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We don’t hear much about Bat Boy since the Weekly World News folded, but here are some other scary stories of an environmental nature.

RIVER CATCHES FIRE!  The polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire for the eleventh time on June 22, 1969. “Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows.  Anyone who falls into the Cuyahoga does not drown," Cleveland's citizens joked grimly.  "He decays". . . The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration dryly noted: "The lower Cuyahoga has no visible signs of life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes," according to an August 1969 article in Time Magazine.

Deformed frog


MUTANT FROGS BAFFLE SCIENTISTS!  More than 60 different species of amphibians with severe abnormalities have been found in 46 states in the U.S. and across four continents.  Frogs with missing limbs or numerous extra legs may be a warning of severe environmental degradation.  Amphibians are considered excellent “bio-indicators” of environmental health.  They have permeable skin, and eggs without shells that readily absorb substances from the water that surrounds them.  Adults often stay near the place they were born.  Amphibian deformities have been noted for centuries, but are becoming more severe, more common and more widespread.  Scientists speculate the causes may be water pollution, increasing ultraviolet radiation, and/or parasitic infection. 


MILLIONS OF ALIENS ATTACK AGRICULTURE!  In the 1890’s, about 60-100 European Starlings were released in New York by the Acclimatization Society of North America. The Society’s goal was to introduce all bird species mentioned in Shakespeare's works.  When it comes to the Starling, they were successful and then some.  Within 50 years, they had spread to every U.S. State and Canadian province.  Their numbers now exceed 200,000,000, making Starlings the most numerous bird in the U.S.  Each year, they cause an estimated $800 million in damages to agricultural crops (Pimental, 2000).


TRASHY MAGAZINES REFUSE TO DECAY!   In 1987, archeologists painstakingly excavated and sorted through 30 tons of garbage in 15 landfills from California to Toronto. They were shocked to unearth 2,425 datable, readable newspapers that had been thrown out up to forty years earlier.  People had assumed paper was biodegradable.  However, when sealed away from the rotting influences of air and moisture, buried newspapers proved even more decay-resistant than disposable diapers.  The other scary part was the sheer volume – paper (including magazines, phone books and computer printouts) made up fully half of all refuse excavated in the Garbage Project.


SUPER-SIZED PLANET NEEDED TO SUPPORT AMERICAN LIFESTYLE!   If everyone lived like we do in the United States, we would need five planets to sustain them.  Each year, the typical American uses 24 acres worth of natural resources for things like food, fuel, housing, and waste management.  Unfortunately, on our planet, there are only 4.5 biologically productive acres per person.  We are getting worse instead of better.  Our voracious appetite for consumer goods, fossil fuels and real estate has upped the average American’s ecological footprint by 23% from 1965 to 2001.


The most frightening thing is that all of these tales are true.  The common thread is human alteration or misuse of our world.  There are some happy endings.  The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.  Since then water quality has improved dramatically.  Paper recycling became mandatory in CT in 1991.  And there is reason to hope, as people like you become more conscious and careful about our shared environment.


References and More Information:


Originally published in the Villager newspapers on October 26, 2007


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