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Pollution by any other name

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
June 1, 2006


I have come to the conclusion most Americans wrap themselves in ignorance as easily as they wrap themselves in the flag, if it means they don't have to think for themselves, beyond menu choices. What I have learned is the lack of critical thinking skills is being enabled by educators who are as uneducated as the students they are trying to educate.

Prompting this observation was a conversation over Memorial Day weekend with a simpleton who thought he possessed the skills to debate environmental ethics with me. Of course he was drinking, it was a long weekend, the perfect time to wear beer goggles. A non-drinker, I was sober, which could explain why he was so stupid and I was so up tight.

A beautiful day in Southern California, small talk ran the gamut of the hell hole that is Phoenix, to land deals in Mexico, and the brilliance and artistic mastery of the Dixie Chicks. Of course the pleasantries ended when talk turned to scuba diving artificial reefs. Remember, I have issues.

As a land based mammal, scuba appears to me as just another way to waste money destroying the planet in the name of anthropocentric recreation. Of course I made that known. Breathing under water occurs to me as unnatural unless you are a fish; so the idea of strapping on air, and other heavy equipment, is not one I easily entertain.

As for artificial reefs, I am beginning to think I am the only person who sees this a form of pollution. and environmental encroachment. As scuba dude was praising local dive spots I pointed out that man made reefs were blight on aquatic environments, some even rating as aquatic junkyards.

An artificial reef is considered a man made structure rising above the ocean floor, most often built to create artificial habitats in areas of ocean lacking them. Not really structures, and not really reefs, artificial reefs are usually constructed of human debris such as scuttled ships, cars, aircraft, military tanks, oil rigs, and demolition rubble. The worlds largest man made reef is the scuttled USS Oriskany. Discarded off the coast of Florida on May 17, 2006, the Oriskany is now 30,000 tons of scrap releasing PCB's (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) into the environment.

Proponents of artificial reefs cite the economic benefits of dive related tourism; charter-fishing opportunities, coastal wave mitigation, and sand retention. As valid as these points may be, they do not negate the fact that artificial reefs are pollution redefined as habitat.

The science of creating habitat and recreation opportunities, involves marine life, such as algae and invertebrates attaching to submerged human discards, and through accumulation creating suitable conditions for ecological communities to establish a viable food chain, with humans at the top of course. Hence the term artificial reef.

Artificial reefs by their very nature infringe on natural processes, hence the term artificial, defined as not natural by the Oxford Dictionary. Surfing reefs are constructed to create ideal surfing conditions where none previously existed. Usually comprised of boulders or geotextile bags filled with sand, artificial surfing reefs are seen as options for dissipating wave energy and reducing coastal erosion, when in fact that are responsible for altering coastal ecosystems.

Spin is spin and pollution is pollution, and environmental destruction comes in many forms, artificial reefs being one of them.

What pissed me off most was that the scuba dude refused to see scuttled ships and discarded tires as pollution. Whereas I easily conceded the short term economic gains associated with the scuba oriented tourism, scuba dude could see no downside to sinking ships of the coast of Pensicola or any other coastal city.

I guess a dump is only a dump when you can't swim around it. Perhaps faulty dive equipment and a lack of oxygen while submerged leads to such delusional reasoning. But then again I know quite a few non divers who see nothing wrong with ocean dumping under the guise of recreation opportunities. Anthropocentric myopathy is the only answer.

America in the realm of Bush has elevated environmental disengagement to a new level. It's no surprise that folks who would acceptive commercial logging as a healthy forest initiative, or the scuttling of decades of environmental regulations in the name of corporate convenience under the guise clean skies. So why shouldn't ocean dumping be consider habitat creation.?

Dishonesty and delusion, has become as American as mom and apple pie. And if mom gets cancer from eating pesticide laden apples, so what? That too can be explained away with a benign euphemism or hollow catch phrase.

Call it what you will, garbage submerged is still garbage. And ignorance of ecosystems is still ignorance, even in George Bush's America.

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