Connect With Nature

[From Connect Column Archives]
Most of us are so involved in our daily lives that we do not notice the ground is shifting under our very feet. We hear or read one news story after another that tells of problems with the environment, but as long as the problems are not right in our face, we really pay little mind. We are comfortable at home in Midtown, Indiana, USA. The only time we perk up is when something like a very toxic piece of real estate crops up in our own backyard, like the old Continental Steel Superfund site. Otherwise, what do we really care? The problems with the environment we hear about seem far away and about things we cannot do anything about anyhow.
We need to care. We must care. We must do everything is our power to learn what is happening, make up our minds about what should be done; then change our own ways and put the pressure on our government officials to act constructively. Not facing up to the tough decisions about what human beings have and are continuing to do to the environment has very serious consequences for our children and children’s children. There remains no doubt about this. The facts are clear. The questions now are about how bad things are going to get, not whether they will get bad. Scientists are warning us, but they cannot act alone. If we do not have our listening ears on, we will not hear the messages they bring until it is too late to escape the negative and probably permanent consequences of inaction. Sounds serious. It is.
I was once the publisher of the Kokomo Tribune. I spent 20 years involved in the management of that newspaper. When it sold, I returned to Purdue to pursue biological research. This was several years after I read a book, ‘Silent Spring’, by Rachel Carson. The message in her book changed many people as it drew attention to the abusive use of pesticides, toxic poisons, in the 1950’s. Rachel Carson rang a bell and change occurred. Others are ringing new bells that are just as loud or louder.
At Purdue, I earned three graduate degrees: a master of science in conservation of natural resources, a master of science in aquatic toxicology and fish biology, and a doctor’s degree in genetics; these on top of an earlier bachelor of science degree in industrial management. I do not tell you this to brag. Rather, I want you to know that when I write about biology, the environment, and public policy; I write from a solid science foundation. I know what ‘good’ science is and what ‘bad’ science is, unlike many in political office presently.
Future columns will deal with a wide range of subjects from the debate over global warming to the use of antibiotics in the animals we eat. They will deal with air and water pollution, agriculture, population, medicine, genetics, genetically modified animals and plants, energy, how much fish is caught in the oceans, our love for automobiles, AIDS, land use, and many other subjects. All will have a direct or indirect connection with biology. One finds that everything is connected to everything else anyhow. If anything is changed in an ecosystem — a scientific word for a place on the earth that has many different plants and animals that relate in some way or another to each other — it affects everything else. Sometimes a change can cause the collapse of the whole place.
My goal is to cause thinking. I will not hesitate to take on those in public life that are, in my opinion, headed in the wrong direction or no direction at all. And I will say why. It is too late to tip toe through the tulips about these things. It is time to learn what the problems are, make up minds about what should be done, and then act. Many decisions to be made will be tough ones. If made wisely, they will result in present sacrifice for the benefit of future generations. If we choose not to act or act too little too late on key decisions, many scientists believe we may jeopardize the existence of human life on the planet Earth. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Let’s see what you conclude a few months from now.
If you ever want to contact me, make comment including telling me you believe I am full of hot air, ask a question about what I have written, or suggest topics for future columns; please write to me in care of the Kokomo Tribune or email I cannot promise a personal response always, but I will carefully consider what you have to say.
My files for this column are called ‘Connect’. We have become increasingly disconnected from nature since the dawn of the industrial revolution a couple of hundred years ago. A conscious re-connection with the natural world is the only way back.
Until next time……tell a tree or a bird or a flower that you really do care.

Environment & Politics

[From Connect Column Archives]
How did it happen? How did concerns about the environment and, more particularly, what to do about them, get so tied up in politics? I know as sure as I sit here writing this column that as soon as I take a stand on one environmental or science issue or another, I will be labeled by some as a ‘tree hugger’, a ‘green freak’, an ultra-liberal Democrat, or names I cannot print. I will be accused of being anti-business, anti-development, anti-American, or all sorts of other ‘anti’s’.
We must get past this kind of thinking. It is not productive. It is too important for us to look clearly at the issues involved to be stopped by the politics of labeling. We cannot go blind just because an issue may challenge one’s own views and values.
We have entered the millennium of the environment whether we like it or not. We can go kicking and screaming or we can go with an attitude of wanting to be involved in solutions. The way to solutions is not through screaming at one another about being conservative or liberal or of being one kind of religious person or not. The way to solutions is being willing to examine the facts and then not going into denial.
Things can get real muddied up though. Right now, we cannot agree on what the environmental problems are, where they came from, or how significant they may be. Some folks have almost literally buried their heads in the sand. They say there aren’t any major environmental problems on the planet or that things we see are just part of natural cycles. They say there are already too many rules and regulations about what people and companies can and cannot do. They oppose almost anything that restricts the rights of choice whether it be of an individual or of a business or industry. With industries in particular, most do not favor anything that would conceivably increase the current cost of operating. Fortunately, there are others who have the wisdom to look at a larger view. We do not have to look any farther than our own community to learn important lessons. The Continental Steel Corporation is an excellent example of what can go wrong. To clean up that industrial site has already cost millions of dollars. More will be required. Even then, the ground upon which it was located will be off limits for the foreseeable future for many uses. Why is this?
When in business, Continental Steel Corporation provided jobs for over a thousand people. It provided a good income for people to pay for housing, feed their families, and make a descent living. But what it did not do was to include all of the costs to the environment and to the people in the community in its cost of doing business or in the price of the products it sold. As a result, others have had to pay millions to try to fix what was left behind.
There were other hidden costs not recognized and paid for at the time or even now. What about the costs in terms of the health of former workers or property values near the plant site? What about the costs of water pollution and air pollution left behind? There are and will continue to be monitoring sites for the ground water in the area for the indefinite future to test for toxic chemicals still in the ground.
The former stockholders of Continental Steel Corporation walked away with millions in profits from dollars not spent in dealing with important environmental, societal, and health issues while the company operated. They transferred these ‘costs’ of doing business to others who, if given a choice, would not have wanted to pay for them.
How do you suppose anyone in this community who dared point these things out several decades ago would have been viewed? I can tell you. I was there. Company leadership complained vocally any time they were required to install equipment to reduce harmful air emissions. They buried barrels upon barrels of toxic wastes in their own backyard. They released thousands of gallons of pollutants into the Wildcat Creek. Out of sight, out of mind was the philosophy. We just will not deal with it.
The irony is the leadership of that company and of many companies today would, individually, say one of the ‘All-American’ values he or she holds dear is that of personal responsibility. You fix what you have broken. This presents a real dilemma. The only way, then, to not have to fix something is to deny that a problem exists in the first place, to minimize the problem, or to evade the problem with an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality.
How many other companies are doing the very same thing across the country or the globe right now that Continental Steel Corporation did then? Is this really why one hears so much wailing and gnashing of teeth from one industry leader or another or from those in public office that are aligned with them? Is this why many industries are in denial about environmental matters generally? Is it all about costs and profits? Is this all about short term thinking and not wanting to take responsibility for the lives of anyone else? Is it really about narrow mindedness and lack of concern? You decide.

