An excerpt from the Passionate Earth: The Evolution of Our Relationship with the Natural World by John Del Signore. I will be posting new articles to this site on a regular basis.
The history of pollution is very long. Dealing with human waste has been a significant problem for all societies. Initially, the most pressing issue revolved around sanitation and keeping water supplies uncontaminated. As societies became more sophisticated and technology became more pronounced, chemical pollution entered the equation. At first, pollution was on a small scale and localized, but as populations increased, pollution became widespread, eventually global, and more detrimental effects on society and the environment ensued. Today, contamination of our planet has reached well beyond controllable measures and our comprehension of it tends to arrive long after the difficulties have become significant or extreme. We no longer have sufficient technology to control it effectively and our willingness to address it appears to be lame.
There are a variety of reasons for not acting urgently regarding the environmental troubles we now face. Some of these include thinking and feeling overwhelmed, underestimating the magnitude of the difficulties, not having a viable plan to address current mishaps, cosmetic or short term goals versus solutions aimed at the sources of the problems, bureaucracy, lack of authority by agencies delegated to address dilemmas, lack of responsibility by citizens and organizations, lack of cooperation and team work, and an overall lack of commitment to bettering the human condition and protecting the biosphere. Historically, humanity has maintained a very poor track record addressing environmental concerns.
A Green History of the World by Clive Ponting, 1991, St Martin’s Press, NY. Polluting the World, p. 346.