In the late 1960s and early 70s there was growing ecological concern. Secondary students like me had lived through the threat of the bomb being dropped. Pollution was a controversial topic of discussion.
I remember a morning disk jockey quoting some report that we had the worst air in the country. The Fish and Game Commission warned about the mercury levels in fish, and as we stood on the watery banks of our river the water no longer reflected the blue sky with its fluffy white clouds.
The old papermill had added pollutants to the water. The stink assaulted the nostrils like a hundred angry skunks on a jet over the Pacific.
One friend contended, and he still believes this today, that the secret experiments in a near-by government laboratory complex had released radiation into the air and water supply. Back then people were concerned about what the government was doing to the denizens of the country.
The cancer rate was very high in our county, especially among our friends in elementary and secondary schools. It is difficult to stand in the various cemeteries dotting the county and see the names of those we played with growing up. When their stories are told there was some type of cancer involved which ate away the life force of those who were once young and played on the school playgrounds and ball fields.
Recently, I was digging through some old papers and came across an essay from secondary school which I had written about what life would be like in 2001 if pollution continued its rampage. Of course, a teenager looking 30 years into the future does not have the same perspective that a 48-year-old has. Perhaps, a 48-year-old is a bit jaded.
So, here’s my essay which reflected the time in which we lived. It is called ONCE UPON A TIME:
I once saw the clear blue sky with its white puffy clouds which cast pictures on the blue background.
I once saw a lake and even an ocean that was pure as the morning air of that day of yore.
The dew was so sweet on the morning grass of spring.
I remembered the smell well because it was like the perfume of my ladylove.
I once spent a day in the mountains.
The trees were so green as their tops pointed to the cerulean sky up above.
The spruce, pine, maple and oak were there.
Their memories are locked in my mind.
I well remember the motion of them as the wind past through.
They were like the waves moving but always remaining.
At night as a small child I stood atop a hill nearby.
I watched Hercules, Draco, Ophiuchus, Gemini and all the other constellations and stars appear one by one as the light of the sun vanished.
The night sky was clear.
The air was fresh and cool.
The moon shone with radiance equal only to that of the sun or Venus.
All the myths about the stars and the moon ran through my mind.
The man in the moon spoke not to me but remained silent like all the ages past.
I saw the earth from the moon once and wondered why man was given such beauty as the earth.
Oh! Yes, Saturn is said to be the most beautiful planet with its many rings and moons, but it can never replace that mixture of green, blue and white.
These are distant memories like those of old.
We knew they were there but never knew them ourselves.
I once visited the country.
Its many fields and meadows and lakes flashed through my mind as if I visited them only yesterday instead of many years past.
The odor of the country is an odor of Heaven itself.
Its many flowers and plants lined the fields as Mother Nature directed.
The stillness of the country was broken only by the various insects carrying on their night work.
Those were good days, but all good things must come to an end, they say.
So it was.
The earth lies buried under the dismal cloud not of Nature but of man.
The waters are now pools of darkness, poisonous even to the touch.
The fields and meadows lay barren waste lands inhabited only by the hell kites.
The sky is night, no light can be found.
The earth is no longer a planet but a tomb fill with deadly gas instead of air.
That cloud of blackness is miles thick at every point. There is no sunlight.
We are now children of the dark, but we are few.
Ours is the only remaining sector of human life if we can be called human.
Our prayer is for Death but no.
He comes not to the cursed world of our Fathers’ and Mothers’ making.
I saw once a movie and laughed. Now in my old age I laugh no more.
All that is left are my distant memories and they are fading like me.
Now this earth is my coffin and the cloud of pollution my lid.
I die now in the year 2001.
Is this nightmare to be the next generation’s reality?
2001 came and went. More friends from secondary school have passed to their eternal rest.
The scarcity of fresh water and climate change are the tangibles which the next generation will face. My generation fought the fight but with questionable results as we settle into aging, for many of us ungracefully.
In our next post we will examine a film from 1972 which dwelt with my generation’s ecological concerns. I will leave you with a statement from the film until next time:
“It calls back a time when there were flowers all over the Earth… and there were valleys. And there were plains of tall green grass that you could lie down in—you could go to sleep in. And there were blue skies, and there was fresh air… and there were things growing all over the place, not just in some domed enclosures blasted some millions of miles out in pessimism to space.”
G. D. Williams © 2013
Previous Posts On Ecology and Earth’s Fragile Biosphere
Water: The Ambrosia of Life
The Specter of Ravishing Drought And Its Forgotten Victims
A Rare Find: Titan Arum
Are We In A Countdown To Extinction?
2011: The War On Plastic Bags
A Scientist, His Work and Climate Reckoning