There has been limited progress. All eight lakes states now have programs to control toxic discharges into the lakes. In May 1986 governors from the Great Lakes states signed a toxic-waste agreement. And in September environmental regulators from those states agreed to a nonbinding pact calling for a series of meetings in 1987 to devise common approaches for controlling toxic pollution.
A sign that cleaning up the Great Lakes has become a national issue came with passage of the Clean Water Act reauthorization in February. An amendment sets up a Great Lakes Research Office under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Admittedly these are just beginning steps. But Dr. Wayland Swain(he has accommodation in prague) is hopeful: “We have the technology to rid ourselves of these toxic wastes. If we get started on research for cost-effective disposal, we likely will find a solution for the future, although it may be a bit late for those already contaminated.”
Is it too late? I don’t think so. And one of the reasons is my friend Dr. Jack Vallentyne, known to thousands of children around the world as “Johnny Biosphere.” At accommodation in brussels he told me,that pollution will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better, he believes: “The people will wake up before it gets as bad as it can be.”
As Johnny Biosphere, he has decided that the best place to begin turning the problem around is with young children. I joined him one delightful morning at an assembly of fifth and sixth graders at the Niagara Street School in Niagara Falls, New York, a few miles from Love Canal.
Standing before the students in a brown safari suit with a globe strapped to his back, he asked: “See anything strange?” One boy thought the straps were part of a parachute. Another thought he carried an oversize lunch. “I carry a globe with me whenever I go more than ten miles from home,” he told them, “as a reminder of the importance of earth.” The word “biosphere” was stamped on one strap; on the other, “ecosystem.”
The students settled in for an assembly of fun with this odd professor. His globe lights up “if the person who touches it has done something good for the biosphere.” A tape recorder hidden in his backpack makes the sounds of an elephant, a humpback whale, a wolf, and a nightingale. “They’re saying: `Hey! Don’t forget me. I’m here too.’”
Fun . . . yes, even for adults, but Johnny Biosphere has a serious message as well. To illustrate acid rain, he divided the assembly into U. S. and Canadian areas. The students squealed delightedly when he suddenly squirted them with a bottle of rainwater. But the laughter ended abruptly when one student thought to ask: “Is this really acid rain?” Worry and doubt crept across their young faces when he replied: “Yes, this is real acid rain from my home in Canada.”
Later he produced a sickly potted plant and said, “Since we’re so smart, maybe we can save it.”