Jackson Morrow Park Thoroughfare: NO

[From Connect Column Archives]
Thoroughfare The Webster Street through Jackson Morrow Park controversy coupled with talk about a road to connect the Webster extension through Jackson Morrow Park to private commercial property under development and the questions about wetlands raise all sorts of issues. These include private verses public rights, recreation resource planning, preservation of wetlands, and what ‘growth’ is in the best interest of all of Kokomo’s citizens.
I will leave the wetland discussion for a later day. Let it suffice to say for now that wetlands are important, no matter how small an area they involve.
What about recreation resource planning? I took a drive to take another look at Jackson Morrow Park. About three-fourths of the park is open, meadow-like, land with a few planted trees here and there. The remaining one-quarter bounded by Center Road and Park Road is wooded. There are a couple of picnic shelters in the open area along with a parking lot and the Kirkendall Interpretive (or Nature) Center nearer the southwestern areas. There are as yet no ball diamonds, basketball courts, soccer fields, tennis courts, designated trails except in the woods, play equipment for children, botanical gardens or specifically designated natural areas, or other amenities one commonly finds in urban public parks. All of these features are possible and many are already planned for the future if the Park Board has the budget and inclination to move in these directions, provided the character of existing park grounds is not substantially altered.
Then there is the proposed Webster Street extension. This is interesting. It appears this extension would lop off about the eastern one-quarter of the park. If this extension is supposed to relieve traffic from Alto Road as suggested, one must assume there would be many automobiles moving north and south through the park daily. Somehow, I have great difficulty understanding how through traffic would enhance use of the park for recreation. Maybe the park could use additional interior access by road, but this could be provided by a meandering road, say from Webster or Center Road to Park Road, containing some serious speed bumps for speed control, as opposed to a road designed to move traffic quickly and efficiently through an area. I know which type of through road, if there has to be one, I would want if my family or small children were using the park for play. And, maybe there need be no through road at all.
As to the proposal for road access from the west side of a commercial development plot through the park to join with the proposed Webster Street extension, I hope the city will not give it another thought. An additional connection to a Webster extension would only compound an already bad situation. There is presently a conflict of goals: moving traffic rapidly through a recreation area verses enhancing recreational grounds for people in Kokomo. Why add more to the mix by granting private commercial property access, which can only increase through traffic, through Jackson Morrow park? Urban recreation land is already difficult to come by. Why compromise it at all?
Given the fact the private commercial developer involved, Dick Scoggins, has been successful in real estate development for many, many years in Kokomo; one must assume he already considered and planned for proper access to his commercial property long before now. His original plan most certainly would not have made the only good option for proper access to his property being through a city park on a road that does not exist to another road that does not exist through the same city park. That would not have been good business planning.
There are clearly conflicting interests involved in this entire matter. At one pole are the folks who want the park to be left as it presently is. At the other pole are those who desire the expansion of roads through Jackson Morrow park, believing the proposed roads would enhance the park. My guess is that a middle ground is going to be most difficult, if not impossible, to come by.
Outdoor recreation raises the spirit. Public lands for recreation are vital for the health of a community. To compromise the value of existing recreational resources both for now and the future does not make good sense.
Not constructing a thoroughfare through Jackson Morrow park, thereby preserving it solely for recreational development, is the decision that is in the best interest for the longest time of the most folks in our community. It is the decision, too, that does the most to honor the wishes of the Kirkendall family who did so much to bring the Jackson Morrow park into being in the first place.

Bush and Cheney Energy Secrets

[From Connect Column Archives]
The General Accounting Office, which is a non-partisan investigative arm of the Congress of the United States, has repeatedly asked President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney for more details about the meetings convened by the administration which resulted in the formulation of the Bush-Cheney national energy policy. Cheney has formally refused to comply with these requests claiming certain details are none of the GAO’s business. The GAO office inquiry was prompted by a request from two House Democrats.
There is a problem here. It is understandable that Bush and Cheney would resist attempts by Democrats to make political hay from information provided to the GAO. This type of maneuvering is the same old monotonous story of politics as usual. If this is the motive behind the request from the Democrats: shame on them.
However, even if it is the motive, that does not excuse the position taken by the Bush-Cheney administration. It is not OK to withhold information about how what may turn out to be one of the most important policies in the history of this country was formulated. It is not OK to hold in secret the names and backgrounds of meeting participants or of other contacts and discussions that took place. It is not OK for the public not to be able to decide for themselves whether the people involved were acting in the best interest of the nation or in the best interest of themselves and the companies they represent.
Holding information in secret always raises suspicion. As a general principle in this country, the citizens have a right to know all that is going on in government unless there is some very, very good immediate national security reason to do otherwise. These energy policy formulation meetings and contacts clearly do not fall into that category. The nation’s business is best carried on in a glass house, not behind closed doors.
The Bush administration promised openness, frankness, and bi-partisan compromise in its campaign promises. It is time for the administration to clearly lay out for the public who participated in what meetings and when as it made the decisions about the energy future of this nation. If it does not, we urge the GAO to exercise what ever powers it may have to require the administration to do so. The decisions about our energy future are much too important for it to be otherwise.

