February 22, 2013
The Chinese Swim Challenge and the American Clean Water Act
By Hal Herring
The Chinese people are getting fed up with a government that seems perfectly content to let them be poisoned in return for larger short-term profits. Take a look at this story from USA Today and try to imagine living under these conditions:
Swim for a half-hour in a river in east China's Cangnan county and win $48,000.
Sound like easy money? Take a look at the river.
Chinese angry about their toxic and trash-choked rivers have made online offers of cash rewards to the chiefs of their local government's environmental protection bureaus to take a swim in the waterways they are in charge of protecting.
One Internet posting offers $32,000 if an official will spend 20 minutes in a river in Rui'an or $16,000 for a 10-minute river dip in Dongguan down south.
Note that there were no takers for the money. I know I spend too much time on this blog bashing on countries that have abandoned conservation and environmental protection. It’s because I have listened, most of my life now, to fellow Americans who would not for one second raise their kids near a river like this or let them breathe air like this,
and yet they go on and on about the evils of the Environmental Protection Agency, or claim that we need more coal-fired power plants, with fewer regulations on how much they can pollute. It doesn’t add up, and it makes me sad, that so many of us are so spoiled that we do not even understand how we got the wondrous opportunities we have to swim and hunt and fish and run in clean air.
Well, maybe it’s time to hold our breath a bit, and start planning for a leaner and tougher future. Because we seem unable to muster the will to be the exceptional nation that our parents and grandparents bequeathed to us. A year ago this month, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA delivered a set of policy requests to the White House to fill in gaps and loopholes in the protection of our wetlands and water resources. What has happened, as the agricultural commodities boom has transformed America’s heartland, drying out wetlands, draining fields, funneling polluted run-off into our major river systems? What has happened, as drought has seared Texas and Oklahoma, lowered the mighty Apalachicola in Florida, as conflicts over water resources in Colorado are featured here at Field & Stream and in every major newspaper in the land? Nothing.
“Americans who hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors have been waiting for a year for the White House to approve clean water policy,” says Scott Kovarovics, Executive Director of the Izaak Walton League of America. “As waters important to hunting and fishing, our economy, and public health face growing threats from tile drainage and nutrient runoff, President Obama needs to take action and issue the Clean Water Act policy.”
I could say that we should get ready for a meaner future, but I will not. We know what it’s like in China, Mexico, India, and all the places where “nothing” is the answer to every question about protecting natural resources. We’ll take this information about our steadily declining wetland resources, and we’ll make ourselves be heard. We can do this, because we are a free nation, and a nation of Cain-raisers, not some overcrowded tinpot dictatorship where nobody knows what’s going on or how to change it.