Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The good ol' days

So I'm driving down Royalton Road doing about 40 and some idiot in front of me starts chucking garbage out of the passenger window. I've got two teens in the back and it's raining like hell. There's a semi on my ass.

"Jesus Christ," I mutter. "Would you look at this jackass?"

Then he tosses out a big coffee can, which most likely has Mini Cooper tire-chewing capabilities, so I brake and swerve. The truck behind me lurches. I swear with more intent.

"MoOOoom," my kid admonishes.


Dear Youth of America: This is a rare site nowadays but people used to chuck garbage out of their cars all the time. The litter you see around roads and highways isn't one tenth what it was back in the 60s and 70s. The turn around was due largely by the Keep America Beautiful campaign. Behold the iconic crying Indian:

And it wasn't just garbage on the street.

There were parts of Cleveland that always smelled bad back then, particularly those surrounding the steel mills. Out-of-towners would wrinkle their nose when you got to the Pershing exit on I-77 SB and say, "What's that smell?"

By the time I was a shiny-faced field engineer with BP in the late 80's, things had gotten better, but the old timers used to like to talk about, well, the old times. They had names like Denny and Lou and Harry.

"Back in the day, we didn't have to worry about all your regulations," Lou would say. "We didn't have any regulations." Then he'd lean back in his chair, put his feet on his desk and take a long drag from his Pall Mall. "Back then the answer was smokestacks. You just pushed the smoke way up high where it didn't bother anyone. Back then, kid," he'd say, then purse his lips into a perfect O and blow a plume of smoke straight up by way of demonstration, "dilution was the solution to pollution."

Guys like Denny and Lou and Harry loved that line.

Lake Erie sometimes smelled bad, particularly during long dry summer spells. The shore was infested with rats, which did not deter my playmates and me from crawling under Lakewood Park's northernmost fence, scattering down the escarpment and poking around.

Then there was the Cuyahoga River.

In the late 60's and early 70's, the Cuyahoga was simply terrifying. This was no silly group of hippies protesting a pipe trickling some dubious liquid into the river. Everybody knew the Cuyahoga was filthy and dangerous. My nightmares were filled with images of falling into the thick black water and being surrounded by the industrial bridge pilings, the massive ore boats and tugs. I still occasionally dream about the murky waters of the Cuyahoga.

Think I'm exaggerating?

That picture of the Cuyahoga was taken in the 60's. You have to see it to believe it. I wanted to embed it here, but the Plain Dealer denied my permission request.

So then, Youth of America, be wary of ham-handed righties telling you how deregulation is a good thing and how the (admittedly sometimes exasperating) EPA needs to be defunded. No, I can't say pollution would return to what it was 50 years ago, but I'd hate to find out what might happen to a river that I've literally watched come back to life over the past 40 years.


Anonymous said...

I really love you sometimes Erin. Thanks. mike R

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

I don't believe anyone wants to go back to the way it was in the time that Cleveland was a largely blue collar, industrial city. Like Erin, I remember the smells and sights from those days, and they weren't pretty.

The question becomes how do we preserve resources and still remain competitive with other nations? I can remember being in Seoul, South Korea, on top of Namsan Mountain, looking over city. The pollution was so bad some landmarks were hard to make out. Yet, South Korea is quickly becoming a leader in a lot of things (microchips, for example; cars for another; you name it). They're doing it because they don't have the kind of regulations on industrial production that we have here. Same goes for China - friends of mine who've visited there (I've not had the opportunity) tell me that the pollution there is horrible, particularly in industrial areas.

China's been in the news lately, with the IMF and others stating it's economy will be the world's largest by 2016, surpassing our own. I don't know whether that's a good or bad thing, but I do know they'll do it by polluting the environment if current trends continue. Yet, we don't hear anyone saying that something should be done to stop China from polluting. All we hear is what we should do here.

I think there has to be some happy medium whereby the EPA and industry can coexist. They really need to if we are to be able to compete with other nations with less stringent environmental controls. Will they come together on common ground and interest? I'd like to say so, but I'm not optimistic. They'd probably only do so when they're facing a potential catastrophe in the face. And that is indeed very sad.


