Barry Commoner: Pollution and production

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[Quotes & Insights #15]

From the Introduction to the 1992 edition of
Making Peace With the Planet, by Barry Commoner

“The assault on environmental quality results from the use of systems of production that yield useful goods but also generate pollutants.

“The engines that power modern cars and trucks also produce pollutants that turn into smog and acid rain. Once disseminated, the synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers heavily used in agricultural production also become toxic pollutants that poison our water and food. As the petrochemical industry produces plastics, detergents, and numerous other synthetic chemicals, it also generates almost as much in toxic emissions.

“Fuel-burning and nuclear power plants produce electricity; but the one also emits gases that are overheating the planet, and the other leaves huge stores of radioactive waste that will outlive the industry itself.

“The current environmental crisis is the unanticipated outcome of the ways in which the corporations that are entrusted with these decisions have chosen to provide us with transportation, food, and power.

“Although most economists like to talk about money — in the form of prices, wages, taxes, and deficits — it is useful to remember that all of these manifestations of wealth, like pollution, are created by production.

“If the environment is polluted and the economy is sick, the virus that causes both will be found in the system of production. And that is where their cure can be found as well.”

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