Loss of Life

22. Loss of Life

Precious waters of life
And fertility,
Have we lost you
In our stupidity?


An overall sadness is the purview of this piece. The large, gray, head-shape on the right appears to be grieving. The upward wave motion of the pieces before it, although in apparent motion, is laden with contaminants, churning up sediment from the bottom where toxic pollutants have settled. Many of these human-made chemicals, which have been dumped into the lakes by the tons on a daily basis, are acutely poisonous in even small amounts. Many trace contaminants have the potential risk of causing cancer, birth defects and genetic mutations from long term exposure. Persistent chemicals such as DDT and PCBs bioaccumulate in organisms. Bioaccumulation is repeated throughout the food chain, increasing in concentration resulting in biomagnification. Large trout, salmon and fish-eating gulls accumulate high concentrations of toxic chemicals causing serious deformities or death. Other birds, animals and humans who consume fish are at risk.

Eleven critical pollutants identified as widespread throughout the Great Lakes are capable of producing irreversible effects in a wide range of mammalian and aquatic species. These include PCBs, dieldrin, DDT and metabolites, toxaphene, dioxin, mercury, dibenzofuran, lead, benzopyrene, mirex and hexaclorobenzene. Had enough? There’s more. Pesticides are carried by the wind hundreds of miles from where they were used and settle in the waters. Natural nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from farm runoff and sewage cause an increase in the growth of algae. When algae die and sink to the bottom, they cause eutrophication, i.e., the bacteria uses up the oxygen in the water leaving little or none for many fish and aquatic species to live. The polluters are humans from urban areas, industry and agriculture.

95% of fresh surface water in the United States is in the Great Lakes, a resource which many dry areas of the country would like to divert to their states. We have taken for granted the life-giving fresh waters of our earth and allowed the irreversible destruction of our very source of existence. Have we no foresight, no awareness, no responsibility, no sense of the soul of the earth?

If you have chosen Loss of Life, you are mourning an important loss or you are being placed on alert to guard against taking for granted any blessing you have received. Everything and everyone in your environment needs your nourishment. You are individually responsible for all life. You can and do make a difference. You can stop the stupidity and ignorance which causes widespread devastation through: 1) knowledge of the qualities of the environment, 2) informed political participation, 3) personal conservation of all resources, 4) commitment to teach others, and 5) respect and gratitude for all living systems, 6) use of only environmentally safe products, consuming only what you really need; wasting nothing, 7) advocating environmental responsibility, 8) promoting ecological education, and 9) embracing the wisdom and soul of the earth. We must make a dramatic effort to change this pattern of destruction. Let us transform a legacy of loss to a legacy of love.