P.S. I still love Korea, though. Even if you can't eat the fish out of the Han River due to pollution and runoff.

Judy said...

We need to realize that we must stop buying from them and supporting their pollution...we need to make it ourselves and pay a little bit more...That's what happened here...we realized that we needed to pay a little more to keep the pollution down and repair the damage which had already taken to convince corporate America and everyone else that's it not always about money...

Vince said...

In Cork there was a collier that used to dock at the wharf of the coal merchant. Said merchant had made a bit of money some years back allowing a fertilizer plant put one of its outlet pipes into the river Lee at the point where the coaster docked fortnightly. After six months of this treatment the coaster sank in the middle of the Rhine. Where it was discovered that the plates along one side of the vessel was riddled with chemical failures.
I remember a photo in the National Geographic from the early 80's which showed smog in LA. God help us if we go back to that sort of free for all.

alphadog said...

And at the other extreme we have Shell Oil who after five years and almost four billion dollars said "Fuck it".
All because the EPA has gotten so overbearing and burdensome and is withholding air permits.
(I know it's Fox Erin, but it's still fact.)
As Al stated, somewhere there has to be a common sense meeting of the minds; the problem seems to be the finding of either.

Erin O'Brien said...

Didn't take long to find out the bullshit behind that one, Alph.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on this on FEBRUARY 4TH, 2011

Fox probably just sat on it until gas prices hit the headlines again to get their usual Maximum Truth Distortion. Also, Shell's not "scrapping" anything as Fox states. They've only delayed the project.

Fox News: Unfair & Unbalanced.

Try again, please, Alph.

Erin O'Brien said...

Sorry, gang, I was so full up with yelling at Alph I neglected to say thanks for all the thoughtful comments.

And Al? Careful, you're sounding a bit like a lib. After all, I agree with just about everything you said.

Fashionistable said...

Good to hear the river has cleaned up - but taking 40years is a long time. Mind you the image you linked to showed it had a long way to come. Good also to hear your rubbish swerving incident is rare these days too. It is very important to preserve the advances made. Xxxx

jo said...

Dilution? Really? What goes up must come down...when I lived on the south side over 20 years ago ("tremont hysterical district" nowadays) the "oldtimers" that came into the bar described a time when their mothers couldn't hang the laundry out to dry cuz it would have to be washed all over again. The same mothers would spend the morning with a broom sweeping the thick black sooty fallout from the steel mills off the stoop.

My ex's father wouldn't let his Lyman get anywhere near the Cuyahoga in the 60s. Not even inside the breakwall. My mother had a business in the flats so we spent a lotta time there on the weekends and I clearly remember all the smells as well.

People have kvetched that the Danny Greene movie wasn't filmed in Cleveland and I think that's b/c we've cleaned the joint up too much to be the Cleveland of the 60s and 70s. And that's a good thing.

(oh you aren't gonna believe this WV: awful.)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, all the news all the time from all sources?

James Old Guy

Big Mark 243 said...

You have the best dialogue in your comments of any blog ever, EOB. And that is a good thing.


Ms Amanda said...

I grew up in the Central Valley in Ca in the 70's and 80's. It was always hazy, with no mountains in sight though they are within an hours drive. The views are returning due to all the regulations in place now. I am so grateful! I didn't even mind paying to have my car smogged every year. I was totally surprised to find they don't require it here in the PNW.

Anonymous said...

"Yet, we don't hear anyone saying that something should be done to stop China from polluting." TRAG.

We should do something to stop China from polluting.


P.S. Grew up in Birmingham, AL during the heyday of American Steel. Truckers called it "Smoke City." I know dillution.
I have no faith that industry would practice self-restraint if the regulations were removed. Sure there would be some decent guys trying to do the right thing but others would exploit it for all it's worth and ultimately drive the quest for profit in the ditch.
See Mountain Top Removal.
See Massey Energy and the Upper Big Branch Mine.


Kirk Jusko said...

When Al says nobody complains about pollution is China, does he mean Americans don't complain, or Chinese don't complain? Chinese don't complain because if they did complain, they'd get thrown in jail. China is not a democracy. Maybe we should have considered that before bestowing most favored trading status on that country. And, yes, I know it happened under Bill Clinton's watch. One reason I preferred Obama to Hillary back in '08.

