I’m going to come out swinging with this post, so watch out. It’s pretty safe to say that most governmental agencies and even some non-profit organizations have an ulterior agenda when it comes to their ‘good causes’. We’ve trusted the media, the Internet and our government for that matter to give us factual, accurate information about all the forces that affect our lives. As good Americans should, right? This stems from health care to the air we breathe and the food we eat, international relations and perhaps the most controversial is the state of the environment and the things we need to do to ‘protect it’. We have so-called experts and professionals leading the way to make sure we believe what they want us to believe; based on who is getting paid what. And then there are lobbyists who get paid crazy amounts of money to be in the back pockets for these ‘experts’. Oh what money does in this world.
With that being said, let’s dispel some of the major environmental myths we’ve been told over the years.
1. MYTH: The Earth is suffering from rapid deforestation and it’s getting worse.
TRUTH: United Nations data show that forest acreage has increased through time, and there is no indication that this trend will cease in the long term. In 2004, U.S. forest tree growth exceeds tree cutting by 37 percent. In 1920, U.S. forests covered 732 million acres; today they cover 737 million acres, despite a U.S. population increase from 106 million to 272 million in the same time period. Similarly, European forests expanded from 361 million acres in 1950 to 482 million acres in 1990, and despite deforestation in tropical countries, 76 percent of the tropical rain forest zone is still covered with forest.
Source: 2004 US Chamber of Commerce report: “10 Environmental Myths” also sited in figure 60 page 111 in Food and Agriculture Organization, State of the World’s Forests, 1997 at this Web site, http://www.fao.org/docrep/W4345E/W4345E00.htm
2. MYTH: Our air quality is declining each year.
TRUTH: Aggregate air emissions—everything rolled into one—have declined 25 percent since 1970, while our gross domestic product has increased 161 percent in the same period. Between 1988 and 1997, the total number of “unhealthy” air quality days decreased an average of 66 percent for major cities across the United States, and according to the EPA, air pollutant emissions have dramatically decreased, specifically: lead is down 97 percent; sulfur oxides are down 67 percent; carbon monoxide is down 66 percent; nitrogen oxides are down 38 percent; and ozone is down 31 percent. Air pollutants from cars have decreased by more than 90 percent—it now takes 20 new cars to produce the same emissions as one car produced in the 1960s and that figure is improving with the onset of new technologies.
Source: EPA National Air Quality report which can be found at their website http://www.epa.gov/
3. MYTH: Genetically modified crops are bad.
TRUTH: Enormous human benefit derives from GM crops.
While insects, weeds, and plant diseases destroy nearly 40 percent of conventional crops in Africa and Asia, many of the same GM crops available in North America are helping farmers in South Africa, India, China, and the Philippines to combat insects while reducing or altogether eliminating insecticide use.
For example, in the case of Bollgard cotton, growers were able to eliminate the use of more than 250,000 gallons of insecticide.
Source: G. Conko and C.S. Prakash, “Time for the GM Moratorium to Go” The Wall Street Journal Online, May 13, 2003 at http://online.wsj.com/article_print/0,,SB105278159845412000,00.html
So, why are we all being told a slanted version of the truth on a variety of topics? In my opinion, it’s to sell more and to pad the pockets of the companies doing the selling, of course. But, I’m not saying we should all be reckless and irresponsible with what has been given to us by Mother Nature. I think the opposite in fact. There are a lot of legitimately good ways to be smart about consuming and continue to conserve our resources and the environment. You just have to do research on what you’re buying and support the good companies and organizations that don’t just seem responsible, but actually are. And don’t count on the government agencies recommendation or so-called regulations. They have a separate agenda based on the powerful lobbying forces.
Let’s take the saccharin example for instance. It has been studied for decades showing conclusive evidence that it causes bladder cancer in lab rats, so the FDA forced companies to put a warning on packaging disclosing the risk. However, food companies and lobbyists put up such a fight that congress has placed a moratorium on the original ban and disclosure requirement because of its popularity in foods. Imagine how much money these companies would have lost if saccharin was banned. They did everything they could to persuade the government and the FDA to look the other way. This information can also be found in the book Skinny Bitch which I sited in an earlier post.
It’s baffling how information can spread faster than ever before through the Internet and television to bring you some news and not others. So, make sure you do research through trusted sources to find out what is safe for you. There are many intuitive ways to live a responsible, green lifestyle, but do require a little extra effort. For example, take CFL light bulbs. EnergyStar boasts that they will pay for themselves in six months time, use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb. But, they don’t tell you that it’s important to dispose of them properly because CFL bulbs contaminate the environment with 30,000 pounds of mercury each year. Naturalnews.com says that, “Breaking one mercury light bulb in your home can contaminate your home to such a degree that hazardous materials experts are needed to remove the mercury.” We need to ensure that everyone disposes of these energy efficient bulbs the same way as a typical fluorescent bulb. Locations can be found through your local recycling center.
Another way for the US to help the environment is to have them follow the lead of France, who is planning to institute a “taxe pique-nique” or a “picnic tax” on all disposable products for manufacturers and consumers such as plates, forks, cups, diapers and any other disposables that can be substituted with a reusable product. Additionally, maternity wards will be required to educate new moms on washable diapers and consumers will be given a $7,000 tax break on hybrid or electric car purchases. This tax is meant to change both consumer and manufacturer habits and to force them to calculate their impact on the environment.
Find reputable resources to help guide you to environmentally friendly products homemade alternatives and how to properly recycle. www.greenerchoices.org is a good start and, before you decide your favorite new product is that all-natural, biodegradable dish detergent, make sure you read up on who is giving them their kudos and how the ingredients actually affect the environment. Please make the extra effort to discover as much as possible on your own and don’t trust just anyone who makes a claim for their own benefit, rather than your health and safety.