Stem Cell Research

[From Connect Column Archives]
There has been much said about human embryonic stem cell research. Now that President George W. Bush has taken a position against spending federal tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research except with existing cell lines, it is time to try to understand what really has happened.
There is an enormous misconception about what scientists are saying to us. Part of this misconception is because scientists speak in different words than most folks understand. When people hear the word, “stem”, the first thing that may come to mind is the stalk of a plant. Well, that isn’t it.
Others may associate the words, “stem cells”, with the brain stem in humans, a particular region of the brain. I read an article in one newspaper that said scientists wanted to “create human embryos ….for the sole purpose of killing the baby and harvesting stem cells from his or her little brain”. This is totally inaccurate, too.
So, what are the facts? When a human egg cell is joined by a sperm cell, fertilization occurs. The sperm and the egg are alive before fertilization, at fertilization, and together as one cell after fertilization. The moment the sperm and egg join is conception. This is the moment many have chosen to say a new human being exists. Only one cell exists at that time. That single cell is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
Almost immediately, things happen. The one cell divides to become two cells. The two cells divide to become four cells. Four become eight, and so on. In eight cell divisions, the number of cells goes from the original one to 256. Even so, the physical space occupied by the 256 cells is still about the size of a period.
If one looks at these cells under a microscope, they are clumped together in a little ball and they all look alike. These are the magical embryonic stem cells. Try as you may, no matter how high the power of the microscope, one cannot see a miniature human being there. These cells are the cells whose descendents later develop into highly complex tissues, organs, bone, blood, and all the other things that make up a human body. They have not become different one from another, but each has the potential to become anything one finds in a human body.
These cells with their unlimited potential are what scientist believe hold the secrets to cures for many of the most heart wrenching diseases and conditions in human beings. These are the cells that scientists want to explore and understand. Most scientists believe these cells, which have never been any specialized tissue, offer the most promise as opposed to ‘adult stem cells’ which have specialized to some degree. It is believed once a cell or its descendents start down the path of becoming a special cell like a heart or nerve cell, there is no turning back. The trip is one way.
So, with the President’s policy statement, where are we? If you hold the religious belief that a new human life begins at conception and that using embryonic stems cells for research kills a human being, that is it. If doing stem cell research is in the same category as abortion, no embryonic stem cell research is acceptable. Period.
There seems to be considerable inconsistency with this position, however. Most who are against embryonic stem cell research do not oppose fertility clinic procedures that result in deep freezing and, if unused, disposal of many, many more embryos created in a glass dish than ever find their way into a woman’s womb. By their standards, it is OK for many embryos to be ‘killed’ so that one or two may be born. This looks like blatant rationalization. Consistency demands being against both if against one.
If you hold a more flexible view, a clearer understanding of the President’s position becomes more important. The President wants us to believe he has taken a middle road on the embryonic stem cell issue. He has not.
The President gave the green light on supporting embryonic stem cell research on the “60 existing cell lines”. More facts will unfold in future weeks, but at present it is not at all clear where “60”came from. Many believe the number is significantly less, that the cell lines that do exist are held mostly by private enterprises world wide who may not want to share them with others, and that many embryonic cell lines are either defective or not viable for the long term.
If new cell lines cannot be created, significant and concerted embryonic stem cell research simply will not happen in the United States. Federal research dollars are vital to the creation of a research effort of size in our universities and public research centers. These are the institutions that share knowledge which advances science at the highest possible rate. Private research does not do that. Private research is more concerned with profits to the enterprise doing the research and then, if at all, the sharing of information.
The President’s decision, if upheld, condemns literally millions to unnecessary suffering and/or early death who may have been able to lead longer and better lives if the promise of embryonic stem cell research is realized. It condemns family and friends to years of anguish, frustration, and sorrow.
Scientists want desperately to understand how stem cells work. If they do, they will be able to cure diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and cancer. They will be able to grow skin tissue for burn victims and cardiac tissue for damaged hearts. They will be able to repair nerves damaged by strokes and spinal-cord injuries. The list goes on.
The United States is currently the world leader in biology. Placing severe limitations on human embryonic stem cell research in this country opens the door for other nations to take the lead. They will.

