believe that these Environmental Impact Statements have been sloppily executed, ignored, or both. Continuing on this course is true folly.

The horrific flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina can be attributed to so many mistakes over the years that it should be a wake-up call. It was not just the failure of the levees surrounding New Orleans, but it involved the lower Mississippi and the Delta where levees and ramparts have contained the Mississippi without allowing the Delta to be replenished. As a result the basin has to be dredged continuously and tons of silt and acres of land are lost into the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1932, the Mississippi River Delta Basin has lost approximately 70 percent of its total land area. The river is no longer free to alter its course and leave its banks to inundate vast coastal areas and thus destroying valuable fresh-water wetlands causing irreparable damage to the Louisiana Coast.

The tsunami that wracked Southeast Asia two years ago this December 26th provided much insight into what happens when offshore coastlines have been manipulated to provide fish farms. Many square miles of mangroves have been uprooted to provide close in farming of shrimp and warm water fish. It was shown that areas and islands that did not have the mangroves removed suffered far less damage from the tsunami. Much of the force of the incoming waters was absorbed by the natural growth.

Environmental scientists should be consulted to let us know what could go wrong when engineering projects are in the planning stages. When taking on grand commercial projects it behooves us as rational beings to insist on readable Environmental Impact Statements. Concerned citizenry should be able to learn more of the possible effects of re-engineering our environment.