In the one step forward, two steps back department, Rick tried to make some good points in his blog post today about some of the alarmist rhetoric seen in the You Said It and elsewhere about agricultural burning in the Grand Valley. Unfortunately, I think he stretched the argument too far on this one by trying to turn this concern into an indictment of the entire environmental movement:
"The things that were once merely irritating and perhaps even useful are now sold as deadly. The environmental lobby would like you to believe that everything that makes one even momentarily uncomfortable or that one can see in the air is at least damaging if not deadly. Farmer burning a field -- you get sick; car wreck with a little antifreeze in the street -- environmental catastrophe."Rick, I grew up in Pittsburgh, and while I did not see the worst of it I do remember my mother sweeping the black soot off of our back porch every morning.
I'm sure that those barons of the steel industry didn't give much concern to what their factories were belching into the sky until the health effects became more widely known. The same goes for those Uranium mill operators who thought nothing of burying tons of mill tailings all over the Grand Valley. Their effects are more gradual and insidious, but no less potentially catastrophic.
I've lost a wife, mother-in-law, and grandmother to lung cancer. Knowing what I know about their environment, habits, and situations, I believe that exposure to an airborne irritant or carcinogen, be it from steel mills, cigarettes, or decaying Uranium, played a role in their respective afflictions.
Burning fields may be an effective, long-standing tradition in the valley, but we know what airborne particulates in the form of smoke can do to people. With more people in the valley comes a time for re-assessment and choices in how agriculture interacts with more living and working spaces across this valley.
Restrictions on burning are an inevitability as the Grand Valley continues to grow. Deal with it.