The Ozone Layer; Our Friend

[From Connect Column Archives]
As I thought about this column, the sun was just peaking over the trees. The words of a song loved by my grandchildren came to mind:
“Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, Please shine down on me!
These little children are asking you to please come out so they can play with you.
Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, Please shine down me.”

This is the way things were when I was growing up, too. We loved the sun and all it did for us. We took for granted it would always be that way. Even now, when I step outdoors on a bright day, the sun’s warm energy on my skin brings a smile to my face and an uplifting to my spirit. Only occasionally do I think of the sun being one continuous nuclear explosion over 93 million miles away.
We have difficulty imagining that kind of power. Without this energy, there would be no life here. The planet would be dark and cold. Thankfully, there are no signs we have to worry about the sun being extinguished any time soon. It is what we cannot see that we need to worry about.
High above us — invisible and silent — is one of the miracles of our planetary home. It is a clear gas layer called the ozone layer. It was there before mankind, before the dinosaurs roamed the planet, and even before the first living cell on Earth.. It engulfs the entire planet in a protective cocoon as we move through the blackness of space on our endless journey around the sun.
Through this entire time it has been there protecting life on Earth from harm. Thanks to modern science, we know it stops a particular part of the sun’s energy from reaching the Earth’s surface. This ultraviolet energy, when too much, destroys. It causes cancers. It stops plants from capturing the energy they need to make their living. We know too much ultraviolet energy reaching the surface of the planet has the potential to kill the biological processes we depend upon.
Less than a century ago, mankind learned to create chemicals that, when released into the air, would find their way up to the ozone layer and begin to destroy it. We loved these chemicals. They gave us air conditioning, refrigeration, and provided the ‘psssssst’ in our hair sprays, deodorants, insecticides, whipped cream cans and a variety of other aerosols. They were used in industrial processes of many kinds. At first, we didn’t realize we were doing anything except making life easier for ourselves.
Then, the bad news came. A few decades ago, scientists discovered the ozone layer was getting thinner. The thinner the layer, the more damaging ultraviolet radiation reaches the Earth’s surface. The layer even developed large holes in it around the North and South Poles at times. Now we hear about holes in the ozone layer that appear over where people live in Australia and northern Canada. We get ‘burn’ indexes along with our daily weather reports. We are warned by the Environmental Protection Agency to ‘save your sight — wear sunglasses, do the lotion motion — apply sunscreen, lose your shadow — seek shade, top off your day — wear a hat, and stay out of prolonged exposure to the sun’.
We can put on sunglasses, sunscreen, and all the rest; but, what about the plants? What about the trees, and grasses, and green algae in the waters of the world that release into the air the oxygen we breathe. What about them? What about the plants we depend upon for food?
In the short span of a few years, humans have managed to damage a vital link in what supports life on this planet. If we, world wide, totally stopped today manufacturing ozone layer damaging chemicals, it would be decades before we know the final consequences of our actions. These harmful chemicals hang around continuing to do damage for a long, long time.
Many corrective steps have been taken, but more are needed. In the United States, we no longer power aerosols with these harmful chemicals. Our air conditioning and refrigeration systems are being changed to other, safer, chemicals. But, we and others around the world continue to manufacture and/or use chemicals harmful to the ozone layer.
Just last week, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) announced it would no longer be able to provide monitoring of the ozone layer due to current budgetary constraints. Scientists are worried.
The ozone layer is our friend and protector. It has been there for all of life for eons upon eons. We need to be vigilant as its friend and protector for the benefit of life to come.

