To most casual drinkers, coffee has as much to do with songbirds as chalk does to cheese, but a growing movement centering on coffee’s many political dimensions is beginning, like the caffeine in the cup, to wake up a disinterested public.
By 2007, 3.2 billion people
a number larger than the entire global population of 1967
will live in cities. Developing countries will absorb nearly all of the world¹s population increases between today and 2030. The urban growth rate of 1.8 percent for 2000 to 2030 will double the number of city dwellers in less than 30 years. Meanwhile, rural populations are growing scarcely at all. In this cover story, E profiles some of the world¹s largest and most environmentally challenged megacities.
Below eerily quiet, clean-looking vistas, plumes of toxic chemicals have tainted soil and grounwater at every military installation in the country. Millions of gallons of solvents were dumped into the ground at Air Force bases from Alaska to Florida; at an Army ammunition plants across the country, vast quantities of explosive compounds have washed into the groundwater. At many of these bases, the pollution has migrated into neighboring comunities. Military officials often knew of these environmental threats but failed to notify the public or their own personnel of the dangers. At the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, high levels of toxic explosive compounds such as TNT and RDX (Research and Development Explosive) had been found in groundwater below the plant since the 1970s. Army tests in 1983 discovered that these toxic wastes had migrated far beyond the base border. But neighboring residents–who drew upon this groundwater with private wells for drinking and agriculture–didn’t hear from the Army until more than a year later.
It’s Thursday, April 22, and Marty Kraft is back in business. He’ll once again orchestrate masses of Kansas City volunteers into building a 200-foot recycled sculpture. In 1990, he transformed tons of cans, bottles and newsprint into a giant Earth; last year, into the mythical Grandmother Turtle. Diana Mendelsohn is back in business, too. She’ll lead a parade of 2,000 costumed kids from Indiana schools dressed as the "All Species Parade." Paul Perkins can’t wait, either. He publishes Imagine, an insert in Sunday newspapers that will again become the largest-circulating environmental magazine, with three million copies distributed worldwide. Named after the John Lennon song, it’s the "official publication of Earth Day."
For the past dozen years, the environment did not pass "go" in the White House. But President Clinton has promised us "the most ambitious environmental cleanup…of our time." Vice President Gore has written one of the biggest environmental bestsellers since Silent Spring. And green lobbyists suddenly have friends in high places. Will this team win the jackpot, or wind up politically bankrupt?
For Norman Maclean, Montana’s Big Blackfoot River was a pristine and spiritual place where any faithful fly fisherman could enjoy a near-religious experience, partaking in the best that nature had to offer. The trout-filled waters of the Blackfoot shaped Maclean’s life and inspired him to write a book, A River Runs Through It, filled with romantic descriptions of the Blackfoot, which inspired Robert Redford to buy the screenplay rights and produce a movie about the beautiful river of Maclean’s youth. Flyfishing, brotherhood, growing up in Montana–the Hollywood production had all the wholesome goodness of homemade bread, except for one thing. By the time Redford was ready to start filming two years ago, some 16 years after the book was published, the Big Blackfoot lacked the asthetics necessary to serve as the setting for the movie.
The Great Lakes, so easily taken for granted by North Americans, are a unique and awesome feature on the planet. These "sweetwater seas," as early explorers described them, stretch for over 1,000 miles and hold one-fifth of the Earth’s supply of fresh water. They are the heart of a region of forests, thousands of small lakes, and praries that once teemed with wildlife. But with all of that water, timber and rich soil, European settlers transformed the Great Lakes domain of fur trappers and Native Americans into a frontier of farming and industry after the Erie Canal opened up transportation from the east Coast in 1825. The great "heartland" cities of Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto, Milwaukee, Detriot, Toldeo, Buffalo and other sprang ip rapidly. Although the northern perimeter of the Great Lakes still remains relatively wild and forested, 35 million people live around the lakes, mostly in its lower reaches, producing goods and services that amount to roughly one-fifth of the United States economy.
Over the past few months, we have undertaken an unscientific experiment that we would not recommend to others: Opening all of our mail and actually reading it. We could have found worse, like "Opportunities Unlimited" which stole thousands of dollards from senior citizens with fake sweepstakes contests or the "Doris Day Animal League" which spend over 90 percent of its funds on more fundraising, but we also could have found better. And empty mail box, for example. Here are now our favorite junkmeisters:
You may remember the great mailbox debate of 1990. The very first of 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save The Earth was to "Stop Junk Mail." We were each chewing up one and one-half trees a year with our daily load of bulk mail, reported the little blue book form the Earth Works Group, and we were all producing almost two million tons of garbage. For what? Why not tell Ed McMahon to keep his $10 million, the underwear sirens at Victoria’s Secret to get dressed, and the panda bear at the World Wildlife Fund to nibble on berries instead of our bleeding hearts? Junk mail wasn’t the most serious crisis in the world, but it was a sign of our consumer culture run amok, a vast paper slick hitting almost every mail slot in the land.