Recently the state environmental department announced plans to control an introduced species, which is on the verge of becoming seriously invasive. In the areas where it’s currently established itself, it caused serious damage wetland and aquatic plants, has displaced – and often attacks – native species, created public health hazards, and injuries to the public. Once confined to a relatively small area of the state in limited numbers, over the past few years it has spread to new areas, and numbers are increasing. The state plans to reduce this population in the wild to zero over the next ten years. Pretty open and shut, right? Not really, since all such plans have a “public comment period” attached to them, and there’s a good percentage of people against it.
Tag Archives: environment
I was recently reading a very good series on West Virginia over at Al Jazeera. It’s the thing that you used to see from our media, but no longer. It’s a rather disturbing picture of what happens when an area is almost totally dependent on one industry, and one that is an “extractive industry:” Coal. The reports focus on one county, McDowell, which in the past was one of the major producers of coal. Today? Well, it’s not a very nice place. But there’s some lessons in there as well.
I’ve been interested in history for a good part of my life. Besides taking history courses in school and reading on my own, there were also history lessons imbedded in many of my other classes. That’s why I understand that regulations are necessary. There were reasons we have antitrust acts. There were reasons why we regulate food, drugs, and cosmetics. There were reasons we have banking and financial regulations. There were reasons why we have environmental regulations. There were reasons we have building codes, fire regulations, occupational safety regulations, and a host of others. The reasons? Large numbers of very painful lessons that were taught before those regulations came to be.
One of the first agricultural techniques, which is still practiced in many parts of the world, is “slash and burn agriculture.” It’s pretty simple:
Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique that involves cutting and burning of trees and plants in forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology or other tools. It is typically part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock herding.
It works by clearing an area, planting crops until the soil is depleted, and then moving on to the next area. Eventually, one may move back to the original area, after a period of allowing regrowth, but that isn’t always possible. Its use as a successful method depends on having a small population and a lot of land to move to. The problem with it is that it’s not a sustainable method of agriculture. Once you reach a certain population density, or have exhausted the land available, it becomes unsustainable. So, what does that have to do with the economy?
The same arguments that were trotted out in 1967 are in vogue today. It’s “too expensive,”and “too burdensome.” It’s short-term thinking, and it’s sad. There was a time when both parties said “enough!,” and thought that rivers shouldn’t catch on fire. They had the will to do it, and it worked. Maybe it worked too well. Maybe if they could still smell the rivers, their constituents were getting sick with water-borne diseases, and they could watch fires on water, they’d realize that there was a problem.
In just the past few months, there have been a number of incidents which have, again, brought up the need for regulation and enforcement. Besides the chemical spill by the ironically named “Freedom Industries,” West Virginia also had a massive coal slurry spill into the rivers from a company called “Patriot Coal.” In North Carolina, a coal ash spill has contaminated the Dan River, which provides drinking water to two states.