National Energy Policy & ANWR

[From Connect Column Archives]
Chalk up a victory for common sense. The United States Senate this past week acted wisely when it voted to block oil drilling activities in the ANWR wildlife area. If drilling activities had been allowed, the primary economic beneficiaries would have been the oil companies and the State of Alaska. The price would have been the sacrifice of one of the most pristine natural areas on the planet. The long term energy gain from extricated oil would have been negligible. Enhancement of national security and reduction of dependence upon foreign oil would have been zip. The wisest choice was made, but it is not clear that it was made with full consciousness of the right reason.
Most political pundits see the battle over ANWR drilling as one between political parties, each trying to gain the advantage over the other. Granted, President Bush had the ANWR issue at the center of his energy policy effort. One has to have more than a little suspicion about this given his and his colleagues’ relationships with oil company folks. The Republicans have pushed the arguments of national security, energy independence and creation of jobs. The Democrats on the other hand have tried to gain the upper hand by adopting the arguments about saving the environment and minimizing the potential impact of the supply of oil that ever could flow from the ANWR area.
Now that the Senate has blocked drilling (at least for the time being), it is time for both parties to get on with taking a real look at the facts of the long term energy needs of this country and the real reason their vote was the best one. It is crystal clear that as long as the United States of American depends upon oil as its primary energy source, it will be dependent upon foreign oil. There just are not oil resources enough, currently exploited or not, in North America upon which to base an energy gluttonous economy. Period. That is a geological fact of life. The oil reserves of the planet are located primarily in countries that are not particularly friendly to the USA and likely never will be. We are presently locked in a rather sick economic dance with those countries in a way that we are dependent upon them and they upon us…… and we upon them and they upon us ….. etc.. As long as that dance goes on, the United States will be vulnerable to the choices of others. We must find a new dance. This will take courage.
It is time for our political leadership to get the backbone to lead us to real energy independence. It is time to revisit legislation about automobile and other gasoline/oil powered vehicle efficiency and raise the standards for future performance. It is time to pass legislation that would provide real economic incentives for energy conservation and innovation. It is time to have the guts to add a few cents tax to a gallon of gasoline with all of the derived revenues being invested in energy research and development. It is time to promote maximum development rates of energy production through wind and tidal generation, through solar energy capture, through energy fuel cell generation, through biomass ethanol production, and, yes, even through nuclear energy generation provided the very serious issues around current safety and waste disposal are fully and properly resolved. The ultimate goal of all of this effort is to convert the entire United States energy system to one based upon hydrogen rather than petroleum. Accomplishing this goal would totally solve all energy independence issues as well as all issues about greenhouse gasses and planet climate warming. It would solve all issues about air pollution from fossil fuel combustion. The fact is that hydrogen burns cleanly with the only byproduct being pure water.
The road to a hydrogen economy and energy independence will not be an easy one. The first foes to defeat are the oil companies themselves and those in the administration and Congress who beat the drums for them; you know, the folks who are driven by short term economic greed rather than long term good for this country and the planet as a whole.
The people of this country have the imagination and technological talent to create all that is needed. The challenge is to find the political leadership that will provide the national vision and the encouragement. We did it when we decided to put a man on the moon. We can and must do it again.

