1970s >> 1970 >> no-787-march-1970-1970

European pollution year

During this last decade there has been a growing interest in the problem of pollution. In all industrial countries rivers arc being polluted to an alarming extent with waste from factories. Detergents are everywhere used and these substances cannot be easily removed from water, so our drinking water supply is being depleted. In America some scientists have proclaimed that in ten years time at the present rate of pollution, the U.S. will have to bottle drinking water to conserve its water supply.

Lakes are being polluted with factory waste and with chemical insecticides washed off the land by rain, or dropped into the lakes by spraying aeroplanes. Lake Erie in America has now become so polluted that fish cannot live in it, and today it is a gigantic sewer.

Pollution of air from petrol and diesel fumes is already a big problem, and Los Angeles (once a health resort) is now one of the worst affected towns in the world. Petrol and diesel fumes are a known cause of lung cancer and respiratory diseases.

The insecticide DDT has been banned in many countries, and is so widespread that it has been found in the bodies of penguins in the Antarctica and animals in the Arctic. Practically every human being stores this nerve poison in the fat tissues of the body.

Stocks of war gases are a potential menace as these terrible poisons could kill thousands of people in peace time, by their accidental release into drains and rivers.

Residues of radio active fall-out from nuclear tests, and the waste products of atomic factories, are a constant and insidious danger to mankind. Buried atomic material has escaped from its lead containers in the sea and poisoned fish; it remains active, with unpredictable possibilities.

Pollution of the sea with oil from ships discharging their waste, and the much bigger hazard of oil ships meeting disasters, such as the case of the Torrey Canyon, pouring tens of thousands of tons of oil into the sea, are a constant menace. Fish, sea birds, plankton, and other wild life upon which fish live must depend—and thus our food—are all adversely affected. Added to this is the contamination of the beaches with oil and the spoiling of holidays.

Chemicals used in food manufacture have increased enormously. The food trade employs more chemists than any other industry, and about 1,000 different chemicals are regularly used in food processing. Flavouring essences, colouring matter, preservatives, anti-staling agenus and anti-oxidants are used more now than ever before, and the nutritional value of all our foods is decreasing as a direct result.

Food is not produced because people need it. There are plenty of hungry people in Asia and Africa but nobody is going to produce food for them unless they can buy it. Food is produced for profit—“no profit, then no food” is the rule of the farmer, the miller, the baker, the grocer and every food vendor. So long as food is produced for profit then just so long will food be faked and adulterated and falsified by advertisements to increase profits.

So long as it is cheaper to dump factory waste into rivers then so long will it be done.

Politicians and other authorities cannot rid the world of pollution because it means getting rid of the profit motive in society, which they are committed to maintaining. Up to now they have only spread confusion in this field (as in every field). No amount of legislation and amendments to Acts on pollution, or food making, or banning certain drugs, would put this matter right. As soon as one drug is banned because of its side effects, there are a dozen more ready to take its place. And so it is with detergents, insecticides and all the rest.

The many conferences to deal with pollution that have been planned this year (which is officially Conservation Year) are bound to fail in the same way as the disarmament conferences failed, and because of the same reason. The prime cause of pollution is capitalism itself, for capitalism cannot function without polluting the world. No doubt efforts will be made to stem the tide, but capitalism is bound to fail to conquer this problem for it is capitalism itself that is creating it.

Horace Jarvis