It’s bad enough that these “slow drip” stories receive little sustained coverage; it’s worse when you write about them and nobody seems to notice. John Fleck, the superb science writer for The Albuquerque Journal, reflects on why this might be at his blog:
I did a story in 2001 about research by a clever scientist named Bob Root who had quantified the lead wheel weights falling off of our cars’ wheels. The amount was staggering ““ four tons per year in a city the size of Albuquerque, being ground up into toxic dust.
I wrote a front page story. No one called me. No one called Bob. There was no outrage, no calls for regulation. Nada.
It’s easy to imagine what the level of outrage would have been if the contamination was coming for a corporate polluter. Or, this being New Mexico, one of our nuclear weapons research centers. But perception of risk and outrage over its causes seems to be strongly linked to our beliefs about who is responsible. With no evil actor behind the lead wheel weights, no one seemed to care.
Fleck’s post was prompted by a column (sub req) he wrote this week, revisiting the same toxic dust problem ten years later. This time, he put a different twist on it:
Imagine what might happen if we discovered some company was clandestinely dumping 4 tons a year of toxic waste on the streets of Albuquerque.
Let’s call it DefenseCo Inc., and let’s say its workers were dribbling out their toxic waste a tiny bit at a time as they drove around the city’s streets, year after year after year, spreading it all over town hoping no one would notice.
Just to juice it up, imagine it was a type of toxic waste that was especially harmful to children, and that this was happening all over the country, not just in Albuquerque.
Imagine the outrage.
That is, in fact, what is happening, with a caveat. It’s not DefenseCo Inc. that’s dumping the toxic waste in our streets. It’s you and me. The waste we’re dumping is lead, which falls off our cars’ wheels in dribs and drabs, is ground into dust, and ends up who knows where.
As hazardous materials go, lead is a bad actor. Children are especially vulnerable. It can damage nervous systems and slow cognitive growth.
The fact that it’s ordinary drivers causing this, rather than an evil corporate polluter, matters not a bit in terms of the health and environmental risks. Lead is lead.
Again, Fleck was greeted by silence from readers.
And people wonder why there’s no public outrage over global warming, perhaps the biggest “slow drip” story of our time.
Is the American environmental movement all but dead as a meaningful force for change? You have to wonder, after reading this Washington Post story from earlier in the week. Or, as the article suggests, are there larger forces arrayed against Greens, such as the deep economic funk much of America is still trying to shake off?
Five years ago, status quo environmentalism was given a similar obituary, which got a lot of hoopla.
Big Greens are like zombies, though. Just ask the donors, who can’t fight them off. But now, with Big Green’s inability to feed and propogate off the nation’s biggest environmental disaster, you have to wonder if their days are numbered.
Let’s see, there’s the latest Monckton buffoonery, which everybody is rolling around in at Lucia’s.
There’s all the “rubbish” piling up in the blogyard of my favorite climate curmudgeon.
RPJ is calling out Lomborg–again.
Planet Gore, delightfully linking (yet again) to a picture of that famous Google Earth shot of Thomas Friedman’s house, wonders
And how come there are no solar panels on the roof?
Finally, back to Monckton, for tugging at the heartstrings of his supporters at WUWT:
It is sometimes a cold and lonely road we follow in pursuit of the truth, and the support of Anthony and his readers has been a great comfort to me.
That man deserves his own reality show, don’t you think?
(This was such fun, I might just make it a nightly feature.)