Continental Steel Revisited

[From Connect Column Archives: published several years as the SuperFund site was being cleaned. This serves as a reminder to not let guard down. More recently, there is ground water pollution from an unknown source for wells that serve the Indiana American Water company’s wells for Kokomo.]
Millions have been spent to clean up the environmental catastrophy left behind by those who managed, owned, and operated the Continental Steel Corporation plants on the nearly 200 acre site at Markland Avenue and Phillips Street. Millions more will be spent over the next decade according to IDEM spokespersons speaking at a meeting to review the project. The bottom line is that there remains surface soil contamination, lagoon sediment contamination, PCBs, PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons), ground water contamination and all the rest. IDEM and the EPA have cleaned up the worst of it, but what remains at the site and all along the Wildcat Creek corridor from the Continental Steel main site to past Dixon Road is presently at contamination levels that are unacceptable.
Another major site of contamination with toxic compounds is the old quarry at the corner of Markland Avenue and Brandon Street. Eye witnesses can attest to the fact that all sorts of waste products from Continental Steel were dumped there over a long period of time. IDEM has already removed barrels and other debris from this old quarry site, but a huge amount of work remains.
Another possible site of Continental Steel dumping has only recently emerged and that is the old quarry location just south of South Side Lumber on South Washington Street. There are many Kokomo citizens that remember when this location was a big hole in the ground partially filled with water. They, also, remember trucks that looked like slag trucks backing up there to dump their loads over the years. If one drives by that site today, one sees a chain link fence with barbed wire on the top protecting what appears to be a level piece of ground. One must wonder why the fence. More than likely, IDEM would like some details about that place from folks who lived close by over those many years of dumping.
The folks at the meeting this past week with the IDEM representatives learned also that the funding structure for the Superfund was buried by the current administration along with a lot of other environmental protection programs. The tax that funded Superfund projects was eliminated. Now, each year the EPA must go before Congress and ask for funds from the general fund to pay for clean up projects. Seems rather a strange way to do business to me. This means that the burden is being born by the common taxpayer rather than by the industries that leave toxic compounds in the environment. So, IDEM has no idea from year to year if they will be able to complete the job started at Continental Steel. They have to do the best they can to attack the worst first and work their way to a point of stopping when money is no longer available regardless of whether or not the job is done.
The irony of this whole situation is that those responsible for the decisions and actions that have cost already millions to clean up with millions more to be spent have skated. They have no liability whatsoever. And many made a lot of money from the wheeling and dealing that took place in the end years of Continental Steel. I need not remind you of what happened to the pension funds for the employees that devoted their lives to that place. In my considered opinion, there is no way that the decision makers could not have known what they were doing at the time, both financially and environmentally. This is a perfect example of why those who run companies for profit must be watched carefully by elected representatives pledged to work for the common good. If not, another Exxon or Enron or Continental Steel will be just around the corner.
Heck, the administration might help them. Interesting to note that Mr. Bush through the EPA just this week made it easier for public utilities and industry to pollute the air.

Tin Roof Days

[From Connect Column Archives]
My morning ritual several years ago was to get out of bed, half stumble down the stairs, put on the coffee, and head for my home office to check email. There was a window close by that gave me clear view of the outside world. I checked out the weather, watched the birds, squirrels, and a black and white cat that visited most every morning. I saw, too, the old, tin roof of a neighbor’s garage that once was home for a carriage and horse. That tin roof caused me to think about how life must have been in this neighborhood when that building was built about 100 years ago. That tin roof took me back in memory to my own growing up days in this town.
I think about how things have changed over the years. I think about the absolutely wondrous scientific and technological innovations that have become a normal and expected part of our lives in the last seven and one half decades.
My earliest memories though are of Victory Gardens and Block Wardens and of a father gone off to war. They are of milk being delivered to our home by the Med-O-Bloom Dairy horse-drawn milk wagon and of the fresh homemade butter, eggs, and vegetables coming directly to our door. And of the doctor making a house call from time to time when we were sick. They are of times of racing home after school to gather by the radio to hear programs that stimulated the imagination like ‘The Lone Ranger’, ‘The Green Hornet’, ‘Inner Sanctum’, ‘The Shadow Knows’ and ‘Tennessee Jed’. They are of times when children just old and tall enough to put money into the bus coin box could travel downtown to Kresge’s or Woolworth’s or Penny’s or to see the movie serials each week and be safe.
Everyone walked to school. No problem. It seemed the adults in our town looked after each other and any children around. Even the dogs and cats were friendly and free. Most folks did not lock their homes when going off to shop or work. I ask myself whether we have really made any progress in our quality of life here in these past 75 years? Certainly, there is bigger and more of everything, but is it better?
Things were not all roses over those years, though. Racism and religious prejudice were pretty ingrained in our society in those days. We have not gotten through those even yet.
We did some pretty stupid things, too: things that we were told were wonderful and harmless at the time. I remember going to the dentist again and again to get a cavity filled. As a reward, the dentist would give me a gel-capsule filled with mercury. I loved holding that marvelous, liquid metal in my hands and using it to polish coins by rubbing the mercury and coins between my fingers. Today we would say, “Mercury in you hands! Are you crazy?”
I remember going to Eby’s Shoe Store to get new shoes. To check the fit, the store had a wonderful machine into which one would insert a foot with a new shoe on it, push a button, and see how the shoe fit. Gosh, you could see all the bones in your foot, too. The machine was an X-ray machine. I often have wondered what happened to Mr. Eby and the other employees of the shoe store.
I remember the hot summer days in our neighborhood. Sometimes the bugs, particularly mosquitoes, were kind of bothersome, but there was a fix for that, too. The city would send around the truck to take care of the bugs. We looked forward to it. It was great fun to ride our bicycles in the cloud coming from the truck. The DDT smelled pretty good. We were told this miracle chemical had saved the world from malaria and from being over run by insects. We believed it, because the chemical companies said so.
We are now in a time when science and technology are moving much faster than then. It is important we learn from our past, take the best from the past and move on. This means carefully examining change and innovation to be sure they lead in directions good for people and the planet. One huge lesson is not to be so quick to believe all that is new and claimed to be so wonderful, particularly if the message is coming from those who stand to make money or gain politically from whatever the message conveys. We have been fooled before. There are those who would fool us again and again and again.

