Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls Bush"s rollback of environmental regulations a "stealth attack."
There were other fighters at the conference, too, like Dr. John Todd, creator of the eco-machine—the most ingenious way to turn wastewater into usable freshwater, by using local organisms and plants to do the filtering in a series of large connected tanks. His fight is personal, too. "The healing of water started as a childhood fantasy," said Todd, who recently won the Buckminster Fuller award for ecological design. He lived near a place called Salmon Creek in Canada, where salmon no longer swam. "I would daydream about how one day we can bring the salmon back."
Todd has thought to look to nature for answers to the problems man has created. Toxic, industrial-level pollutants are destroying water bodies all over the world, as cancer rates climb and 6,000 children a day die from lack of safe drinking water. But Todd’s eco-machine, a self-contained system that uses local organisms to filter the water mimics, he says, "the plants that thrived in the earliest life on Earth, when there was no oxygen." Within weeks, these connected tanks were overflowing with lush, green plants and after 12 ½ days, in his first major test of the project—using the armored catfish in the last tank as a final vacuum cleaner—toxic sludge became crystal clear water with all primary pollutants 100% removed. "From an engineering perspective," says Todd, "there’s nothing simpler."
So why aren’t eco-machines cleaning toxic water around the world? Why do we continue to instead treat wastewater with industrial-level chemicals? "Technologically," said Todd, "we don’t have to look beyond [the eco-machine] to solve the problems that cause millions of deaths a year. I don’t know the disconnect."
He was not thinking about profits, of course, he was thinking about people, the planet, the future and quality of life on earth.
BRITA BELLI is the editor of E.
CONTACTS: Riverkeeper; Waterkeeper Alliance; The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies; Todd Ecological, Inc.