Although it happened almost 50 years ago, I clearly recollect celebrating the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 when our entire eighth grade class marched several block to a nearby college to listen to speeches denouncing the ongoing desecration of the environment and warning of the looming disaster should things carry on as they had for a 100 years.
I also clearly recollect the conditions that drove the demand of activists that the government do something substantial to deal with the problem. At the time I lived near the shores of Lake Erie downwind of several steel mills and other dirty industries located in Ohio that abused the waters and the airs for profit. Ohio was the home of the infamous (and inflammable) Cuyahoga River, slicked with oil and debris which caught fire on several occasions, most notably in 1969 when the fires damaged a bridge and (horrors!) forced some steel mills to shut production temporarily.
I witnessed the devastation to Lake Erie caused by local company Hammermill which during the process of manufacturing paper dumped hot, contaminated water into the lake. Sensing warmth, hundreds of thousands of fish would swim toward the Hammermill docks and quickly suffocate. Looking out from the shores one could watch a silvery carpet of dead fish undulate with the slow motion of the dead lake.
My grandmother owned a cottage on Lake Erie with a private sand beach. It had been in the family for decades. Starting in the mid-60s the appearance of dead, bloated fish entangled in the newly thick seaweed stripped away the allure and romance of waterside living. My grandmother dumped the property for a song when it became clear no one wanted to go there anymore.
On many Saturdays I would accompany my father to the city incinerator where locals with ID could dump household trash directly into a 10 foot square opening in the floor that led to a raging blaze. The only thing left from the incineration was the smoke and ash that was sent directly into the air from a tall, brick chimney. No scrubbing required – just the pure mix of mercury, arsenic and lead to mix with the same miasma emanating from automobiles, trucks and trains running on dirty fuels.
And speaking of dirty, by the time Earth Day was a thing it was becoming noticeable that a lot of people were content with disposing their garbage right into the highways and byways of America, and onto public spaces, and into the waters that communities tapped for drinking. Clearly, Americans just didn’t give a shit anymore. Witness this clip from a Mad Men episode that captures the attitude I remember quite well.
Today, gone is much of what some might call the “good old days” when people were free to shit on the environment and in turn ingested all the poisons thrown back at them with predictable health implications. Hammermill closed shop, and so did the incinerator. Lake Erie is mostly restored, and that cottage my grandmother sold is now among properties fetching several hundreds of thousands. (Sidebar: Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Greats, remains vulnerable to algae blooms from farm runoff, and the effects of an invasive species epidemic.) Vehicles are much less polluting and the internal combustion engine is facing potential obsolescence.
All this thanks to the Clean Air and Water Acts and the formation of the EPA. People born after the early 1970s (about 65 percent of the population) have no recollection of how horrible the environment was in the U.S. – especially in industrial parts of the country. Perhaps that’s why there seems to be little outcry now that the EPA is in the slimy hands of Scott Pruitt – the most corrupt villain in Trump’s house of wax (followed closely by on-the-take Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke who never met an unspoiled expanse of scenic beauty and didn’t see oil derricks and strip mines.)
Today the New York Times paired a succinct summary of some of the milestone environmental disasters that predated the efforts to solve the problems with a devastating expose of Pruitt’s corruption, venality and audacity.
To all those out there content to overlook Trump’s crimes against the environment as long as the stock market rises and the 401k’s grow – contemplate which cancer regimen you’d prefer to spend your portfolio gains.
RIP Verne Troyer
Diminutive actor Verne Troyer died the other day at age 49. No official cause of death was revealed, although it had been reported that he fell off a sheet of paper. Troyer was most famous for his portrayal of Mini-Me, a tiny alter-ego of Mike Myers’s Dr. Evil character in the Austin Powers franchise. Troyer was hailed as a consummate professional – one who never forgot his lines (or would have forgotten had he had lines.)
Here’s one of my favorite scenes from Goldmember.
At a trim 2’8”, Verne played his first role as a stunt double for a baby. He later found semi-fame performing in music videos, visiting Howard Stern, and playing himself on reality TV where his alcoholism shined. On The Surreal Life Verne drove his scooter into a room on the set, pissed on the floor and summarily passed out.
Upon hearing that Verne wanted to be cremated, Austin Powers co-star Robert Wagner said he knew where to get some dead wood. You know, for the fire.
End Note: Ivana Know Where She Gets Her Ideas
In an interview with the NY Post’s Page Six, Ivana Trump muses on her ex-husband’s pursuit of a second term, concluding, “I don’t think it’s necessary. He has a good life and he has everything.”
She added, “Maybe he should just go and play golf and enjoy his fortune.”
Ivana – dahlink! – what the fuck do you think he’s been doing?