For environmental groups, every day is Fright Night

(From an article called “Spooky Stuff in Minnesota Lakes” KSTP television, by Chelsea Wallace)

You may not think to look in a Minnesota lake to see something scary this Halloween, but a new study shows our lakes contain some pretty spooky stuff.

A statewide, citizen-funded environmental organization called Environment Minnesota is working to protect clean air, water, and open spaces in the state. In anticipation of Halloween they have just released the Ten Scariest Facts about Minnesota’s 10,000 Lakes.

These facts show a terrifying concoction of phosphorous, mercury, and other pollutants have made their way into the Mississippi and other Minnesota lakes.

In its new, alarming fact sheet, Environment Minnesota found that:

1. In 2008, EPA listed a total of 298 waters in Minnesota as impaired due to mercury pollution from power plants and industrial facilities. Even low-level exposure to mercury in growing children can lead to learning disabilities and lower IQs.

2. Levels of fecal coli form Minnesota’s southeastern streams are far above the federal water quality standard. Found in animal and human feces, these bacteria can cause eye, ear, nose, and throat diseases merely upon human contact with contaminated water.

3. Harmful nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers used in the ethanol production boom now plague Minnesota’s lakes. When the corn fertilizers run off into Minnesota’s lakes, they cause algae blooms and deplete oxygen in the water.

Our Take:
Environmental concern is everyone’s concern. But if Environment Minnesota had its way, we humans would pick up and leave the state of Minnesota. Maybe we could come back for a picnic or a canoe ride.

For those of us who want to continue to live and work in Minnesota and to enjoy reasonably priced food, fuel and other products, as well as an environment that doesn’t pose health threats and can be enjoyed by all—well we think there might be a solution besides shutting down all industry and farming.

“Studies” like the one mentioned here don’t capture the positive trend in environmental remediation that is under way.

Incidentally, we like to think we’ve made progress when ethanol and farming is down to third on a hit list like this.

Scare journalism like this shares more with the movie Fright Night—it’s a kind of entertainment–than it shares with the trailblazing journalism that led to the original Clean Water and Clean Air acts during the Nixon administration.

Environment Minnesota’s approach is not constructive to the effort to achieve a sustainable balance of economic and ecological values.

Farmers are conscientious stewards of land, water and air.

The boost to farm income provided by ethanol is paying for conservation methods aimed at keeping nitrogen and phosphorous out of our watercourses. Public recognition of the progress farmers are making and a willingness to invest public funds and meet farmers halfway in the cost of these changes can leverage even more progress.

Rather than dictating to farmers, we urge the environmental groups to undertake true dialogue—to listen as well as sharing their concerns. They would find that farmers share many of the concerns, and they would learn about the challenges presented by agricultural production that need to be met while protecting and restoring our natural resources.

Support ethanol and you get cleaner air, and support jobs in two local sectors—renewable energy and farming–these industries are environmentally conscious and making strides to reduce their environmental footprint.

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