'Environmentalist' Is an Extinct Label in Today's World

Concern about the environment is a mainstream issue of discussion and decision. It's no longer simply the cause celebre of "liberals" and "tree huggers."

The moniker "environmentalist" is outdated today -- a partisan word best relegated to the annals of 20th century American history.

Concern about the quality of the air we breathe, the quality and quantity of the water we need, and the clean-up and protection of wildlife and the environment are mainstream issues of discussion and decision. They're no longer simply the cause celebre of "liberals" and "tree huggers."

Reality in the 21st century is that Earth's resources are finite. Pollution and overuse, population growth and escalating demands for limited supplies, a changing climate, and much more threaten many of the planet's resources. The problem is global. We no longer have the luxury of labeling a person or an organization that urges conservation and/or clean-up of natural resources as "environmentalist." Awareness of the issues and conservation have become necessities. Consider the facts.

Air pollution controls are standard operating procedure in many countries -- including the United States and are the goal of many lesser-developed nations. Catalytic converters on car exhausts, caps on industrial smokestacks, and regular monitoring and fines levied by government organizations for violations of standards are the order of the day in the 21st century. World experts and leaders regularly meet to talk about carbon emissions and credits in an effort to counter global warming.

Air pollution is a deathly serious matter in countries like China. Officials reported air pollution "off the charts" in Beijing in February). But concern about the air isn't an issue on the other side of the world only. Closer to home, in some U.S. locales where temperature inversions are common--Los Angeles, California, and Denver, Colorado, for example--wood-burning bans are standard occurrences during winter months to help cut extreme air pollution. In the summer months, regular media ads raise ozone-depletion awareness, and ask consumers to mow lawns and fill vehicle gas tanks -- both ozone-draining activities -- in the evenings to conserve the Earth's ozone layer.

The world and the United States' water supplies are in crisis. Tens of thousands of acres of the nation's farmlands have dried up. Aquifers (underground water supplies) have been drained down. Even sometimes plentiful rains or snow can't make up for losses because the necessary infrastructure (as in water capture and storage; reservoirs) isn't in place. Hundreds of thousands of miles of underground pipes that make up the nation's water delivery system are antiquated and worn out; they're out-of-sight potential harbors for bacteria and disease, too. Natural and manmade pollutants contaminate water supplies. And growing demand for water threatens to exhaust limited supplies and lead to conflicts.

Clean-up and conservation are realities today when it comes to land and wildlife, too. News coverage this week marking the year anniversary of the horrific explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has highlighted issues with devastation of coastal marshes, beaches, and wildlife habitat. One year later, and despite massive multibillion-dollar clean-up efforts, slimy oil still oozes from marshes; wildfowl turn up covered with greasy slime, and tar balls regularly wash ashore.

The bottom line this Earth Day 2011 is that all of us -- liberal or conservative; Democrat, Republican, Independent, or something else -- must pay attention to our planet's limited resources, and take a pro-active approach to conservation and solutions. We cannot afford to be "environmentalists." We all must work together as a matter of course to ensure that our generations' legacy to our children remains that of a planet capable of sustaining life and allowing it to thrive. The alternative is not acceptable.  

Susan J. Marks is an award-winning journalist with more that thirty years experience. Her new book, "Aqua Shock" sounds the alarm for states throughout the U.S. warning that water is a shrinking resource and is threatened by contaminants, overdevelopment, water overuse, rising population, climate change, antiquated infrastructure and outdated water treatment plants.
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