Anonymous said...

China has had most favored trading status under both Dem and GOP admins. It wasn't even changed after Tiananmen Square.


P.S. I'm sorry but I can't help myself. Best candidate for next pop culture addition to OED. "After Birthers"

Kirk said...

I stand corrected on the most favored trading status. I just remember Clinton rather loudly favoring it at times. Probably no more than the two Bushes, but it just rankled more coming from him. It would be nice if at least ONE of the two major parties would occasionally criticize it.

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

"We should do something to stop China from polluting."

Good luck on that one. I mean, UN sanctions work so well ....

"When Al says nobody complains about pollution is China, does he mean Americans don't complain, or Chinese don't complain?"

Americans don't complain, even though China pollutes far more today than we do.

"And Al? Careful, you're sounding a bit like a lib. After all, I agree with just about everything you said."

@ Erin - has nothing to do with being a lib or conservative. Has everything to do with common sense and a common purpose. If the EPA makes it so restrictive for companies to do business here, they'll just take it overseas (they have - to China, Korea and Japan). On the other hand, if companies eschew policies and procedures that safeguard resources, pretty soon we won't have much (resources) left. Polluting waterways, air, earth doesn't do any of us any good, regardless of where one stands politically. Not a left/right thing to me, but more of a common sense thing.

And trust me, I will NEVER, EVER be a lib ... unless I'm given a lobotomy against my will. ;-)


Bill said...

It's incredible, Erin, that you really think that, because a person is conservative (ham-handed righty) and believes in smaller government, they must want to dirty the water and air. In my case, my Mom and Dad did a great job of teaching us not to throw shit out of the car. We didn't need a crying Indian. I mean like, "oh shit! look at that Indian crying! We better not throw shit out of the car."

Goodcarver said...

I've known since I was a little kid that it isn't good to throw trash on the road and I'm 67. It's really too bad that there are irresponsible people who do that, but I think there are fewer of the polluters now than there have been.

Erin O'Brien said...

Re JOG's Bloomberg link: not one quote from anyone other than a Shell rep. hmmmm ...

It's incredible, Bill, how little you understand anything. Look at what I wrote and look at how you distorted it. What? Trying to get a job with Fox News?

You get cheap and dirty or you get clean and expensive. Everyone who wants cheap and dirty wants it plenty until it starts effecting them. That's when righties turn into lefties.

Erin O'Brien said...

Welcome newcomers Mike R, Fashionistable and Goodcarver. Thanks for dropping in and commenting.

Tony Rugare said...

Great post! Hope it gets the attention it deserves.

(S)wine said...

Makes me laff that people get so uppity about being LABELED. Al, who gives a fuck if people call you a Lib? People have called me all kinds of shit; I don't fit neatly into any of those boxes. There's shit I believe that's in line w/Conservatives and there's shit I believe that leans so far left Tea Bagging idiots would have me in a gulag. But yes, Al, I do agree. This is a matter of common sense. But...most people ain't got that. And so.

(S)wine said...

P.S. I grew up in Bucharest, Romania until age 11, when I came to Cleveland (1979). The Cleveland of that time, compared to what I grew up in, looked majestic and pristine.

Contrary Guy said...

great stuff... takes me back to my childhood days in Cinci, when mom would drive dad to work in the morning (a one-car family? horrors!)... the Mill Creek valley was hazed over most of these mornings, with a smell that I can still only describe as burnt bacon.

Not to get into the argument over regulation vs. industry, but it has to be seen that many of these big polluters are simply gone now, and that has made some if not most of the difference from the 'burnt bacon days'.

Bill said...

It's incredible, Erin, That you thought I was distorting your excellent blog and not just addressing your warning to young people to be wary of ham-handed righties.

(S)wine said...

My 7 yr old Kiddo, just this past weekend looking out the window, as we were racing west on rt. 40: "Dad, I'm sad. I'm sad 'cause there's so much litter on the side of the highway."

Erin O'Brien said...

You want a current juicy environmental problem? Dig you some coal ash.

I wonder how many residents of Bokoshe, Oklahoma consider themselves to be conservative. I wonder how many of them voted for McCain as they lobby Obama for help as they bury their dead and listen to their children wheeze.

