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Wednesday, 26 August 2015 10:32

One Planet: Even the Magnificence of the Grand Canyon Can't Escape Toxic Pollution

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aaaaaaagrandcanEven the Grand Canyon can't escape toxic pollution. (Photo: Ronnie Macdonald)

Given that the Arctic is experiencing record levels of ice melt, it is important to remember that global warming really is global: It is a degradation of the planet as a whole.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, Arctic ice deterioration is getting worse:

Based on observations from satellites, 2015 is on track to be another low year for ice cover in Arctic summer seas, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

This finding was underscored by an image of sea ice and melt water swirling off the coast of Greenland, captured from the space agency's Aqua satellite, and made public on Monday.

Large chunks of melting sea ice can be seen in the sea ice off the coast, and to the south spirals of ice have been shaped by the winds and currents that move across the Greenland Sea. Along the Greenland coast, cold, fresh melt water from the glaciers flows out to the sea, as do newly calved icebergs

The past ten years have included nine of the lowest surface areas of ice on record, according to NASA. The space agency attributes diminishing levels of Arctic sea ice coverage to a rise in temperatures worldwide.

This decrease in Arctic ice cover is occurring just as Royal Dutch Shell is aggressively pursuing fossil fuel exploration there - which will only worsen the crisis. (Russian and Norwegian interests are also actively pursuing drilling in the Arctic.)

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The destructive impact of Arctic warming reminds us that the earth and its atmosphere are vulnerable everywhere, even if the precipitating harm takes place in a specific location.

That is also a point to remember in the case of pollution in general. For example, even though the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon National Park is free of industry, it is apparently not free of pollutants. The Nature World Report recently drew attention to this ominous reality:

A UNSECO World Heritage site and the 15th oldest national park in the U.S. the Grand Canyon is about as far removed from the congestion and pollution associated with our nation’s industrial and urban centers. And yet, according to a study by the United States Geological Survey [USGS], even the mighty Grand Canyon (and the Colorado River that forms it) isn’t immune to pollution: The levels of mercury and selenium now regularly exceed the “risk threshold” for fish and local wildlife.

Should the toxic elements enter the food supply, they could be harmful to fish and wildlife that eat them. It seems that the Grand Canyon’s remote location is of little import – the pollutants are airborne, and come from as far away as entire other countries.

The breathtaking beauty and wonder of the Grand Canyon connects us spiritually to this planet on which we reside. It is a sobering portent that this wondrous natural creation is now showing signs of measurable mercury and selenium pollution.

Incrementally ruinous global warming and pollution often do not seem to pose an immediate threat to our daily experience – they may appear remote and not worthy of immediate attention.

However, as the Nature World Report emphasizes, all of earth's treasures - including our lives - are at risk in a global economy that spews pollution:

“Managing exposure risks in the Grand Canyon will be a challenge, because sources and transport mechanisms of mercury and selenium extend far beyond Grand Canyon boundaries,” said Dr. David Walters, USGS research ecologist and lead author of the study. 

Other pollutants will surely follow.

From the creeping pollution of natural splendors like the Grand Canyon, to the building of toxic chemical plants in poor communities of color, to the warming of the Arctic, to the imminent threat of rising seawater to small island populations - the world is interconnected.

Collectively, we can no longer elude our responsibility to halt this destruction.

Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout.