It has been 40 years since the very first Earth Day. No doubt, things have changed for the better, at least here in the U.S. Our environment is much cleaner, and life-threatening pollution of the kind brought to light by Erin Brockovich (chromium-contaminated water) are few and far between. Instead, much of the talk these days about the environment in this country focuses on carbon emissions and long-term goals. It has taken us 40 years to get to this point. But in the developing world, it is still Day 1 in the fight for a cleaner environment.
In poor countries across the globe, the environment is still being used and abused, pushed to the limits by economic pressures as countries play catch up in the global marketplace. The trade-off? Polluted air, water and land, and a global public health crisis that is affecting millions in the developing world. While we cannot expect emerging economies to abandon their economic needs for a cleaner environment, we can help them in a number of ways, most notably by offering filtering technologies to curb pollution, and to clean up what’s already been dumped into the environment. It took us 40 years to learn to do this. Now we can pass the know-how along.
This Earth Day, what is life like in the developing world? This special Earth Day video–”The Story of Lead”–takes you through four countries to show you what is being done about lead pollution–one of the world’s worst pollution problems.
In Haina in the Dominican Republic, many children show signs of lead poisoning.
In Rudnaya Pristan in Eastern Russia, lead is prevalent and many have a casual attitude about the toxin. Our coordinator in Russia recalls staff of a local hospital telling him: “Lead poisoning? Nothing serious! We sometimes operate on people with AIDS without gloves.”
In Senegal, lead in the ground, water and air killed 15 children in 2008 and more are at risk.
In Mexico, a Blacksmith team member recalls finding a pot of food contaminated with lead, but being unable to persuade the family to throw it away. Sometimes, filling empty bellies take precedence.
As we celebrate 40 years of Earth Day, let’s remember that in some places, it is still just Day 1.