It’s quite possible that the environment we live in is in worse shape now than 50 years ago, especially in places like China and Africa. But here, now, it looks, tastes, and smells a lot better. And not just because fewer people are smoking.
I remember when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire, and when it was said you could develop film in the Genesee downstream from the Kodak factory. My father worked for General Electric in Schenectady, and used to say that they returned the water to the Mohawk cleaner than it was when they took it out, which was no doubt true but should not be taken as an endorsement of the effluent.
The air in Pittsburgh was so full of smoke and particulates that when the Church of the Ascension expanded, they used black stone in order to match the soot-darkened original.
Automobile exhaust was something awful. It’s not nice even now to walk or bike along a road full of cars, but nothing like what it was before pollution controls.
I even remember when the Freihofer bread delivery truck was horse-drawn, and you can guess what that did to the streets. (But I loved to sit on our porch and watch it pass by!)
Environmentally, this is not a secure time to be living. What’s more, I know that the improvements to our air and water quality are only partly because of pollution control laws. Pittsburgh is a clean, breathable city because they no longer make steel in the home of the Steelers. We have outsourced and off-shored our pollution as well as our jobs.
But when it comes to breathing and drinking, I’m thankful for today.
This post could also be viewed as a mere excuse for sharing my favorite Tom Lehrer song of that era.