Get on with growing our economy

My turn

Posted: Friday, February 09, 2001

Consider if you will, a primitive region somewhere in this world of over 20 million acres in size, containing over a thousand islands and very few public roads, a region inhabited by very few people.

Its atmosphere contains measurable amounts of radioactive, cancer-causing gas, at various times its sky has been covered with smoke so thick that you can barely see the sun. In the region's northern areas, its groundwater has high concentrations of arsenic, a poison known to be fatal to most that may ingest it. The region at times is covered with decaying animal, bird and fish carcasses. During peak times of the year, the decay causes a stench that is almost enough to make you retch. Its islands are surrounded by waters with quantities of toxic waste substances that would blister paint off your car. Thousands of tons of animal feces and urine are dumped into the waters routinely.

This vile contamination has been occurring for hundreds of thousands of years in this region. None of what I have just described comes from the impact of man.

By description, the region thus described is far from pristine. Pristine has simply become the buzzword of environmental groups to gain attention. The natural impacts I mention at the beginning have never been harmful. In fact, these impacts are felt all over our planet. The main reason why they are not harmful is that the impact is spread over a wide area, thereby diluted to a harmless contribution.

The special area I have just described, by the way, is Southeast Alaska.

Radon gas is deadly poisonous and we have measurable amounts of it. Smoke from lightning-caused forest fires in the interior has drifted over our region and has been so thick as to almost block out the sun. Northern Southeast Alaska has some of the highest naturally occurring concentrations of arsenic in the groundwater of our entire state. Our enormous populations of mammals create a natural annual die off of massive proportions, decaying and feeding all sorts of smaller critters as well as bacteria. Many humans will not hang around spawning salmon streams on a hot August day because of the terrible stench from the decaying fish carcasses, but the bears depend on this annual event for food. Seabird droppings are so caustic that if you don't remove them from your automobile, a new paint job can be in order. Stellar sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, orcas, humpback whales, sharks and fishes deposit tons of feces and urine in the water routinely.

The radon gas is dispersed in the atmosphere to be rendered harmless, the forest fire smoke is blown away and dispersed, causing no permanent harm, decaying animals, birds and fish become part of the food chain and the feces and urine is dispersed, also not causing any harm.

Sure, any of the substances I have referred to, if concentrated enough can be harmful to any living organisms, for that there is no doubt. But, so can too much salt in your diet. In the grand order of this scheme, one can only wonder where does a wisp of smoke from a cruise ship fit. Where, in fact, do humans fit? I believe, as most people do, that humans are part of nature as well.

The reason why this area remains so beautiful is that all of what I have described is naturally occurring, and it causes no harm. Because of the wonderful properties of nature, we still live in the most beautiful area on this planet. We all live here in wonderful harmony with nature and are proud to show off our natural beauty to our welcome visitors. The stunning beauty we enjoy year around can be found anywhere you look.

The reporting of the negative human impact on this region has been filled with far too much fiction.

Cruiser ship and tourism bashing has become a blood sport to some. It is time to come to our sense and stop this foolish nonsense and get on with growing our economy.

Dave Fremming is a former city and borough assemblyman, planning commissioner, president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce and a former downtown business owner.

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