No easy answers, people.

Erin O'Brien said...

I wonder if I could author a more poorly constructed sentence than the one in my previous comment.

Bill said...

Sure, Swine. Then she expressed her concern about the guys in orange jump suits that have to clean it up. I recommend that you sing songs or count vw's while traveling in the car. The kids love that stuff.

Erin O'Brien said...

William? Stop being a PAIN IN EVERYBODY'S ASS or I'll call your wife again.

Now then, it is nearly 10 a.m. and all I've managed to produce is a paltry summary of the article I'm writing (for [ahem] money). I must get to work in earnest, so please behave your terrible selves while I craft yet another brilliant offering for the Human Race.

LoDoKid said...

@Al -it sounds noble to suggest that the desire for common sense environmental policy is neither left or right, but that's not just a little naive, it's a bad case of myopia. The GOTP stands for corporate interests, bought and paid for by fattest of fat cats who have made their bones looting and pillaging with total disregard for the people, the land, water and sky. They may speak otherwise, but look how they vote. Your Overlord don't give a shit one iota how you feel about nature or what passes for common sense, but they're really glad to have you carrying their water.

Bill said...

LoDo: I have yet to meet my fat cat overlord but thanks for the warning. I will be wary and try to limit the amount of water I carry. Thank the Lord that there are people like you making us aware of the evil fat cat overlords and their devious plans to ruin our world.

Bill said...

Erin: There's a huge burqa sale at the strip mall so the wife won't be home for a while.

james2285 said...

I worked with the "indian" in the clean up america add a few years ago. He retired from General Motors after 30+ years as a sanitation/sweeper, Probably still cleaning up someware. Nice guy.

Al the Retired Army Guy said...

@ Swine: "Al, who gives a fuck if people call you a Lib?"

Ummm ... I do.

@ LoDo: Like Bill, I've yet to meet my "fat cat overlord." As to the case of myopia ... well, let's just say that the Dems are in someone's pocket as well. Unions come to mind, as does Hollywood, George Soros, etc. As you said, look at how they vote.

I'm a professional cook. I believe we all have a vested interest, regardless of political affiliation in maintaining as clean an environment as possible if we as a species wish to have access to non-adulterated food and clean water. Again, this isn't a left or right issue, it's everyone's issue. Polluted water doesn't care whether you're a Republican, Libertarian, Socialist, Democrat ... you drink it, you get sick, or worse, die. It's as simple as that.

Again, there has to be a way where we can safeguard our resources while still encouraging and developing our economy. We've sent people to the moon, fought and won (along with our Allies) two world wars, built the Panama Canal, and constructed a highway system second to none in this country. I see no reason why we cannot do the same in terms of the environment and industry. All it takes is for people to come together in support of a common goal. Unfortunately, in this country it usually takes something catastrophic for that to happen (think Pearl Harbor, 911, Katrina, or even the recent tornadoes that ripped through the town in NC that I live in two weeks ago). I hope we don't get to that point, but as I said in my original post, I'm not optimistic. Americans usually don't figure it out until it bites them in the ass if our history is any guide.


Anonymous said...

Bill, nah, she actually said that. She's a sharp, thoughtful kid; you'd be surprised at the level of conversation you can have w/her. And yea, I told her about the orange jumpsuits cleaning it up. Down here in the south we gots sherrifs who stand guard with loaded shotguns while the boys pick up the shit. No failure to communicate there, baby.

Anonymous said...

I actually grew up in the Cleveland area, 'a few years' ahead of you.

It has earned every bit of it's reputation being a nasty city. While it's hard to argue with your basic premise, you leave out several other root causes not limited to: incompetent/corrupt political system, organized crime, and white flight.

I am a former card-carrying member of Teamsters Local 507 from about the time Brother Jimmy Hoffa "disappeared" so I can tell you something about union corruption as well.

The EPA, was created in the same fashion as certain roads, i.e. with the best of intentions. But agencies invariably are afflicted with mission creep, empire building and then over-reach.

There is a line of 'balance' that takes into account numbers of lost jobs vs. benefits. Unfortunately that line has been crossed eons ago.