Attitude & Growth

[From Connect Column Archives]
We have an attitude problem; an attitude problem toward the idea of growth. All of our lives, we have been handed the message that all growth is good. From the day we were born, our parents told us to eat our food so we would grow big and strong. As we grew, family and friends told us about how tall we were getting or that we were becoming a ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ now. We have heard this all of our lives.
In our culture, we have been told that growth and development are good things, always. Growth and development bring more money into our community. They bring more jobs, goods, and services to the people here. We measure our progress by the number of people who live here. Heck, we even get state and federal money for schools, highways, and other projects based upon how many people are here. We get representation in the United States Congress that way as well. So, growth and development have to be good. Right?
Then a question came to mind. What is the end of this process? Is there ever a time when we have had enough growth and development? Even the human body at some point reaches maturity and grows physically no more. We transition to devoting our time and energy to personal and internal growth in the realms of the spiritual, psychological, and creative aspects of our lives and leave physical enlargement behind; at least most of us do. Could this same process be the healthy and maturing one for a community?
Is our ultimate goal to become the size of Indianapolis or Chicago or even New York? Is our goal to bring more and more people to our community without limit? Is our goal to bring more and more industry and business here, forever? Is there ever a time when enough is enough? Is there a time when it is time to concentrate our energy on the quality of life in our community rather than quantity?
Globally, we are in a real mess. Global gets global by adding up all of the small pieces like Greentown, Tipton, Logansport, Kokomo, Indianapolis, Chicago, New York, Paris, London, Tokyo, Mexico City and so on and so on. When Jesus Christ walked the planet 2000 years ago, it has been estimated there were around 130 million people on the whole earth. That is about half what is in the United States alone right now. In 1999, we passed 6 billion worldwide or almost 50 times the number when Jesus lived. And we are growing in numbers at an astounding rate. We are adding 216,000 people a day to our planet. Population scientists tell us that we are on our way to 12 billion or more in the next few decades.
Such growth cannot continue because the planet cannot support it, period. Just as cancer cannot grow indefinitely in your body without eventually killing you, so humanity cannot continue to grow in numbers unchecked in the biological world without killing it.
What does this mean to us who live in central Indiana? Maybe it means thinking about what kind of community we want in the end. Maybe it means understanding more about a quality of life and less about more and more all the time. Maybe it means taking a look at how we are using water and land and air in our town and around our area; and understanding we have physical limits on resources. Maybe it means a thorough discussion about what our community goals are and then doing some tough planning.
From a state and national standpoint, maybe it means talk about population matters including immigration policies. The United States of America takes in more immigrants annually than all other nations in the world combined. And what about all of the illegal immigration? As the world becomes more and more populated, the pressure to bring more and more people to the USA will only increase. Are there limits?
Maybe it means, too, that a re-examination of the policies of our federal government toward supporting family planning is needed. This does not mean we have to come to agreement regarding the hottest of issues: abortion. It does mean, though, that some intelligent decision should be reached concerning the education of women world wide about other reproductive options and health. The current policies of our federal government are questionable at best. We have quit supporting several major family planning programs.
We can affect global results on growth of all kinds by doing our part in our own community to think and act in responsible ways. We are not now doing that. The resources of planet Earth are limited. It is essential for the survival and quality of life of our children and grandchildren for us to become acutely aware of this. It is time for the taking of concrete steps toward a sustainable society. It is time for an attitude adjustment.