Category Archives: Rachel Carson

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Clean Up Costs

My own coming of age coincided quite nicely with that of the environmental movement. I turned 14 the year the first Earth Day was held. I remember the famous public service announcement featuring the Indian with a single tear coursing down his cheek. The nation was aghast at the news Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969 when I was 13 (and, no, the nation was not aghast that I’d turned 13, although it probably should have been.)

Imagine what a powerful image that was: a river — which, in case you’ve forgotten, is comprised mainly of water — burned. That might have been the incident that kicked the populace over the edge. We’d known for years, decades even, that belching factory smokestacks had fouled our air, we’d heard about acid rain, we knew better than to take skinny dips in urban waterways. Pollution was becoming a one of the scary words for kids. But when newspapers and magazines broke the jaw-dropping story of the Cuyahoga burning, Murricans really started thinking, Hmm, mebbe were screwing things up around here.

Cuyahoga River, June 1969

“Water.” Burning.

Over the next few decades, we’d stopped burning leaves in huge piles by the curb, we began recycling, we demanded factories put scrubbers on their smokestacks and municipalities treat their sewage before dumping it in our drinking water. We’d turned so air and water conscious that even Pres. Richard Nixon, who couldn’t have cared less about such things, was compelled to sign an executive order creating the Environmental Protection Agency. We became a nation of Rachel Carsons.

All the while, we were told that cleaning up our environment would cost money. Maybe big money. We were warned that adding federal and state taxes for the express purpose of cleaning auto emissions up might double or even triple the price of a gallon of gasoline. City sanitation departments would have to institute recyclable separation programs which would cost good dough, natch. Building nukes to generate “clean” electricity would entail an enormous initial outlay. And surely companies forced to clean up their operations under new environmental regulations would pass the costs along to consumers.

But, by golly, we’d have to bite the bullet and yank out our wallets, otherwise our dearly beloved planet would become a scene out of Soylent Green. Save for a few cranks and crazies who shrieked to high heaven about taxes and spending, the rest of us bought in; yep, we’d have to pay, perhaps through the nose, to reverse the effects of decades — centuries, fer chrissakes — of fouling the planet.

 From "Soylent Green"

“Soylent Green” Or Beijing In 2014?

I needn’t inform you that the cranks and crazies have become a major moving force in politics and what passes for “thought” in this holy land today. An entire demi-party has arisen, underpinned by a philosophy  based on fever dreams. The Me Party-ists — oops, sorry, Tea Party-ists — and their confreres view the expenditure of even a single red cent for anything other than big battleships, corporate tax relief, the installation of the Ten Commandments in front of a courthouse, or the fight against sluttiness as the absolute worst sin a society can commit.

And those erstwhile extremists, those crazies who are now mainstream, have dragged the sane among us closer to the Far Right with them.

To wit: Indiana House of Representatives member Cherrish Pryor — a Democrat — no less, has written a strong letter to the state Utility Regulatory Commission protesting that body’s okay of a statewide electricity rate increase to fund an Indianapolis electric car-sharing program. The rate increase, Pryor writes,”is the living definition of taxation without representation.”

First, she’s awfully shaky on the meaning of that sacred American t. without r. meme. What she’s getting at is people in Ellettsville shouldn’t have to pay for a program that benefits only those in Indy. Which, BTW, is the operating justification behind perhaps 90 percent of all state programs. City A needs a new dam for its river ergo, cities B through Z must pony up.

That has nothing to do with a distant parliament imposing taxes on some colonies w/o allowing said colonies to send a rep. or two to said parliament.

So let’s forget that. Let’s concentrate on the fact that actually doing things to clean up our air and water are going to cost real cash, something we’ve known since I became an adolescent, which is a very long time indeed. An electric car-sharing program seems a nice step in the right direction. We need to get it off the ground. We also need start-up capital for it. And where to we get such scratch? From the taxpayer and the utility rate-payers, of course.

If the Indy program works out, it just may begin to pay for itself. And even if it doesn’t, some good will arise from it because there’ll be fewer exhaust-flatulating SUVs tooling around the Circle City. Maybe one day Indy’s air will become only twice or three times as noxious as that in Ellettsville.

But no, a Democrat — got that? a Dem! — is all huffy because folks in the hinterlands will have to pay a few pennies more a month to power their TVs, all in the cause of cleaning up the environment.

Man, things have changed since I was a teenager.

A Single Tear

Here it is, that groundbreaking Keep America Beautiful PSA from my youth:

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Tuesday


“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point then the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.” — George Bernard Shaw



Every year, someone who cares about you will give you a Christmas/Hannukah gift that you’ll never use. A gift, in fact, that you’d be embarrassed for the firemen to discover should your house go up in flames.

Surly Amy on Skepchick offered invaluable advice yesterday on what to do with a specific genre of such unwanted largesse.

From Skepchick

Go Ahead, She Won’t Bite


A reader wrote in to S.A. asking what to do with all the old pseudoscience, self-help, and pop metaphysics books she’s collected through the years. She has the courage and moral fortitude to admit she once bought into the “ideas” presented therein but now is a devoted skeptic. So, what should she do with those old books?

The usual answer would be to donate or sell them but the reader won’t do that because she doesn’t want to spread these virus-laden items around.

Surly Amy canvassed creative skeptics and was able to offer some fab alternatives:

  • Make an iPad holder
  • Make a “book” shelf
  • Create book art
  • Fashion paper flowers out of pages and book covers

From Skepchick

Voila: A “Book” Shelf!

Go to MadArtLab for more ideas on upcycling books and other fun projects.

Now you know what to do with those copies of Deepak Chopra’s big seller “Super Brain,” Michael Singer’s mega-seller “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself,” or Rhonda Byrne’s old reliable “The Secret” that a well-meaning (albeit tragically misguided) soul might give you next week.


Speaking of X-mas, here’s my tried and true Italian holiday cookies recipe. Make these and you’ll be the toast of the block.

They’re great for dipping and late night snacking. And they’re guaranteed to add inches to your waistline.

I mean, what else are cookies for?

Now then:

Big Mike’s Italian Holiday Cookies

  • 5 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ sticks butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 heaping tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • Half a bag of unsweetened jumbo baking chocolate chips

◗ Mix flour, powder, and salt together. Put aside. In second bowl, cream butter and sugar. In third bowl, fork whip eggs and add vanilla and lemon extracts — mix well.

◗ Pour egg mixture into creamed mixture. Stir well.

◗ Add flour mixture gradually to creamed mixture, combining as much as possible with wooden spoon. Then work dough with your hands. Completed dough should have the consistency of clay.

◗ Refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat and set oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1-inch diameter balls. Place balls on ungreased, non-stick cookie sheets. Press thumb into center of balls to make lens-like discs. Place large, semi-sweet chocolate baking chip, pointy end down, into center of each disc. Bake for 12-17 minutes, until golden brown.

Eat and gain weight. Worry about your waistline next year.


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